McKim, Mead and White - Table of Contents

Robert Root House
SW Delaware and North
Located across the street from the
Williams-Butler House.
DEMOLISHED shortly after WW II to make way for Howard Johnson's Restaurant.

Click on illustrations for larger size

In 1894 Robert Root retained McKim, Mead and White to design a gambrel-roofed, red brick Georgian mansion on the southwest corner of Delaware Avenue and North Street, gateway to the new boulevard district. (Unfortunately, the house was torn down in 1935 to make room for a Howard Johnson, which in turn was demolished to house the present Walgreens Drug Store.)

The Williams brothers, who were connected to Root by marriage, transformed Buffalo's most fashionable corner into a family compound by building across the street. The presence of four houses around such a visible location gave rise to a local perception that McKim, Mead and White were Buffalo architects.

In February 1895 Charles Williams, a banker, had contacted McKim, Mead and White. Within four months, he and his younger brother, George, commissioned separate houses on adjoining lots on Delaware Avenue, the best address in Buffalo.

The Root House was the model for the Eastman House in Rochester

See also: Root Building

Robert Root House
The text below is excerpted from
Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families
By Edward T. Dunn
Pp. 281-2
Pub. by Canisius College Press, 2003

A genuinely modern mansion was #650, home of Robert Keating Root, designed by McKim Mead and White and built on the southwest corner of Delaware and North in 1896.

This colonial revival bore a strong resemblance to that of George Eastman on East Avenue in Rochester (comparison photos)...

Robert Keating

Robert Keating Root was born in Buffalo in 1866 (sic?), the son of Robert Keating, scion of an Anglo-Irish family long established in Wexford. Keating came to America in 1854 and to Buffalo the next year where he spent eleven years with [S. S.] Jewett & [Francis H.] Root, stove manufacturers. He then formed a partnership with Jewett's son, Henry C., which under the name Root & Jewett set up tanneries in Olean and Port Allegany, which sold out to the leather trust in 1892. Keating then moved into banking. He was a director of the Third National Bank, secretary of Standard Savings and Loan Association, and vice-president of Buffalo Savings.

In 1888 [sic?] he married his then boss's daughter, Caroline W Root, by whom he had one child, Robert Keating, mentioned above. [NOTE: ACCORDING TO KEATING DESCENDENT RIDGELY BARNUM FRANCISCO, THERE WAS A SECOND SON, LANGFORD S.] When Caroline died in 1866, possibly in childbirth, Caroline's father, who wished an heir to perpetuate the family name, adopted him under the name Robert Keating Root.

Robert Keating Root

Robert K. Root dabbled in banking, starting from the top. He had been a director and member of the executive committee of the Bank of Buffalo and became vice-president of that institution when it merged with Marine Trust at which time he became a member of the board of Marine. He had also been a director of the Market Bank, a trustee of the Fidelity Trust, of the Commonwealth Trust of New York, and of the Ellicott Square Company.

He was the eponym of and chief investor in the Root Building in downtown Buffalo.

His business acumen was expended chiefly in managing the Root estate much of which was invested in real property.

In 1888 he married Emily J. Davis, the daughter of the Townsend Davises of #596 Delaware. Emily died in 1917 and Robert never married again, so that the perpetuation of the Root name had not gone very far.

Next year Root served overseas as a captain in the Red Cross during World War 1. His sociabilite embraced both Buffalo and New York. He had been dean of the Saturn Club and president of the Country Club. He belonged to the Buffalo Club, and to the Union League and the Strollers Club of New York.

He died in Miami in 1923 at fifty-seven of pneumonia supposedly contracted while surf-bathing. He had taken several companions from Buffalo aboard his yacht for two weeks of fishing. He was buried from his home, Rev. Cameron J. Davis of Trinity presiding.

William A. Morgan

Root was followed by William A. Morgan who resided at #650 briefly after which it was vacant for several years. It was demolished in 1935 and replaced with a Howard Johnson's.

Text source: ìThe Houses of McKim, Mead and White,î by Samuel G. White, 1998

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