West Village Historic District - Table of Contents

Excerpts from
Perspective on Prospect: Preservation in the Historic West Village
By Dana Saylor-Furman

Published in the Fall 2011 issue of Western New Heritage Magazine
Reprinted with permission.

Prospect Avenue.  Photo Dana Saylor-Furman

The West Village, according to the community’s 1980 application for the National Register of Historic Places, “is one of Buffalo's oldest and most intact residential areas. Its tree-lined streets, slate sidewalks and stone carriage steps help create a distinct flavor for this section of the city.”

Located on the city’s Lower West Side, it is bounded on the east by South Elmwood, on the north by Tracy Street, on the northwest by Carolina Street and on the southwest by Niagara and Huron streets.

For the most part, homes on the west side of Prospect were built earlier than those on the street’s east side. Development began when Silas H. Fish purchased the lot at the corner of Prospect and Georgia streets in 1866 for the construction of Buffalo’s first Baptist church.  Known then as the Ninth Street Baptist Church, it was in operation by 1868 and, in time, would come to be known as the Prospect Avenue Baptist Church.

The following year, George Johnston, a decorator, built a brick cottage at 106 Prospect Avenue. Characteristic of Victorian architecture throughout the city, the home is considered a “workingman’s cottage.” At this time, the street was still known as Ninth Street and retained its old South Black Rock designation. In 1870, the street’s name was changed to Prospect Avenue to commemorate Prospect Hill, near where the Peace Bridge sits today.

Many influential and wealthy individuals – lake captains, bankers, insurance agents, lawyers and lumber dealers – built homes in the West Village. Others who came later held a variety of jobs, including theater manager, boxer, laundress and railroad station agent.

At the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, Ellsworth Milton Statler, who only four years before had opened his restaurant in the Ellicott Square Building, lived right around the corner at 203 Carolina Street. With construction of his Pan-Am Exposition hotel to begin in less than six months, he was on the cusp of greatness.

In the 1970s, the redevelopment corporation joined other groups pushing for brick infill homes to be built on the first block of Prospect, which had become a mostly-empty expanse of parking lots. Once the new housing was built in the 1980s, the homeowners on that section of the street changed the block’s name to Rabin Terrace and eventually formed their own block club.

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