McKinney House - Table of Contents
2006 Photos - Thomas J. McKinney
35 Lincoln Parkway, Buffalo, NY
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Buffalo Park and Parkway System
TEXT Beneath Illustrations
Results of the October 13, 2006 "October Storm" (Wikinews, September 2011) evident in the trees
Thomas J. McKinney inherited a fortune in oil and spent much of it on this incredible house. To build this Renaissance villa, he spent $1million, which translates to over $10 million today (1999). After his enormous investment, Mr. and Mrs. McKinney lived in the house only four years before being killed in an automobile accident in Orlando, Florida in 1933.
At his Lincoln Parkway address, there was garage space for the four Rolls-Royce automobiles that McKinney owned.
The house is constructed of Roman brick over poured concrete walls. Today, it is considered to contain some of the foremost wood carving in the United States, possibly exceeded only by Mrs. Horace Dodge's house in Detroit. The woodwork contract alone -- executed by the firm of E. M. Hager and Sons, Buffalo wood specialists -- came to over $100,000, which is equivalent to more than $1 million today (1999). A crew of 20 expert woodcarvers imported from Germany, Switzerland, and Italy worked two years to accomplish the prodigious effort utilizing rare woods from all over the world.
Lawn and formal gardens: At the McKinney mansion, the lawn and formal gardens also involved acquiring the best of everything available in the world. For example, the lawn came from the grounds of a Belgian chateau, which contained particularly fine century-old sod that was removed, placed on a freighter, and faithfully watered enroute. Installed beneath the elegant sod was an intricate irrigation system so that Buffalo's summer sunshine would neverdry out the historic turf. When neighbors' dogs took a particular fancy to the regal Belgian lawn, McKinney ordered the elaborate ornamental fence and gates of stone, brick, and iron that today continue to surround the property.
Woodwork: A black walnut lion surmounts the newel post of the main stairway. To achieve McKinney's stated expectations, E. M. Hager and Sons scoured western New York State and found a living black walnut tree, thick enough for the carving, growing on a farm in Alden. It was purchased at great expense, cut down, and trucked to Buffalo. There, the lion carving was roughly cut from the thickest section of the trunk. This huge block of wood without a single knot was surrounded by sand and inserted in a box that was put in a kiln at 150 F degrees, with a fan constantly circulating fresh air into the box. This curing procedure continued for one year to ensure that the wood would never crack after it was carved. Expert carvers then produced the final carving of a lion which sits 26 inches high, 18 inches deep, and 14 inches wide. The bannister from the hall floor to the first landing is carved from a single piece of black walnut. The carvings are elaborately detailed on both sides of the balustrade and are six inches thick.
Library: The McKinney library is finished in clear, quarter-sawn English oak. Books are hidden behind elaborately carved bookcase doors with leaded glass depicting the Canterbury Tales. It was reported that Thomas McKinney went to Brentano's Bookstore in New York City and ordered an appropriate library for a gentleman of means, which Brentano's, with their experience and impeccable taste, willingly supplied.
Living room: Wood in the living room of the McKinney house is hand-carved birch. There are eleven fireplace mantels in the house, all of which were imported from Europe.
Dining room: American walnut was used in the dining room, which has doors carved with heavy garlands of fruit.
Breakfast room: With windows facing cast and south, the breakfast room of the Thomas J. McKinney House is flooded with light.
Miscellany: The house still contains allof the original chandeliers, sconces, and moldings. Hand-carved wood doors and moldings continue throughout the house from the basement to the third floor. There are 24 rooms and 9 bathrooms.