Like the rest of the city of Buffalo, the Elmwood Village has undergone huge, vibrant changes in recent years. But some landmarks have been holding this famous pocket of art, culture and nightlife down for decades or more, and we highlight a few here.
by Max Fisher
You’ve probably seen these historical highlights of the Elmwood Village, but do you know their story?
A Brief History of Elmwood
If anyone was going to write this particular blog, it was bound to be me! I’m all about Elmwood, so it was a no-brainer. I’ve only been around Elmwood for a little more than 25 years (I’ve only been alive for a little bit more than 25 years), so even though I hold the village in high esteem, I’ll admit I don’t know everything there is to know about it. I’ve seen many well-known places and whatnot, but the histories of such places are admittedly a blind spot.
So let’s go down a bit of a history tour together to highlight a bit of the historical aspects of the Elmwood Village! I’ll try to make it as entertaining as possible so you don’t fall asleep like you did in history class (I know you sat in the back so the teacher couldn’t tell you were sleeping; I did the same thing).
Albright Knox Art Gallery
The Albright-Knox (soon to be Buffalo AKG Art Museum in 2022) Art Gallery
Built from 1890–1905 with additions in 1962 and a new extension called the Gundlach Building and new name (AKG Museum), which is expected to open in 2022. If you’re anything like me, you assume the Albright Knox has been around forever. As a result, if you’re anything like me, you are terrible at history because that is far from the truth. It started with The Albright Knox parent company, The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, founded in 1862, one of the U.S’s oldest art institutes.
On January 15, 1900, arguably Buffalo’s premier entrepreneur and philanthropist of his time, John J. Albright, (who was actually born in Buchanan, Virginia, but financed and developed a lot of the city, plus he died here and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, so we claim him as a Buffalonian) donated funds in order to create an art gallery. Albright hired prominent architect, Edward Brodhead Green, to design the building.
Although it was initially supposed to be used as the fine arts pavilion for the Pan American Exposition in 1901, it didn’t officially open its doors until May 31st, 1905. It was named after John J. Albright because he was the one to get the money necessary to get the ball rolling on the project.
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church built-in 1894 by architectural teams Lansing & Beierl and North & Shelgren. The main church building is constructed of Medina sandstone with a terra cotta tile roof in the Romanesque Revival style. It features a 120-foot-tall (37 m) square bell tower with a pyramidal roof. The church cost $150,000 to build and has a capacity of 1,000 people. Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church was first created in response to the people wanting a larger place to worship. A smaller version before its current location (which is located on 875 Elmwood Ave) was located at Lafayette Square.
William R. Heath House
Frank Lloyd Wright’s William R. Heath House
Built by Frank Lloyd Wright, The William R. Heath House was a Prairie house (Prairie architecture was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement and featured many of the same concepts such as built-in furniture, simple materials, and open floor plans. Prairie-style homes also feature long flat roofs, rows of windows, horizontal lines, and organic patterns for any architecture buffs out there). Designed for William Heath, a lawyer who had served as office manager and eventual vice-president of the Larkin Company in Buffalo.
While at first the The William R. Heath House seemed to be another case of an affluent guy getting a prominent architect to make an absurdly nice home so he can brag and show off to friends at parties and get together, has subsequently become a prime example of the Prairie style of architecture and is believed to be the precursor to Wright’s famous Frederick C. Robie House built in Chicago in 1909.
Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club
The historic Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club clubhouse was built from 1915 to 1916, and is a 1⁄2-story, Classical Revival–style building with a hipped roof. It is constructed of hollow tile and is sheathed in stucco with brick quoins. The original Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club building was enlarged with the addition of two double squash courts. The architects for the building were Lansing, Bley & Lyman. I’ve passed this building more times than I could count, and honestly, I always thought it was vacant. (Little did I know, however, that the inside of the building hosted a club that I could never possibly afford to get into. One more thing to add to the goals list!)
Entrance to the Japanese Garden
In December 1962, the city of Buffalo joined the United States Sister City International Initiative (which is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between communities in the United States and those in other countries, particularly through the establishment of “sister cities). In this case, the “the sister city” to be paired up with the Queen City was Japans Kanazawa. By 1996, Kanazawa had contributed trees, shrubs, paths, and the unique stone lanterns, which added up to make the serene Japanese Garden that all of us Buffalonians enjoy today.
The Terrace at Delaware Park restaurant and events venue in front of Hoyt Lake at Delaware Park
Delaware Park was developed between 1868 and 1876 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. It is the cornerstone of the Buffalo, New York parks system and is located in the North Buffalo neighborhood directly adjacent to Elmwood Ave. The 376-acre (152 ha) park was named simply ‘The Park by Olmsted’; but was later renamed Delaware Park because of its proximity to Delaware Avenue, Buffalo’s mansion row. It is divided into two areas: the 243-acre (98 ha) “Meadow Park” on the east and the 133-acre (54 ha) “Water Park,” with what was originally a 43-acre (17 ha) lake (“Gala Water” ), on the west. The 12-acre (4.9 ha) ravine and picnic grove on the south side of the lake comprise a subdivision of the latter.
I, for one, had no clue that Delaware Park was a part of a famous city- and region-wide park system. But it is most definitely considered to be part of Elmwood by all denizens of the area. See, you learn something every day; and if you don’t, just say you do so you seem smarter to others.