Buffalo’s population doubled in size between 1890 and 1930, and one of the city’s hottest new neighborhoods was there to help absorb the growth. Around the turn of the century, a Parkside address became very desirable, and unlike other parts of the city where a single developer or builder put up an entire neighborhood, in Parkside, each individual land owner hired their own architect and builder, creating the architecturally varied place that still makes Parkside unique.
Prominent architects like Stanford White, Esenwein & Johnson, Max Beirel and E.B. Green built many houses to impress throughout the neighborhood, many with third floor or basement quarters for servants. When built, the neighborhood attracted many prominent Buffalonians. Names familiar generations later, like Mathias Hens and Patrick Kelly. Yes, Hens and Kelly lived on Summit and Crescent respectively, where their backyards touched. While many generations of Buffalonians associate 998 Broadway with the name Sattlers, Mr. Sattler made his home in Parkside, as did William Simon of the Simon Pure Brewing Company. The Mayor of Buffalo and founder of the Holling Press, Thomas Holling, also lived in Parkside at One Agassiz Circle.
But for all the amazing architecture and wealthy citizens Parkside attracted, the neighborhood also welcomed those of a more middle class means. School teachers, plant workers, and food brokers made their homes in Parkside as well as lumber and machining magnates.
A stroll through the community is a primer in fifty years worth of popular residential, church, and commercial architecture. From late Victorian and Queen Anne, down the line to Shingle, Bungalow, Prairie, Romanesque Revival, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, right up to the venerable and well represented American Four-Square; all are on display in the living museum that is the neighborhood.
With people and their homes, came the supporting businesses and organizations to the neighborhood to service the new community. It was a transition from outlying outpost to hot-to-trot city neighborhood, and it was a change at least one Parksider watched from beginning to almost present day.
Bob Venneman was born in 1912 on Amherst Street in a house built by his father. A long time friend of Parkside, Venneman died in 1998, and his lifetime of memories provide a singular view of the change the neighborhood has seen. He spoke of his memories of the tavern and stage coach near East Oakwood on Main, with a blacksmith shop close by, and the handful of businesses in the three story red brick building that stood where the Amherst Street Metro Rail station now stands.
In a 1988 interview with the Parkside News, Venneman talked about the chestnut trees that grew between the houses and sidewalks all up and down Main, and the elms between the sidewalks and the streets. He said many of the trees didn’t make it when Main was widened in 1931. Growing up, he said, the Parkside neighborhood looked very much the same as today. North of Hertel, though, he remembers there being practically nothing.
Venneman also remembered walking past the original Park School, which was on the “Willowlawn” property on Main Street between Willowlawn and Jewett Parkway, before it was developed for the housing that is currently on the block. “It was a fresh air school, composed of five or six shelters, only one of which had heat. In the winter, children sat at their desks wearing a garment similar to a sleeping bag. They learned to print using mittens. They went a bit over-board on the fresh air.” The school moved to the corner in 1913, but had moved to Snyder by 1920. Shortly thereafter, the homes currently on the block were erected.
A few blocks away, meanwhile, another private school was moving to Parkside; this one a fixture in the neighborhood to this day. Nichols has been a Parkside neighbor for a century.
An account of the day says “Several Buffalo men joined forces to buy the Glenny property at Amherst Street and Colvin Avenue; an ideal locality for a school of the kind is the wooded land lying north of the park and Amherst Street.” The Nichols School was named for its first headmaster, William Nichols, who began the school in 1892. He had died the year before buildings on the present campus opened in 1909.
This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon
The original 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York.
©2009, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon