G. K. Birge House - Table of Contents
Nuns Now Occupy Old Birge Mansion
by H. Katherine Smith
Reprinted from the Courier Express, August 10, 1952
The imposing Georgian-style mansion of red brick, stone and marble at 25 Richmond Ave., on The Circle [now Symphony Circle], was the home of three generations of a distinguished Buffalo family -- the Birges. Today, it is occupied by the Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child, a Roman Catholic order of nuns that originated in this city.
Circle House was a veritable masterpiece of luxury and artistry. It was designed by Little & Browne, Boston architects.
Members of the Birge family have lived in Buffalo since 1834 when Martin Birge came here from Vermont, traveling from Albany on the Erie Canal. Since 1847 the Birges have been identified with the wallpaper industry. Four generations of the family have headed the wallpaper manufacturing company, at 390 Niagara St., for several years. The late Martin Birge began 105 years ago with the modest business at 160 main St. Following the failure of his general store, he refused to accept bankruptcy, and switched to the wallpaper business to pay off his debts. His son, the late George K. Birge, became a manufacturer of wallpaper and developed the firm into an industry known internationally. His son, Humphrey, grandson of Martin, subsequently headed the firm. Its present head is George K. Birge, son of Humphrey and great-grandson of Martin.
The late George K. Birge, who lived in the Circle House from 1897, the year of its completion, until his death in 1918, was a man of diversified interests. While a student at Cornell University in the class of 1872, he wrote the still-popular song, "We Honor Thee, Cornell." In addition to being the president of the wallpaper company, he was the founder and head of the Pierce Arrow Co., a pioneer in the manufacture of luxury automobiles. He was a member of the board of directors and of the executive committee of the Pan-American Exposition of 1901.
He and Mrs. Birge, the former Carrie Humphrey, were among Buffalo's most philanthropic citizens. They traveled widely and passed much time in France. Mrs. Birge died there in 1932.
Mr. and Mrs. George K. Birge made Circle house a center of culture and hospitality Connoisseurs of art and music, they beautified their home with rare objects of art collected from the many countries they visited. Mr. Birge played the pipe organ and frequently invited outstanding professional organists to play it.