Lewis Falley Allen - Table of Contents

Lewis Falley Allen
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Lewis F. Allen

Allen's nephew Grover Cleveland

A very early engraving of Gen. Porter's house at Black Rock

Residence of Peter Porter, overlooking the Niagara [River]

The Peter Porter
house from the [Niagara] River side

The Gen. Porter house - perhaps the rear side

Lewis and Margaret Cleveland Allen Monument at Forest Lawn Cemetery

Family life: Lewis Falley Allen was born in 1800 in Westfield, Massachusetts He arrived in Buffalo in 1827 from Massachusetts. he entered business early, working in Connecticut, New York City, and Ohio. In April 1827, he came to Buffalo to serve as secretary and financial manager of the Western Ensurance Company. With him came his bride of two years, the former Margaret Cleveland (1801-1880), an aunt of Grover Cleveland. The Allens had six children, but only two lived to adulthood.

He and his associates purchased the interests of Gen. Peter B Porter at Black Rock when Porter abandoned Black Rock for a residence at Prospect Point in Niagara Falls in 1837. Allen bought General Porter's home overlooking the Niagara River. It was a home the Allens maintained for over 50 years.

Porter had built the house in 1816 in Black Rock after his first home was burned during the War of 1812. It stood on present-day Niagara street near Ferry on the bluff high above the river, affording a fine view of the area. Porter donated the land for the Union Meeting House church across the street on Breckenridge. The house was torn down in 1911 to make way for commercial development.

John Quincy Adams visited the Allen's home. Grover Cleveland, a favored nephew, lived there when Allen convinced Cleveland, on his way to Ohio, to remain in Buffalo to pursue a legal career which led to politics and the White House.

However, Cleveland was a Democrat, while Allen was chairman of the first Republican convention in Erie County. The two men parted company over politics and Allen voted against Cleveland.

He remained active and well read until the age of 89.

Allen Street
was named after Allen in 1888.

River Lea
(c. 1849), a gracious frame Italianate built for Allen, may be seen at Beaver Island State Park in Grand Island.

Business life: The "Ensurance" business must have been as profitable then as it is now, since Lewis Allen quickly began speculating in land. By the time of Lewis Allen's arrival, Buffalo was already in the grip of an industrial boom unprecedented in any other city in the country.

Allen bought 29 acres of land from the extensive Holland Land Company holdings and built his home near Williamsville Road (now Main Street), where he also planted orchards and began to indulge an interest in breeding shorthorn cattle.

Due to an unprecedented industrial boom, Buffalo's population blossomed. Allen began selling off parcels of his increasingly valuable land near Main Street. Allen faced a serious problem. The problem was solved by driving his herd from the rear of his estate west for just over a quarter-mile, to a large untenanted pasturage ample enough for the new herd's grazing needs. The well-trod path became known as Allen Street.

The pasture land belonged to Thomas Day, another of Buffalo's eager new entrepreneurs who saw in the land at its northern boundaries the wave of a profitable future

In 1832, when Buffalo was incorporated as a city, the wagon trail known as Old Guide Board Road (now North Street), which branched west from Williamsville Road, became the City's northernmost boundary, about a thousand feet from Lewis Allen's door. The swelling population of the city began looking northward for land that was at once close to the affairs of industry and far away from its noise and stench. Lewis Allen was sitting on a gold mine.

Allen's horticultural interests led to the planting of many shade and ornamental trees in Buffalo. He promoted the planting of elm trees. Allen also corresponded with Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852), who wrote about domestic architecture and landscape gardening. Downing published designs for American homes loosely based on the rural Tuscan farmhouses of Italy. Andrew Downing, in turn, worked with Frederick Olmsted. In 1862 Allen published " Outside Color", a short piece about the tasteful choosing of colors for dwellings, in Rural Architecture.

See also: Delaware and North Street Burying Ground Allen owned the cemetery

Grand Island: In 1833, in association with businessmen from New England, Allen handled the Boston Lumber Company's purchases on Grand Island and oversaw the development of enterprises there. When the company sold its holdings on the island, he acquired a 600-acre farm he named Allenton. There experimentation was conducted with cows to improve milk production and with swine to improve meat production. Orchards of apple, pear, and cherry trees were planted as were grapevines, pioneering endeavors in fruit growing, which became an important element of the regional agricultural economy.

Men like Allen joined with their fellow citizens in the countryside and in communities such as Hamburg, Aurora, Holland, Wales, Eden, Boston and Amherst to organize the Erie County Agricultural Society, which sponsored an Erie County fair. In October 1841, Buffalo hosted the fair, which was held in and behind the courthouse near present-day Lafayette Square. A livestock show featured horses, sheep and swine. Displays in the courthouse included prize
vegetables, fruit and cheeses, as well as homemade food and crafts. Seven years later, the New York State Fair came to the city, where it was held near the Poinsett Barracks on Delaware Avenue

Politics: Allen was elected to the state legislature in 1838.

The except below is taken from
The Warren Hull House Historic Structure Report, by John H. Conlin 1998

The lost building that most resembled the Warren Hull House was that built by General Peter Porter immediately after the conclusion of the War of 1812.

  • It had a two-story central entry five-bay facade facing Niagara Street (between Ferry and Breckenridge Sts.).
  • The Federal style building had parapet gables with four chimneys symmetrically arranged. and an elliptical window between the chimney pairs on the gable end.
  • A paneled low railing ran across the facade at the roof line between the first step of the gable walls.
  • The Porter House was also built into the side of a natural hill, the Niagara River bank.
  • It had an exposed basement level facing the river.

The building was sold by Porter in 1836 to Lewis F. Allen. Some time after this, probably in the late 1840's when Allen began his career as an architectural reformer, his house underwent a dramatic alteration. The parapets were removed from the end walls, and the roof was extended over the end walls to create wide eaves.

For Lewis F. Allen the change would have been a matter of common sense practical Improvement. The alteration of a markedly similar house occupied by a prominent community leader may have been an influence on the decision to make a similar alteration to the roof of the Hull House.

Edmund Hull who was a resident of Black Rock when he died in 1853 would have taken notice of the change to the most Important residence in Black Rock. (Allen also disliked the fact that there was a kitchen In the basement of the Porter House.)

The Porter house was demolished in 1912.

Lewis Allen and Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland, a small-town boy from central New York, stopped off in Buffalo in 1855 on his way to Cleveland, Ohio, where he hoped some sort of magic from the similarity of their names would assure him a successful career in the law. His reason for stopping in Buffalo was to pay a courtesy call on his uncle, Lewis Allen, who lived on Niagara Street but was adding to his already considerable fortune by raising cattle on Grand Island

Allen persuaded his nephew that if a law career was what he wanted, he need go no farther than Buffalo He sent his 18-year-old nephew downtown to the law firm that handled his business, Bowen & Rogers Cleveland presented himself at the law firm without bothering to mention his relationship with Allen Unimpressed with his credentials, or lack of them, the lawyers informed Cleveland there were no job openings at the moment and dismissed him out of hand.

Infuriated when he heard how the job interview had gone, Allen stormed into the law office the next morning and told the surprised lawyers that if the services of his nephew weren't wanted, neither apparently was Allen's legal business Allen was an important client and the law firm quickly reconsidered, taking Cleveland on as a lowly clerk.

The story goes that Cleveland made so little impression at first that once the lawyers forgot he was there and locked him in the office when they left for the day. "Someday I will be better remembered:' the young Cleveland muttered to himself. Cleveland passed the bar in 1857 and stayed on with the law firm until 1863, when he left to become assistant district attorney That first faint brush with politics appealed to him, and he ran for district attorney in the next election Defeated, he returned to the law For the next 15 years, except when he took time out to be sheriff of Erie County, he practiced law with one after another of his lawyer friends as partners.

- Source: "Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land,"by Brown, Richard C. and Watson, Bob. USA: Windsor Publications, 1981, pp. 125-126


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