The home owners enjoy as much as the ticket holders: The 16th annual Parkside Tour of Homes

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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.

Over the last 15 years, hundreds of Parkside homes have opened their doors to tens of thousands of people from all over the globe for the annual Parkside Tour of Homes. This year’s self guided tour of ten homes shows the wide array of architecture in the neighborhood, from a modest, half-furnished bungalow to glimpse of the work Frank Lloyd Wright considered his finest. (Photo by Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories LLC Archives)
Over the last 15 years, hundreds of Parkside homes have opened their doors to tens of thousands of people from all over the globe for the annual Parkside Tour of Homes. This year’s self guided tour of ten homes shows the wide array of architecture in the neighborhood, from a modest, half-furnished bungalow to glimpse of the work Frank Lloyd Wright considered his finest. (Photo by Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories LLC Archives)

“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.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. The operator of Buffalo Stories Tours writes about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo special at blog.buffalostories.com and daily at buffalonews.com/history. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and spent 20 years working in Buffalo radio and TV, climbing his way to news director at WBEN Radio. Since then, he's been an adjunct professor and produced PBS documentaries. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.