As Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” was on the air from 1963 to 1985, Buffalonians were always quick to claim the host Marlin Perkins as one of our own.
Buffalo News archives
America’s best-known animal lover in the TV age, Perkins grew and expanded the Buffalo Zoo in the years he was curator and then director in the 1930s and 1940s.
Perkins is pictured in 1944 as he was leaving for a new post in Chicago, accepting a suitcase from Eddie the Chimp.
For as famous as Perkins was around the country, he could barely compete with the sensation he created at the Buffalo Zoo.
Eddie was the Buffalo Zoo’s first chimpanzee when he arrived from Africa in 1940. Eddie was friendly and willing to take direction, and Perkins and staff had soon taught Eddie to dance and to shave his keeper — with a straight razor. It was clear that Eddie loved the limelight, and would seemingly do anything for applause. Keepers dressed him in a Marine uniform and the chimp raised money for the USO during World War II.
But soon after Eddie became an adult — when he was 5 or 6 years old — Eddie stopped wanting to perform. One handler said it was pretty clear that Eddie thought of himself as more human than chimp. He never associated with the other chimps and never mated.
By the early 1950s, Eddie was clearly angry. The banana peels he’d fling at passersby were the least offensive organic matter one might get pelted with.
In the late 1950s, after Eddie spat at and threw dung at a group of passing VIPs, glass was placed between Eddie and zoo visitors and the barrier seemed to suit him just fine.
For more than 30 years, visitors to the zoo didn’t know what they might get from Eddie. Maybe a dance, reminiscent of the way he was in the 1940s … or maybe the show looked more like something from a bawdy boys high school locker room.
That was part of Eddie’s somewhat sad draw though — never knowing what you might see.
At the age of 47, Eddie the Chimp was the oldest resident at the Buffalo Zoo when he was euthanized after suffering a stroke in 1985. Perkins died the next year.
If you’ve ever tried to get to the 33 from Main Street, you’ve probably wondered who designed it. The Main Street/Humboldt Parkway/Kensington Avenue intersection, meant to act as an access point for both the Kensington and Scajaquada expressways, is a nightmare.
It’s a tightly nestled compound intersection with one traffic light and several stop signs with at least 14 head-spinning different ways to legally move through it.
City and state traffic engineers have acknowledged that this area of Main Street between Sisters’ Hospital and Canisius College is poorly designed and doesn’t work well, but citing cost, the same folks failed to make fixing it part of the 2003-09 reconstruction of Main Street from Humboldt to Bailey, as well as the coming redesign and downgrade of the Scajaquada Expressway.
It wasn’t always that way, though. In the days when Kensington Avenue was known as Steele Street, there was a toll booth near that intersection, collecting money to help defray the cost of paving Main Street from downtown Buffalo to the Village of Williamsville.
The intersection became somewhat more complicated with the addition of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Humboldt Parkway, but not too much for most folks to handle.
This 1930s photo shows the intersection from Kensington Avenue. The spaces occupied by the gas station and the home owned by generations of the Culliton family are now occupied by MetroRail stations. The large building was the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph for more than a century. It’s now filled with Canisius College offices and classrooms.
By 1951, the gas station had come down to make way for a Robert Hall clothing store.
While the Robert Hall building and small house next to it are gone, the larger brick building still stands with the same billboard structure in place—although Laube’s Old Spain is no longer being advertised there.
It was the 1960s construction of the Scajaquada and Kensington expressways, with Route 198 running under Main Street and leaving a series of bridges and overpasses in its wake, that left the intersection unwieldy to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and anyone with common sense.
Judging by the smells, tastes, and smiles of its first day, the Parkside Meadow (corner of Parkside and Russell avenues, Buffalo) looks poised to be an institution on par with the warmly remembered predecessor you couldn’t go five minutes without hearing about.
Echoes of the old Park Meadow, the venerable neighborhood fish fry place-turned college party hangout, were everywhere, as strangers reminisced about their days and nights in the PM — those memories growing as hazy as they were on some of those nights.
The good news is the Parkside Meadow, just like the people who remember the old PM, has grown more sophisticated in its current iteration, cultivating a more subdued yet still fascinating environment for drinks and imaginative and tasty takes on sandwich favorites.
Aside from the stories that come along with the building, the place has been tastefully decorated in with hundreds of museum quality pieces of Buffalo’s industrial, retail, and beer drinking past. Dozens of matchbooks from Buffalo taverns and gin mills of yesteryear. Stoneware jugs from Buffalo’s oldest brewers and distillers. Boxes and crates once filled with bottles of beer like Simon Pure, Iroquois, and Beck’s, all once brewed by proud Buffalonians.
From the display cases, to the walls, down to each tabletop, food delivered to your tabletop is almost an interruption of taking in what Buffalo once was. But then you take a bite, and it’s all about the plate in front of you.
The menu is simple. It’s a single sheet of heavy stock with a large selection of gourmet-style takes on sandwiches ranging from shaved lamb to fried bologna plus a few salads and larger entrees. The menu offers a chance for some interesting tastes on a corner tavern budget– nine of the menu’s 11 sandwiches are less than $10 and include fries. The full bar offers seven different locally sourced beers on tap, ranging from McKenzie’s Hard Cider and Rusty Chain to the venerable Genesee.
Opening night was a Friday night, and just like any good Buffalo spot, fish was on the menu. Three broiled options and one fried. The Hush puppy and beer-battered fish fry is a true-to-the-original twist on a Buffalo favorite, with batter that was a hint sweet and very thick and tasty.
Whether you have foggy memories of the Park Meadow you’d like to relive or you’re just looking for a new spot that from food to atmosphere is really different from any other place in Buffalo, a stop at the Parkside Meadow is recommended.
By Steve Cichon | firstname.lastname@example.org | @stevebuffalo
Our community’s self-styled “Deputy Dog” and “Mother Hen” has succumbed after a long valiant fight against cancer.
Ruth Lampe was no-nonsense and tough as nails, but also loved her friends, family, and community with fierce and burning passion.
She was a force of nature and in a category all her own. Her style and sensibility was a beautifully complementary combination of Iowa farm girl, 1960’s style left-wing radical activist and motherly protector and influence to all who knew her.
In a society where most people like to meet and vote– or worse, just complain– when problems arise, Ruth roared and steamrolled for what she thought was right. And once she pushed her way to the front of an issue, she took command and was relentless and got things done.
After more than 40 years of community and civic activism in Parkside, she knew everyone– and knew most of their fathers, too. Widely accepted as speaking for the community and fair, her aggressive tactics were usually met with open arms by the powers that be– with the knowledge that having Ruth on your side was always a smart move.
But it wasn’t just about sweeping grand notions with Ruth– it was about sweeping up after events. And moving chairs. And helping at the ticket table. She was the sort of leader who lead by example every step of the way, and would never ask anyone to do something she hadn’t already done and wasn’t getting ready to do again.
All that is wonderful, but to really turn the rusty wheels of change– you inevitably rankle the comfortably accepting of the substandard or offensive.
You know Ruth Lampe was a hero by the number of people who wince– even decades later– at hearing her name. It may have happened during the city’s 1982 free paint program, but 33 years later, there are still those in Parkside who will snear, “Ruth Lampe made me paint my house.” She always made an impact. She sure did on me.
When my phone rang during lunch on two weeks ago yesterday, I smiled to see the name Ruth Lampe on the caller ID.
She’d been terminally ill with untreatable cancer, but I was thinking of how I’d been filled with joy when I saw a thin-but-healthy Ruth out on Hertel going to dinner with her husband David a couple weeks before. I was about to run up to say hi when a couple of little munchkins hop out of the car, too.
Selfishly, I stopped and enjoyed watching her be grandma from half a block away. I’m sure she would have enjoyed a hello and a hug, but I wasn’t going to intrude on grandkid time, and I really enjoyed seeing her in that element.
She looked great that day, and that was in my mind as I answered the phone.
With genuine excitement I hit the button and offered a “Hey Ruth!”
Without thinking, I followed with a “How are ya!” which I genuinely meant– but said without thinking given her battle.
My upfront question meant the call got right down to business. She talked about the next stage. Hospital beds at home, making final plans.
Ruth’s last great gift to those who love her is taking on the final project of her life with the bullheaded strength and tenacity she’s shown every project she’s ever undertaken. She was planning her own goodbye– one she knew was coming in a period of time that could be counted in days more than weeks or months.
It was a classic Ruth moment of organization– but of course it’s different. This isn’t fighting with mayors over stop signs or school boards looking for racial balance and equality in our neighborhood public school.
I don’t know that I ever heard this great woman resigned to anything– but she was calm, accepting, and willing to put her and her loved ones into the hands of the Lord. The peaceful beauty and dignity with which she faced this grand struggle is awe inspiring.
This final battle is for everything. We want to help, just like with every other battle we’ve joined her for– but no letters to the editor or picket carrying can help.
We always say, “Anything I can do,” which is always true. But I think we say it more to help ourselves through the thought of someone else’s pain. Someone in Ruth’s situation really doesn’t want to be handing out jobs, you know?
So, I’ve tried not to say that. Ruth and her husband David know it’s true– anything– but I try not to say it.
What I’ve tried to do, since back pain turned to cancer turned to just a matter of time, is just remind them both in little, hopefully unobtrusive ways that I love them both very much.
There are no more cliches. Just what’s real. What else can you really do but love and pray and answer the phone when it rings?
Which it did during lunch on a Friday two weeks ago.
And Ruth asked me to be a pall bearer. At her own funeral. Taking what she could off the plate of her soon to be grieving and devastated family, by fighting and loving the best way she knew how— by doing.
I have little right to be emotional as this incredible woman powered through what was the start of her final two weeks among us, but I can’t help but be moved to tears by the thought of it. This woman, our neighborhood queen and sheriff and mother asked me to do the honor of presenting her earthly remains to her friends and to her church and to their final resting place…. That someone who has meant so much to me as a civic leader, as a mentor, as a cage-rattling compatriot, as a friend– can even think of me at all as the sun sets on her beautiful life, but that she would so powerfully and personally offer me this honor leaves me just without words… Other than…
I love you, Ruth. The many many many of us you’ve touched, we all love you.
And we’ve all learned from you. The trail you’ve blazed in fighting for what’s right won’t grow cold so long as I’m here to battle forward with the gifts of knowledge and strength you’ve given us all.
The spirit you’ve kindled lives on… and doesn’t show any signs of letting up.
BUFFALO, NY – “I love to be a part of busting open any preconceived notion.”
Devon Karn thinks when she and her husband Kevin open their home for the 16th Annual Parkside Tour of Homes (Sunday, May 18, 2014) that a handful of assumptions about the neighborhood and its homes could fly out the stained glass art window.
“Parkside is known for the big, beautiful, sprawling majestic homes,” says Karn, “but interspersed among them are smaller, slightly more accessible homes that are like ours– a comfortable bungalow.”
The young couple hasn’t even lived at their Parkside address two years yet– there’s a long to-do list, but she says there’s no shame in showing off a home that’s a work in progress. In fact, from her perspective, that’s a bit of the charm. “It doesn’t have some of the grandeur of some of the Victorian homes, but we do have some of the interesting details– the leaded glass, the woodwork, the central fireplace– they all make for very comfortable homes.”
Comfortable and lived in homes of all shapes, sizes and styles, just like the people of Parkside.
“I wanted to put our little, comfortable, humble bungalow on the tour, to offer that no-holds-barred, open door approach that exemplifies the Parkside attitude,” says Karn. “The people in this neighborhood are the most open, most inviting– It’s one of the most participatory neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo. It’s not an exclusive neighborhood. It’s so open, so welcoming. Come as you are. The fact that we will have our not quite-perfect, yet still intriguing space on the tour is a testament to the community.”
And while her little sliver of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed neighborhood offers one perspective, Karn loves the tapestry woven by all the parts blended together. “Part of the beauty of this Home Tour,” says Karn, “is the variety people get to see.”
The variety will be underlined for tour goers who walk the half-a-block from Devon’s humble bungalow to the imposing Arts & Crafts American Four Square home of Ken Wells and his wife, Phyllis.
Once the home of a Congressman and later to a family of 11, the beautiful brick, original woodwork, wrap-around porch and historical past occupants offer a bit more grandeur, but it’s still simply a family home.
“In the spring, summer and fall we live on our front porch,” says Wells. “The backyard is our oasis. It is the main gathering place for parties and just hanging out.”
Showing off is part of the fun, and it’s why Pat Lalonde is back on the tour again this year.
Five years ago her home was featured, but one new project she knows will be the envy of many people who live in older homes. “For the first time in the 30 years I’ve lived here, I now have a first floor half-bath,” says Lalonde, who also has a new screened-in back porch and new room configurations to show.
The cleverly configured bathroom might inspire folks to finally build the powder room of their dreams, but Lalonde admits: Putting her home on the tour again is as much for her as the hundreds of people who’ll be coming through.
“I had a blast the first time,” says Lalonde. “People were so nice; they said so many wonderful things about my house. I was thinking my house isn’t all that special– there’s no Arts & Crafts style or the natural woodwork… But all the great comments made me realize that my house really does have some really interesting features.”
The event is the biggest annual fundraiser for the non-profit Parkside Community Association. They hope you’ll stop by May 18, and find out why so many people are passionate about the homes that are like none other, as well as the community of people that is like none other.
For more information, including buying tickets, visit the 2014 Home Tour page on the Parkside Community Association website.
BUFFALO, NY – They are called “Father” and “Sister” and it’s a case where they both really feel like members of hundreds of Central Park, Parkside, and North Buffalo families. It’s also a case of reciprocated love and concern.
Before each retired in the last few years, you had to go back to the 1970s to find someone else doing the jobs they loved, heading the St. Mark Parish and St. Mark School.
Though they approached their jobs with personalities almost as different as two human beings could be, Sr. Jeanne Eberle and Msgr. Francis Braun spent 30 years of ther lives selflessly and tirelessly giving their love and of themselves for the people of St. Mark, particularly the smallest ones.
For decades it was a common sight to see kindergarteners and first graders line up to give Sr. Jeanne a hug at the start or end of a school day, while the too-cool seventh and eighth graders walked on by, all with Fr. Braun watching closely, stationed on his own side of the hedge separating the rectory and the school.
It happened many times through the years, though, that the “too cool” kids became parents of St. Mark kids, once again willing participants in hugs for the woman who they know cared as much for their kids as they did themselves.
At Mass on Sunday, Msgr. Braun’s stories of days gone by, and his family made most of us feel like we were listening to stories of our own family. His grandfather the cop, the Crystal Beach boat, the firehouse around the corner, his Irish mom and German dad. We might still know Father’s family stories better than our own.
As the author of two books, including “The Complete History of Parkside,” Steve Cichon wants to write this story because these people are very special to him and the community.
“The history of St. Mark is rich and fascinating, and there are many wonderful stories to tell. From the stained glass depictions of events in the life of Jesus, to the thinly veiled anti-Catholic bigotry which lead to St. Mark being built at the corner of Woodward and Amherst, no one tells those stories better than Fr. Braun,” says Cichon.
“It’s only a natural extention, then, to also talk to Father about his life and times, and to record all of the great stories he shared about himself with us through the years. The same is true of Sr. Jeanne. It’s as much a genealogy project about two beloved family members as it is a book about our church. I’m blessed and honored to have so much support in writing and researching it.”
The hope is to have the work completed by the end of 2014, the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the current St. Mark church building.
If you have any photos, items, or stories pertaining to the history of St. Mark,
please contact Steve Cichon at email@example.com
The Complete History of Parkside, Buffalo, NY A New Book by Buffalo Author Steve Cichon
A history of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed neighborhood, from its place in the history of the Seneca Nation, to its role in the War of 1812, to Olmsted’s design and the turn of the century building out of the area, and the neighborhood’s 20th century evolutions. Included are discussions of the area’s earliest colorful settlers, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, Delaware Park, The Buffalo Zoo, and the stories and anecdotes of many more struggles, individuals, and institutions that have made Parkside one of Buffalo’s premier historic neighborhoods today.
Questions You’ll Have Answered as You Read:
Where is Parkside’s mass virtually unmarked grave?
How did a Parkside quest for riches turn to… naked women?!?
Why did the FBI have Parkside staked out for most of a decade?
You’ll also learn details on how America’s first jet plane was built in Parkside, and the scandal with Parkside roots that nearly brought down a Presidency.
135 historic photos, 172 pages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Cichon is an award winning journalist with WBEN Radio, where he’s been a news reporter and anchor since 2003, having worked in Buffalo radio and television since 1993. Steve and his wife Monica became Parkside home owners on Valentines Day 2000, and quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. They continue to renovate and restore their 1909 EB Green designed American Four Square, and will likely continue to do so into perpetuity.
Books available for purchase NOW online… and at the following locations:
Talking Leaves Books (Main St. and Elmwood Ave. Locations)
The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Shop
While, like any other city neighborhood, Parkside continues to deal with many of the issues of urban living; Parkside also seems to band together to deal with the problems like few other communities. After a rash of break-ins in 2007, putting many residents on edge, a grass roots e-mail tree grew from the PCA, block clubs, and strong neighborhood friendships. The burglars were caught, due in large measure, to the vigilance and awareness stepped up by the mass e-mails, and the resounding feeling that criminals weren’t going to run the neighborhood.
In a front page article in the Buffalo News, titled Parkside Keeps an Eye on What’s Going On (April 27, 2008), Stephen T. Watson writes:
of the Parkside neighborhood stay in close contact, let each other know what’s
going on and quickly report any problems or suspicious activity…There’s a kind
of a sense of neighborhood awareness and activism.
In naming Parkside one of the top city neighborhoods, a 2003 Business First Article says of the neighborhood, “‘There’s a great community association in Parkside that really gets things done,’ says (Realtor Carole) Holcberg. ‘They do a house tour; they do a garden walk. They really improve the quality of life there.’ Fifty-eight percent of the workers who live in Parkside hold management or professional positions like doctors, lawyers or teachers. Only four other city neighborhoods are above 50 percent.”
The reasons are numerous, but growing neighborhood educational institutions like Canisius and Medaille Colleges, Mount St. Joseph’s Academy, St. Mark School, Nichols, and St. Mary’s School for the Deaf make academics feel at home in the neighborhood.
The numbers of and quality of amenities also continues to grow. During the 1980s, Parksiders lamented that there wasn’t a venue to buy fresh produce or meat. While retail in Parkside has remained limited, the surrounding North Buffalo retail scene has exploded.
Target and Office Max opened in 1996 in plot of land on Delaware Avenue that was once an old railroad track bed and a junk yard. Wegmans opened in 1997 on land that was once a Mentholatum factory. In 2005, the west side of Delaware Avenue at Linden was a used car dealer, with an abandoned Tops Market and Ames Department store behind it. The area today boasts a IHOP restaurant, Tim Hortons, and Kohl’s Department store; all new builds, and a Big Lots store in half of what used to be Tops. Dozens of restaurants, taverns, and boutiques dot The Hertel Strip, a shopping and “night out” Mecca for the crowd that likes the nightlife, but not at the fevered pitch found elsewhere in the city.
The Parkside Community Association remains a strong voice in the community. As the feel of the neighborhood has changed, the focus of the group has to some degree as well. Code enforcement is still a high priority, but so, too, has become the celebration of those who prize and want to share their homes and neighborhood with the city and the world. Kathleen Peterson was the Executive Director of the Parkside Community Association from 1998-2009, and saw events like the Parkside Tour of Homes and the Parkside Garden Tour grow into institutions, and become main sources of funding for PCA programs as city, county, state and federal funding became ever more scarce.
There are many individuals who have watched Parkside evolve over the decades. Jack Anthony has been a Parkside observer in parts of eight decades. Some of the zeal of the past is gone, but he says, the people keep the neighborhood moving.
“Even today, we still have black people moving into Parkside, and we still have white people moving into Parkside. It’s still a rarity in the city. It’s wonderful. But the PCA and the various block clubs serve different purposes now. People talk about crime and traffic, which is the same anywhere you go. What do you organize around?
“We were fighting blockbusting, fighting for our neighborhood. We had a reason to get started. People were scared about blockbusting. It’s not like getting people excited about planting flowers. But we are still organized here, ready to go in case something happens.”
But you needn’t have grown up in Parkside to become a leading citizen. After nearly a decade and a half of shepherding the Good Shepherd flock as the Episcopal Church’s Rector, The Rev. David Selzer has become a neighborhood institution. He and his family have played a vital role in the Parkside Community, and most were sad to see them leave Parkside for Ottawa in August, 2008. Before he left, he talked about what he’ll miss most about Parkside:
We moved here from the Twin Cities. Our first
apprehension was that we were no longer in a big city, Our second apprehension
was that we heard from people the stories were all about the good ol’ days,
that so much of the identity was with the steel plants closing, and that there
were just a lot of memories. The nervousness came with, ‘Well, is that all
Someone kept saying, Buffalo is ‘The City of Good
Neighbors.’ Our experience, in the 13 years we’ve been here, is that not only
is Buffalo the City of Good Neighbors, but its a thriving community, and
particularly the Parkside Neighborhood. It’s extremely integrated. More
integrated than the neighborhood we lived in Minneapolis. It welcomes people of
all races, people of all kinds of cultures and backgrounds; it values its
history. People are very caring and motivated, too. Whether it be the Buffalo
Zoo or the casino, the people here have a tendency to be very active about it,
and that’s very wonderful thing. People aren’t just going to sit by and let
history happen to them without creating it.
It’s also this neighborhood of incredible history
and gift. From the houses that many
people live in, to the institutions that are also a part of it. The other gift
I see in this neighborhood is that a number of the institutions are willing to
work together, for improvement of not just their own particular piece of turf,
but the whole community as well.
My sense is community is the most important
aspect of living in a neighborhood. I’ve always been convinced that suburbia is
deadly because it isolates people, and that the gift of the city is clearly
that sense of being neighbors, and being in community with each other. That can
happen through the church, or through community organizations like the PCA, but
it has to be planned, and it has to be deliberate. It has to be worked on.
What’s great here, is that happens, but we’re really in danger if we say, ‘Oh,
it was wonderful, but it’s not happening now.” You have to keep it moving.
based on a conversation with longtime Parkside activist and past PCA President
Ruth Lampe, Mark Goldman wrote succinctly about the neighborhood in his 2007
book City on the Edge:
Because of the proximity to Main Street, near both Cansius College and the old campus of the University of Buffalo, Parkside’s reasonably priced Victorian homes have long attracted the local academics. Parkside also attracted upwardly mobile, second- and third-generation ethnics particularly Irish Americans.
When block-busting realtors, hoping to prey on the fears of white residents of Parkside, began hovering around the neighborhood in the 1960s, a handful of concerned neighborhood activists, eager to defend their community against the tactics that had destroyed so many others, organized the Parkside Community Association… though blacks were moving into the neighborhood in increasing numbers, the whites of Parkside, encouraged by the work of their community association, stayed.
By the end of the decade, a time when so many other neighborhoods succumbed to the frightening cycle of events that caused blight and decline, Parkside not only survived but thrived as a racially mixed, inspiringly beautiful middle-class neighborhood in the heart of the city.
As Parkside looks to the future, it looks to the past to pave that road ahead. The rebuilt Martin House Complex brings thousands to Buffalo and Parkside each year. Historians like George Stock organize and give walking tours of the neighborhood to eager Buffalonians unaware of the architectural treasurers lurking in the neighborhood by the zoo. It’s the same effect when the PCA sponsors its annual Tour of Homes.
History is being remembered and preserved, as folks like Michael Riester and Patrick Kavanagh, in 2000, organized efforts to place a marker on Main Street near Humboldt, in memory of the sacrifices made at Flint Hill during the War of 1812, 200 years ago. Nearly 60 folks attended the unveiling, including Mrs. Ruth Granger Zelanek , the great-granddaughter of Judge Erastus Granger. A volley of taps was played in memory of the lives lost during the War of 1812, and those several hundred in the Parkside neighborhood.
Riester and Mike O’Sullivan, both past Presidents of the Parkside Community Association, have researched the provenance of virtually every home in the neighborhood for the PCA’s Century Plaque Program, which recognizes homes that have made it through 100 years still in one piece.
Finally, a quote from the tireless Ruth Lampe, a transplant from Iowa who has helped drive Parkside in the right direction for four decades. “PCA used to be an activist organization with basic concern for immediate community problems.
“We became, necessarily, involved in government grants and programs. Now those grants are coming to an end. PCA is at a cross roads. I hope that it can revitalize itself and again look to zoning issues and the problems of residents.
“PCA has gone through many phases in its short history. I’m confident it will find its role. But it takes people with the energy to involve themselves in community affairs.” Ruth said that in 1984, but it’s just as true today. Hopefully, the readers of this book will take to heart those words, and help make the places they live, wherever they may be, better places to live.
This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon
When Frank Lloyd Wright inscribed a copy of his autobiography to Darwin and Isabelle Martin in 1932, he did so with a dramatic flourish, sending their way the sort of praise he usually only lavished on his own work:” To Darwin D. Martin and his wife—hero and heroine of this tale—with esteem, affection and gratitude from their architect – Frank Lloyd Wright.”
The inscription juxtaposes wonderfully with a note written to Sebastian Tauriello, the Buffalo architect who bought the nearly 20-year abandoned Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway in 1954. The home had been sacked by vandals, neighborhood children, and by the son of the original owner Darwin D. Martin, Darwin R. Martin.
Tauriello thought having a copy of the original plans of the home might help him in the almost insurmountable task of bringing new life to the home that Wright called “The Opus.” He wrote to the by-then aged Martin, who no doubt knew of the condition of the home, and the massive efforts about to be undertaken to breathe new life into his worn masterpiece. Wright’s response was frosty at best:
Dear “Tauriello”: Hope you treat the opus according to its merits. When we return to Wisconsin May first I will look up the plans and send you a set of prints with a bill for the prints.
Uncertain of what a bill from an eccentric Frank Lloyd Wright might be, the Tauriello family proceeded without the plans.
As “the opus” sat in a state of disrepair, rotting, several individuals and organizations made attempts to salvage and save the house from the time it was abandoned by the Martin family in 1937. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra tried, unsuccessfully, to raise funds to buy the home. The City, which bought the home for $394.53, did so when it was auctioned for taxes in 1946.
In 1952, the city swapped properties with Patrick Dwyer. The city wanted to build a school on land Dwyer had owned elsewhere in the city, and Dwyer immediately started plans to raze the entire Martin complex, including the main home, to make way for an apartment building. Neighborhood outcry, more concerned about property values than the possibility of losing an architectural treasure, quickly ended those plans.
Driving along Jewett Parkway one day, Sebastian Tauriello became interested in the Martin House after seeing the “For Sale” sign planted in the yard by Dwyer. The successful Buffalo architect, who lived with his family on Amherst Street, was well aware that the home was built as the finest, most complete example of Wright’s Prairie Style. But by 1954, it was a decrepit eyesore that that been sold for taxes eight years earlier, and was known as a place for adventuresome neighborhood kids to climb inside and find “stuff” (albeit Frank Lloyd Wright designed “stuff”) to smash and break.
The home itself was assessed at $0, because of the severe damage the structure had endured. The property was assessed at $22,000, and that’s what the Tauriello family paid for the house, pergola, conservatory, and garage in April 1954.
Mortgages of $35,000 were taken out to begin the process of turning the crumbling edifice into a home. The sprawling main house was divided into a living space for the Tauriello family, an office for his architecture business, and two other apartments.
One of the apartments was occupied by 1930s Buffalo radio star and later WBEN-TV Station Manager George Torge for virtually the entire time the family owned the home.
In order to afford the massive undertaking, the Tauriello family had, from the beginning, planned to sell most of the two acres of land that came with the house. These plans were realized in 1960, when Tauriello had the severely damaged pergola, conservatory and garage demolished to make the land desirable to buyers. Unlike the attempts almost a decade earlier to build apartment buildings on the property, neighbors seemed accepting of plans given the tremendous amount of work that had been poured into the property.
Three apartment buildings were constructed in the backyard of the Martin House, two stories high, holding a total of 20 units. Dubbed The Jewett Gardens, the construction isolated the three remaining structures of the original Martin complex: The Martin House, the Barton House, and the Gardener’s Cottage.
Sebastian & Ruth Tauriello and family saw through renovations to the Martin House to shore it up, and make it a home befitting their own tastes. Their efforts almost certainly saved a neighborhood landmark from continued decay and worse. Sebastian Tauriello died in 1965, and in 1967, UB President Martin Meyerson had the University purchase the home as the President’s Residence. The UB School of Architecture endeavored to make sure that Buffalo and the world knew what a treasure stood at the corner of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue, made much easier with the growing appreciation of Frank Lloyd Wright, and particularly his Prairie style.
Eventually, the home no longer fit in SUNY plans, and, in 1980, neighbors were worried as UB was about to hand the home over to the state for disposition. The PCA was very concerned that the house remain in public hands and that it be available for tours.
That concern grew into an effort that had the house designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Martin House Curator John O’Hern told the Buffalo News at the time of the designation, “This brings attention to the fact that the building has national significance, and not just local significance. Sometimes we need to be reminded by somebody outside our area about what we have.”
John C. Courtin, a longtime Jewett Avenue resident, served many years as the liaison between the Parkside Community Association and the group coordinating restoration efforts at the Darwin Martin House starting in the 1980s. He also played a vital role in the massive renovation and restoration that’s taken place at the complex through the 1990s and 2000s.
The Darwin Martin House Restoration Corporation was officially founded, and a cooperation agreement signed between the group, SUNY Buffalo, and the State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation on March 26, 1993 at the Martin House.
Three phases of complete restoration have taken place. Surrounding lands and homes have been purchased and returned to the way they were in 1907. In a reversal of history, the three large apartment complexes constructed on the grounds in the 1960s were demolished, in order to make way for the rebuild of the Wright designed pergola, conservatory, and carriage house; just as the decrepit 60 year old remnants of the Wright Originals were condemned to make way for the apartment structures.
Governor George Pataki and Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer were among the dignitaries in attendance as the ribbon was cut on the restored buildings on October 4, 2006. The ribbon was cut by Eric Lloyd Wright and Darwin Martin Foster, the grandsons of the architect and the patron.
In 2009, a new visitors’ center, The Greatbatch Pavilion, was opened to the public. The $5 million glass enclosed structure was designed by Toshiko Mori.
While the world-renown Wright structures that are a part of the Martin Complex have been in the spotlight and gained worldwide attention for decades, Parkside is also the home of another Wright home that has gone under a transformation in recent years.
The Walter V. Davidson House, at 57 Tillinghast Place, was purchased by businessman Russ Maxwell in 2006. He hoped to open the home as an upscale, rentable-by-the night bed-and-breakfast-without-the-breakfast setup, but neighbors verbosely opposed the plan.
None the less, the home has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in much needed TLC, paint, and landscaping, and has been opened often for various occasions and events, including the Parkside Tour of Homes.
This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon