Delaware Historic District - Table of Contents ............... Landmarks and Historic Districts in Buffalo - Table of Contents

The text below is a reprint of excerpts

1974 Nomination for the National Register of Historic Places:
Delaware Avenue Historic District in Buffalo, New York

See also: The complete official nomination text, accompanied by 3 photographs

Statement of Significance

The baronial residences in Buffalo's Delaware Avenue Historic District are the architectural fruits of a fiercely competitive free enterprise era of American history. In these prosperous peacetime years between the Spanish-American and First World Wars, Buffalo hosted the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 and for a short time the city's commercial and industrial prospects looked unlimited.

The designated two block-long district is only a small surviving segment of the spectacular Delaware Avenue referred to for years with both awe and reverence by Buffalo's chroniclers.

"Delaware Avenue that mattered began at Niagara Square with the house of Milliard Fillmore and ended at Gates Circle ..." wrote one of the avenue's residents Anson C. Goodyear (Anson C. Goodyear, "Delaware Avenue 1877-1927." Unpublished manuscript at Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, p. 1).

In Goodyear's eyes:

The Delaware Avenue of my early days was the champion residential street of the United States. Further west in Cleveland, Euclid Avenue had some pretensions, but we did not admit a great rivalry. The great elms along the way towered over green stretches of lawn, some imposing mansions ... and a coterie of curious characters. (Anson C. Goodyear, "Delaware Avenue 1877-1927." Unpublished manuscript at Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society)

From an outsider's perspective Carl Carmer describes the same atmosphere where...

... the rich old families living in heavy elegance ... safely immured in their wrought iron trimmed castles and their mansard roofed mansions ... (Carl Carmer, "Listen for a Lonesome Drum," William Sloane Associates: 1936, p. 54)

Delaware Avenue was one of the principal links leading from the heart of the city to the Pan-American Exposition held in Delaware Park in 1901. This ebullient and electrified trade fair was an important economic stimulus for Buffalo. In addition to the national publicity it created, particularly with McKinley's assassination at the Exposition and the subsequent inauguration of Teddy Roosevelt, records show that during these years the city enjoyed full employment, and unusually high sales profits which in turn led to increasingly large bank accounts (Isabel Vaughan James, "The Pan-American Exposition" Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society: 1961, p. 14).

This economic prosperity left its mark with a wave of new construction along Delaware Avenue. Within the historic district the two Williams' houses, (#672 and #690) were designed by McKim Mead and White on the corner of North Street and Delaware Avenue.

Seymour H. Knox, a partner with his brother-in-law, F. W. Woolworth in the 5¢ & 10¢ business came to Buffalo in the early 1900's and bought the George Howard house on Delaware Avenue, which he replaced in 1915 with a magnificent Renaissance villa designed by Charles Pierrepont Gilbert (#806). Knox may have been competing with his neighbor to the south, Stephen M. Clement, president of the Marine Bank, whose huge gothic residence designed by Buffalo architect Edward Green was built on the lots of three previous houses around 1911.

George V. Foreman [correct spelling: Forman], president of Eastern Oil Company and founder of the Fidelity Trust Company was another of Knox's neighbors living at #824 Delaware Avenue. In describing the closely knit community on Delaware Avenue, Anson Goodyear relates the punctual habits of George Foreman[correct spelling: Forman], his father-in-law.

Every morning he left his house at a certain hour and met George L. Williams at his house, just above North Street, to walk to the Fidelity building together. Mr. Foreman [correct spelling: Forman] boasted a very prominent corporation and leaned backward to achieve his balance. Mr. Williams was emaciated and bent forward for his. It was a procession on which people checked their watches.

Today the Delaware Avenue houses of the Williamses, the Knoxes, the Formans, the Goodyears and the Clements have been largely taken over by non-profit organizations, and thus the proposed district still holds the turn-of-the-century flavor for which all of Delaware Avenue was once known. The district is an important resource for understanding Buffalo at its peak of economic prosperity as well as the pretensions and sense of humor of its small but cohesive "ruling class."


On one of Buffalo's principal arteries, Delaware Avenue, a last series of large turn-of-the-century residences stand well set back on expansive lawns behind the tree lined sidewalk. These fourteen structures form the two block long Delaware Avenue Historic District on the west side of the street between North and Bryant Streets.

Westminster Church and the cottage-like residence beside it (#726) are the only mid-nineteenth century representatives in the district. Most buildings are the second ones to be built on their lots and as a whole they illustrate a spirit of "one-upmanship" between Buffalo's magnates between 1890 and the First World War.

The structures included in the district are described as follows:

The block between North and Summer Streets (from south to north):

The block between Summer and Bryant Streets (from south to north):

List of structures included in the Delaware Avenue Historic District:

Between North and Summer Streets: #672, #690, #698, #724, 4726, #742

Between Summer and Bryant Streets: #786, #806, #824, #830-832, #844, #864, #888, #900

Major Bibliographic references:

Some buildings in district listed in the following surveys:

See also: History of Neighborhoods in Buffalo, New York - Links

.Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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