Brief History of Chapin Parkway

Buffalo, New York

Click on photos to enlarge

Frederick Law Olmsted

Calvert Vaux

"The Lilacs"

"The Lilacs" remaining fence

Bronson Rumsey

Bronson Rumsey's home at 137 Chapin Pkwy

Chapin Parkway in 2001

For three decades, beginning in 1868, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were commissioned to design a series of parks and parkways for Buffalo.

At 200 feet in width, the parkways were much broader than the normal streets of the city and provided separate lanes for different types and directions of traffic. Areas of turf planted with rows of overarching elms created a park-like environment for those who could afford to live along their borders. Spacious circles marked junctures where parkways came together or where they encountered major city streets. Unprecedentedly pleasant avenues, the parkways in Buffalo were among the first to be constructed in an American city. Olmsted and Vaux proved correct in their assumption that the property along parkways would be especially valuable.

Chapin Parkway retains its broad central median designed for horseback riders and pedestrians and their side roadways for vehicles.

Chapin is a two-block parkway between Gates Circle (which the designers named Chapin Place) and Soldiers Circle. From Soldiers Place one drove north to The Park along majestic Lincoln Parkway. Its broad central carriage way was separated by grass and trees from outer roadways that were designed to afford access to the mansions that Olmsted and Vaux foresaw being built here.

In 1901, this route led to the grand entrance of the
Pan-American Exposition (on Bronson Rumsey's farm land). After the Pan-Am, the area around The Park quickly developed for the burgeoning upper and middle classes of Buffalo.

Rumsey had earlier lived at magnificent Rumsey Park on Delaware Avenue at Niagara Square, but the Rumsey family sold Rumsey Park around 1914. By 1915, Rumsey Lake was filled in and subdivided, making it possible to extend Elmwood from Virginia Street into downtown.

Rumsey had purchased The Lilacs, the large property of Civil War Gen. John C. Graves, whose home which was completed in 1885. Rumsey demolished the house in 1907 -- all that remains is a corner fence at Chapin and Potomac -- and built his own comparatively modest home there.

Rumsey subdivided Chapin Parkway into relatively large parcels of land and sold them at his leisure for about twenty years, making Chapin the last of the streets in the area to be developed.

Chapin Parkway was named after Brigadier General Edward Payson Chapin, a native of Waterloo NY who was a well-known Buffalo attorney when the war broke out. He was also a member of the city's first semi-pro baseball club -- The Niagaras. In 1861, Chapin became captain of Company A in the 44th NYV, otherwise known as Ellsworth's Avengers, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel after he was wounded at Hanover Court House, Virginia, on May 27, 1862. . Chapin was killed May 27 at Port Hudson, Louisiana, exactly one year after his Virginia wounding and appointed a brigadier general on the day he died. He is buried in Waterloo where he was born.

Georgian Revival Style Architecture

For convenience of viewing , photos and information about houses that were designed in Georgian Revival style of Architecture on Chapin Parkway can be found on two sites:

3 Chapin.......
24 Chapin
33 Chapin

41 Chapin
109 Chapin
150 Chapin
165 Chapin
Illustrated features of Georgian Revival style architecture can be found on Georgian Revival in Buffalo

When Frederick Law Olmsted designed the Buffalo parks system in 1869, he invented the concept of the parkway. The idea was to create long fingers of green stretching into the city from large parks, giving shape to a chaotic city and providing a public amenity which would increase the value of adjacent land. It worked like a charm

Chapin Parkway, particularly, was a real estate speculator's dream: connected to Delaware Avenue, it became the logical place for Buffalo's rich to build as the city grew out to the area in the 1 890s.

The sons and daughters of the city's l9th century titans built here,as did some of the titans themselves, as lower Delaware Avenue became a busier and more commercialized place. The many Georgian Revival houses lend a quiet coherence to the street. One architectural firm, Lansing & Beierl, is particularly well represented, and
Esenwein & Johnson were not far behind.

It's a pleasant promenade along a street intact from first construction.

-- Source: Tim Tielman, "Buffalo Tours 2001" catalog


Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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