Ethel Mann Curtiss House - Table of Contents
A History of the Century House:
100 Lincoln Parkway in Buffalo, New York
By Deborah Bruch Bucki, RN, Ph.D.
Deborah Bruch Bucki, RN, Ph.D., is the 2005 Show House Historian. She served as President of the Junior League of Buffalo for 1997-98, and has twice previously served as Show House Historian. Dr. Bucki holds a Doctorate in Medical Sociology from the University at Buffalo.
Ed. note: Footnotes are not included in order to discourage plagiarism; however, footnote sources are listed in alphabetical order after the text.
Click on illustrations for larger size
|In 2005, the property at 100 Lincoln Parkway will complete
its first century of use as a residence in one of the premier neighborhoods in the
city of Buffalo, New York. The history of this house provides a glimpse into patterns
of growth and development in Western New York. Associated with the construction of
this house are individuals who represent the spirit of a progressive and progressing
Like much of Western New York, land in the vicinity of Lincoln Parkway was subdivided into farms by the Holland Land Company during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. As Buffalo grew from a small village into a rapidly expanding city, insightful entrepreneurs recognized opportunities for property development. Perhaps the most notable of these developers were two brothers, Bronson Cage Rumsey and Dexter Phelps Rumsey.
|Bronson and Dexter Rumsey
Bronson and Dexter Rumsey were sons of Aaron Rumsey, who had moved his family to Buffalo during the 1830's to open a tannery. Joining their father's business, the brothers helped to expand it into one of the largest tanning operations in North America. Later, they sold their company to United States Leather for a purported price of $20million.
After the sale, Bronson and Dexter turned their attention to other business interests. Having been a co-founder of the Manufacturers and Traders Bank, Bronson continued to serve as vice president of that institution.
Meanwhile, Dexter became a director of the Erie County Savings Bank.
Both men invested heavily in real estate. At one time during the late 1800's, the Rumsey brothers owned more than half of the acreage within the city limits of Buffalo. For example, in 1880, Bronson and Dexter Rumsey completed their acquisition of a tract located west of Delaware Avenue. From this land, they subdivided the various building lots on Lincoln Parkway between Forest Avenue and Delaware Park. [See #6 Lincoln Parkway, #65, #128.] One of these lots was the property at 100 Lincoln Parkway.
|Harlow and Ethel Curtiss
On September 23, 1904, Dexter Rumsey and the estate of Bronson Rumsey executed deeds transferring to Ethel Mann Curtiss the title for land at 100 Lincoln Parkway. Then, on November 11, 1904, the City of Buffalo issued a building permit for a house that would be occupied by Ethel and her husband, Harlow Clarke Curtiss. Construction of the present structures began shortly thereafter, and Mr. and Mrs. Curtiss moved onto the property in the spring of 1905.
Both Harlow and Ethel Curtiss hold prominence in the history of the city of Buffalo.
Harlow Clarke Curtiss
A lawyer and real estate developer, Harlow Clarke Curtiss was born on November 6, 1858, in Utica, New York. Two years later, his parents moved to Buffalo, where Harlow's father worked as a grain merchant. After graduating from the city's Central High School, Harlow Curtiss entered Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Upon earning his bachelor's degree in 1881, he resolved to enter the legal profession. At that time, most aspiring attorneys received their training under the tutelage of a previously licensed lawyer rather than at a law school. For Curtiss, this professional education occurred at the firm of Cleveland and Bissell, whose senior partner was the future President, Grover Cleveland.
Harlow Curtiss read law at the Cleveland and Bissell firm for two years, and was admitted to the bar in 1883. After a brief partnership with Harlan J. Swift and E, K. Weaver, Curtiss established his own firm in 1888. For more than forty years, he continued a solo practice until his death in 1933.
Perhaps as a result of his affiliation with Grover Cleveland, Harlow Curtiss became a Democrat. In 1911, he ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate to serve as an associate judge of the Buffalo City Court, Among other business activities, he became involved in the development of real estate, including an office complex known as the Curtiss building at the comer of West Tupper and Delaware Avenue. Socially, he was described as being "well known in club circles." Mr. Curtiss became a member of the Ellicott Club and was one of the incorporators of the University Club.
|Ethel Mann Curtiss
Ethel Mann Curtiss was the daughter of Dr. Matthew D. Mann and Elizabeth Pope Mann. Ethel was born in Vienna, Austria, where her father was then studying medicine. As an infant, she moved with her family to the United States, and lived for a short time in New York City and Connecticut.
Dr. Matthew D. Mann
Eventually, her father accepted an appointment to the faculty at the Medical College of the University at Buffalo. His particular specialty was gynecology. Dr. Mann served as president of the American Gynecological Society in 1894 and as a president of the Buffalo Academy of Medicine. He was a member of the American Congress of Physicians and Surgeons, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a member of the New York State Medical Association.
According to one local historian, Dr. Mann "reached the mountain peak of professional success in the special lines of medicine he pursued with a devotion unrivaled, and no physician was richer in the love of those who sought his healing aid. A prolific writer of medical articles, he published a standard textbook on gynecology as well as a "Manual of Prescription Writing."
Despite his international reputation, however, Dr. Mann is today most remembered as the physician who operated on President William McKinley after the President was shot on the grounds of the Pan American Exposition on September 6, 1901. For many years, controversy surrounded the quality of care given to President McKinley, particularly with respect to Dr. Mann's decision to perform immediate surgery on the Exposition grounds, rather than to transport the patient to the new operating amphitheater at Buffalo General Hospital for treatment by the acclaimed surgeon, Dr. Roswell Park. Nonetheless, in 1902, Congress authorized the payment of $ 10,000 to Dr. Mann for his services in treating the President. (See also: Medical Treatment of President McKinley at the Pan-Am Expo.)
Dr. Mann married Elizabeth Pope in 1869, and Ethel, their second daughter, was born sometime thereafter. Thus, Harlow C. Curtiss was more than a decade older than Ethel Mann when they married on June 18, 1896.
[See also: Dr. Mann's home on Allen St.]
Ethel Mann Curtiss
Just as her father and her husband had established reputations in the respective fields of medicine and law, Ethel Mann Curtiss would earn recognition in her own name as a community leader. Developing a strong bond with the Buffalo Council of Camp Fire Girls, Mrs. Curtiss served as a director of that organization and eventually became its president in the autumn of 1932. During her tenure, the Council conducted programs to develop leadership skills among its volunteers. Mrs. Curtiss shared a particular interest in hand crafts which, in her words, provided "a natural medium of a woman's creative expression."
Ethel Curtiss was herself an award winning gardener, a student of art, and a supporter of classical music. Most notably, however, she developed a reputation for fine needlework. A member of the Women's Auxiliary of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, she produced many of the silk and linen altar cloths and vestments that were used at the church.
Shortly after their marriage, Harlow and Ethel Curtiss moved into a newly constructed mansion at 864 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. This building, which is now occupied by the International Institute, would serve as a residence for the Curtiss family until the completion of their new home at 100 Lincoln Parkway. To assist with this task, Harlow and Ethel Curtiss retained the services of the same architects who had designed their first home, namely the firm of Esenwein and Johnson.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Esenwein and Johnson maintained one of the two most active architectural practices in the city of Buffalo. The principal partners of this firm were August Carl Esenwein (1856-1926) and James Addison Johnson (1865-1939).
Born in Germany, Esenwein had studied architecture at Stuttgart Polytechnic University and in Paris.
Johnson was an American from Brewerton, New York. Educated in the United States, he had previously trained at the prestigious architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White in New York City.
Forming their partnership in 1897, Esenwein and Johnson maintained offices in the Ellicott Square Building in Buffalo.
Their many projects included Lafayette High School, the Masten Park High School (now the home of Buffalo City Honors), the Teck Theater, the Old Saturn Club (which would later house the Montefiore Club), the Gowanda State Hospital, the Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station., the Calumet Building on West Chippewa Street, the Buffalo Museum of Science, and the Elephant House at the Buffalo Zoo.
The firm was particularly active in the design of hotels, among which was a large hotel in Lima, Peru. Perhaps their most prominent design, however, was the General Electric Building. Inspired by the Electric Tower at the Pan American Exposition, the General Electric Building was later renamed the Niagara Mohawk Building. With its distinctive lights, the building remains a prominent feature of the Buffalo skyline at the corner of Genesee and Washington Streets.
Also, the Esenwein and Johnson firm is noted for its design of the Temple of Music at the Pan American Exposition. This latter building was the place where President McKinley was shot in 1901.
Esenwein and Johnson also undertook the design of many of Buffalo's most elegant homes, including many of the houses on Lincoln Parkway. Among their most loyal clients were the members of the Curtiss family. Harlow and Ethel Curtiss retained Esenwein and Johnson to design their first house at 864 Delaware Avenue, and turned to them again for the design of their subsequent mansion on Lincoln Parkway. The firm also designed a home for Harlow's brother, Dr. Alexander Main Curtiss. Located at 780 West Ferry Avenue, this home is today used as Buffalo's Ronald McDonald House.
Original Use and Occupancy
Esenwein and Johnson originally designed the house at 100 Lincoln Parkway for use as a single family residence. The structure was built in a Colonial Revival or Neoclassical style. According to the building records of the City of Buffalo, the cost of the house was set at $20,238.41, in addition to the expense of $3,534.00 for construction of a stable for horses.
During the period of her ownership, Ethel Curtiss occupied 100 Lincoln Parkway with her husband and four children. Elizabeth, the oldest child, would eventually earn her bachelor of arts degree from Smith College. Returning to Buffalo, she later married Wesley P. Montgomery.
Except when they were away for classes at Princeton University, the house was also occupied by the Curtiss's three sons: John Shelton Curtiss, Stiles Judson Curtiss, and Charles Mann Curtiss.
|Subsequent Ownership and Use
Harlow and Ethel Curtiss continued to occupy 100 Lincoln Parkway until approximately October of 1919, when Ethel sold the house.
Over the next two years, the property was conveyed five times, until it was acquired by Frank H. Goodyear. Frank H. Goodyear served as chairman of the Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad. He also operated a partnership with his brother, Charles Waterhouse Goodyear. Their firm conducted mining and timber operations initially in New York and Pennsylvania, and eventually in various parts of the southern United States.
Frank Goodyear owned the house for almost two years until August of 1923, when he sold it to Albert and Sylvia Wende.
Upon their acquisition of 100 Lincoln Parkway, Mr. and Mrs. Wende implemented a different vision of its ideal use. Originally designed as a single family home, the house was now subdivided into three living units, each with its own kitchen and other amenities. The purpose for this change was to provide separate accommodations for various parts of an extended family, or alternatively, for tenants.
At approximately the same time as the purchase by Mr. and Mrs. Wende, the property underwent two other changes. In response to changes in American transportation, the stable was converted into a garage.
Also, a sunroom extension was added to the front of the house, thereby eliminating the straight wall that had previously characterized the front of the premises.
The Wende family owned 100 Lincoln Parkway for almost 45 years, until February of 1968. Albert Wende served as president of Lake Shore Mines, Ltd, one of the largest mining companies in Canada.
Also residing on the premises at various times with Mr. and Mrs. Wende were their two daughters.
Eventually, their daughter Louise established a separate household on the premises with her husband, Elbert J. Bennett, Jr. Mr. Bennett had worked as an executive for the Goodyear-Wende Oil Company. When that company merged with the Texaco Oil Company, Bennett continued to work as an executive in Texaco's Buffalo office. For more than 25 years, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett continued to reside on the property, as did their daughter, Wende Bennett Taylor, for much of that time.
During the period of ownership by Albert and Sylvia Wende, the property was also home to a number of other individuals. Perhaps the most notable of these occupants was George T. Driscoll, an attorney who died on the premises in November of 1964.
Following the death of Albert Wende in 1963, Sylvia Smith Wende continued to own 100 Lincoln Parkway until February of 1968. Subsequent owners have included Richard Rieser, a vice president of the L. L. Berger Department Store, as well as Dr. Louis Privitera and his wife Anne.
The year 2005 will mark the 100th year anniversary of the completion of the Century House. During this time, the property has been linked to some of Buffalo's most notable entrepreneurs and civic leaders. As contemplated when the house was structurally redesigned during the 1920's, 100 Lincoln Parkway continues to provide three units of upscale residential living. For this reason, it also presents an ideal setting to showcase a plethora of design opportunities in the context of its use as the 2005 Show House of the Junior League of Buffalo.
Footnote sources (in alphabetical order):
- Richard C. Brown and Bob Watson, Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land (Buffalo: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1981), p. 98.
- Buffalo Courier-Express, October 16, 1932
- Buffalo Courier-Express, December 11, 1932, §7, p. 4.
- Deeds recorded in the Erie County Clerk's Office in Liber 993 of Deeds at page 409 and in Liber 1003 of Deeds at page 12.
- Henry Wayland Hill, ed., Municipality of Buffalo, New York: A History 1720 - 1923 (Chicago and New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc. 1923), vol. 111, p. 228, p. 324, p. 360.
- Francis R. Kowsky, et al., Buffalo Architecture: A Guide (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1981), 314.
- Nancy Blumenstalk Mingus, Buffalo: Good Neighbors, Great Architecture (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), p. 63.
- With heartfelt appreciation, the author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Martin Wachadlo and Mrs. Wende Bennett Taylor, both of whom agreed to be interviewed. Mr. Wachadlo is an architectural historian with particular knowledge about the work of Esenwein and Johnson. A former resident of the house, Mrs. Taylor provided her personal recollections about living in the house with her grandparents, Albert and Sylvia Wende, and her parents, Elbert and Louise Bennett.
- "August Carl Esenwein", in Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York, vol. I., pp. 196-98. Buffalo: The Genealogical Publishing Company, 1906.
- "August Carl Esenwein, Sr.", in Niagara Frontier: A Narrative and Documentary History, Illustrated, vol. IV, pp. 3 89-9 1. Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 193 1.
- Brown, Richard C., and Bob Watson. Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land. Buffalo:Windsor Publications. Inc. 1981.
- "Buffalo as an Architectural Museum: Harlow C. Curtiss House / International Institute", accessed 12 January 2005.
- Hill, Henry Wayland (ed.). Municipality of Buffalo, New York: A History. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. (see especially the biography of Dexter Phelps Rumsey in vol. III, pp. 31-32; Harlow Clarke Curtiss in vol. 111, p. 227-28; the biography of Mattnew Mann in vol. IV, pp. 359-60; and the biography of Charles W. Goodyear in vol. IV, pp. 3 60-6 1.
- Johns, A. Wesley. The Man who Shot McKinley. New York: A. S. Barnes and Company, 1970.
- Kowsky, Francis R., Mark Goldman, Austin Fox, John D. Randall, Jack Quinan, and Teresa Lasher. Buffalo Architecture: A Guide. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1981.
- Men of Buffalo: A Collection of Portraits. Chicago: A.N. Marquis and Company, 1902.
- Mingus, Nancy Blumenstalk. Buffalo: Good Neighbors, Great Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.
- Olenick, Andy, and Richard 0. Reisem. Classic Buffalo: A Heritage of distinguished Architecture. Buffalo: Canisius College Press, 1999.
III. Newspaper Articles
- Buffalo Courier Express. "Leaders will be instructed for Camp Fire", October 16, 1932.
- Buffalo Courier-Express. "Women in the Public Eye", December 11, 1932, §7, p. 4.
- Buffalo Courier Express. "Local Lawyer, H.C. Curtiss, is taken by Death", June 26, 1933, pp. 1 and 3.
- Buffalo Courier Express. "Junior League, Service Unit are Sponsors of Meeting", October 23, 1939.
- Buffalo Courier Express. "Albert Wende Dies; Fortner Mine Investor June 1, 1963, p. 6.
- Buffalo Courier Express. "George T. Driscoll, 72, Attorney 47 Years, Dies", November 26,1964, p.23.
- Buffalo Express. "Geo. V. Forman, Fidelity Trust Founder, Dead", October 11, 1922, p. 5.
- Buffalo Evening News, "Camp Fire Council Selects New Officers", October 12, 1932.
- Buffalo Evening News. "Mrs. Ethel Mann Curtiss", October 2, 1939, p. 25.
- Buffalo Evening News. "Mrs. Curtiss' Will Probated", October 5, 1939, p. 25.
- Buffalo Evening News. "Elbert S. Bennett, Jr.", June 22, 1988, p. C- 10.
- Buffalo Times. "Camp Fire Celebration Marks 22d Anniversary", March 25, 1934.