Buffalo Seminary - Table of Contents

History - Buffalo Seminary
205 Bidwell Parkway, Buffalo, NY

By Jennifer Walkowski et. al of Clinton Brown Company Architecture/Rebuild
Part of the  State and National Register of Historic Places Nomination

Early History of Buffalo Seminary

Buffalo Seminary was founded in 1851 as the Buffalo Female Academy, and was established as a place where the daughters of Buffalo’s elite could receive a quality education on par with their male counterparts.

The Buffalo Female Academy was formed from an idea originating from Rev. M. La Rue P. Thompson, D.D., then pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Rev. Thompson called together a meeting of Buffalo’s community leaders at the house of Stephen G. Austin in the spring of 1851. This initial meeting led to a call for an additional public meeting which was held at the Phelps House hotel. At this subsequent meeting, planning for the school officially was undertaken, with stock subscriptions being offered and a board of trustees selected.  In March of 1851, the organization was created.

Among the first trustees of the Academy were some of Buffalo’s most prominent businessmen and civic figures, including Samuel F. Pratt who served as the first president of the board, Aaron Rumsey, Noah H. Gardener, George W. Tifft and others. 

In the antebellum period the education of women was still a topic of debate, but the engagement of Buffalo’s leading citizens in its formation is an indication of the strong support that this institution received.

The school held its first classes on August 15, 1851, and the institution was incorporated on October 14.  The school’s first Principal was the Rev. Dr. Charles E. West. Dr. West hailed from Brooklyn and had previously spent twelve years as the head of Rutgers Institute before coming to the Buffalo Female Academy. 

Around this time, the fledgling school found a supportive patron whose generous donations helped the Buffalo Female Academy through its initial years. Jabez Goodell, former school teacher and Buffalo pioneer settler for whom the City’s Goodell Street is named, gave ten acres of land to the Buffalo Female Academy, and took ten thousand dollars worth of stock in the institution. After Goddell’s death on September 26, 1851 at age 75, he bequeathed five hundred dollars to the school. In total, Jabez Goodell’s gifts to the Buffalo Female Academy totaled $15,500. When the Trustees for the school constructed a building to house the institution, they named it "Goodell Hall" in honor of their generous patron.  On July 6, 1852, Goodell Hall located on Johnson Park, the then emerging residential area of Buffalo, was completed and dedicated, and in this same year the school graduated its first class of three students. The school previously utilized Evergreen Cottage, the former home of Dr. Ebenezer Johnson the first Mayor of Buffalo, which was also located on Johnson Park at Delaware Avenue, for initial classroom space, but following the opening of Goodell Hall, Evergreen Cottage served largely as the academy residence, primarily for the President and his family.

On the 25th Anniversary of the school’s founding in 1876, the alumnae from the Buffalo Female Academy formed the Graduates Association. In June of 1884, the Graduates Association founded their first clubhouse, located across the street from the school on Johnson Park (11-11).  This clubhouse was the first such building in the country to be owned by a women’s club.  Soon after, the name of the school was changed to Buffalo Seminary in 1889. During the mid- to late- nineteenth-century, Buffalo Seminary experienced an era of growth and relative stability, and became an increasingly prominent part of the Buffalo culture. The Graduates Association sold their clubhouse on Johnson Park in 1894, constructing a new clubhouse on Delaware Avenue. This prominent Italian Renaissance Revival building designed by the firm of Green and Wicks (1895-96, NRE) would later become the Twentieth Century Club, Buffalo’s leading women’s clubhouse and social center. The Twentieth Century Club was the first club run by women, for women, in the United States. 

In 1899 Buffalo Seminary merged with the Elmwood School, under the leadership of Miss Jessica E. Beers, who was then serving as Principal for the school. The Elmwood School handled the primary grades of students while Buffalo Seminary housed the upper grade levels. While this partnership only lasted a few years, it did provide for a continuous scholastic program for female students.

Around the turn of the century, Buffalo’s population had begun to shift northward away from the downtown area and into the City’s newly forming streetcar suburbs. The 1883 completion of the New York Central Railroad’s Belt Line railroad, which encircled the City of Buffalo, also encouraged the expansion of the city fabric northward. This migration rendered the Johnson Park location of Goodell Hall inconvenient for many of the City’s residents. The school also sought to maintain its reputation as a first-class educational program, and sought to create a new modern, updated facility. In 1900 Buffalo Seminary moved to the Twentieth Century Club where it occupied the entire third floor and also held some classes at the Heathcote School on Delaware Avenue, leaving the facilities at Goodell Hall after 58 years.  For the next several years, Buffalo Seminary was without a permanent home, while it sought to obtain funds to construct a new permanent home.

The Buffalo Seminary Building (1908-1909)

During this era, the Graduates Association led the campaign to locate and purchase a site appropriate for a new school building. In 1906 property on Bidwell Parkway at the corner of Potomac Avenue was purchased by the Graduates Association with a $40,000 mortgage to help cover the costs of the new building which was estimated at $95,000. Letters were also sent out to all students and alumnae of the school, asking for contributions of any size to help offset the costs of the new edifice. After the sale of the Evergreen Cottage and Goodell Hall properties at Johnson Park ca. 1906, that money also formed a large part of the Seminary’s building fund.

This new triangular parcel purchased by the Graduates Association was described as being in the "most desirable residence section of Buffalo."  This prime location was noted as being convenient to the Elmwood Avenue street car line but yet "sufficiently far away to avoid noise and dust, while the whizzing cars afford convenient means of transportation to and from the school."  The parcel was unanimously selected over several other sites due to its bucolic location adjacent to Buffalo’s parkways, and its triangular shape was thought to maximize natural lighting since it was nestled between parks and streets.

The parcel of land purchased by the Graduates Association was an oddly shaped triangular plot formed by the diagonal of Bidwell Parkway crossing Potomac Avenue. To maximize the irregular parcel, architect George F. Newton designed a three-story, T-shaped plan for the new Buffalo Seminary Building. Drawing on his background in Gothic Revival and the Collegiate Gothic style in which he was so proficient, he designed a building for the school which consisted of a long, symmetrical fašade along Bidwell Parkway, with a perpendicular central wing which extended southward to Potomac Avenue. The building was dressed in light brick with limestone and terra cotta details. Created in a Collegiate Gothic style, many of the details relate specifically to the building’s use as an educational building, substituting books for religious motifs. Although the Classical Revival style was highly popular for civic, commercial and other large-scale projects during this era, it was noted that the Collegiate Gothic style was selected by the school for its "historical associations with collegiate buildings."

The primary north fašade along Bidwell Parkway features three shaped gables, with a more prominent central gable which marks the main entry. Buttresses with gablets divide the facades of the building into a series of bays. The entry is a deeply recessed compound pointed arch portal. The entry is topped by a series of grotesques and prominently features a "BS" crest and the years "1851" and "1909" to commemorate the origins of the Buffalo Female Academy as well as the completion of the new Buffalo Seminary Building.

At each end of the front elevation is a faceted one-story bay, topped with a crenellated detail. Each end of the north wing also features a significant chimney feature, flanked by a pointed arch Gothic-style window with tracery detail and label mold.

The cross-gabled rear wingis similarly detailed, with a series of larger pointed-arched windows with Gothic tracery at the second floor, indicating the Chapel space. These Gothic Revival windows are set within a larger pointed arch enframement, placed between buttresses. The bulk of the windows in the original church portion are modern 1/1 lite wood (appears to be oak, stained dark) sash windows with a fixed transom above and covered by storm windows, however each window lite features a pattern of tessellated octagonal shapes created from thin caming. At the termination of the rear wing at the property’s corner along Potomac Avenue, a uniquely shaped roughly triangular apsidal projection was created. The exterior of this feature was ornamented in polychrome diaper patterned brick (photo 6) and topped with a crenellated parapet. Crowning an internal circulation core is a monitor whose conical roof resembles a tower, and which lends a medieval castle-like appearance to this otherwise banal feature.

The interior of the original building featured spaces which served specific functions to suit the scholastic needs of the students. At the "crossing" of the two perpendicular wings is located a circulation core which features a central landing at each floor level with two wide dogleg staircases which feature metal newel posts and rails. The balustrade on all levels features a modest Gothic-type design and an oak handrail. The basement housed a large gymnasium (now used as the lunch room), dressing rooms, a locker room and also a separate apartment for a live-in janitor (see Historic Floor Plans, basement).

The main floor was entered from Bidwell Parkway through the main entry portico which led up a flight of stairs to a central lobby. This lobby was appointed in rich Tudor-style dark oak wood work including a coffered ceiling. Towards the eastern end of the front wing was located the elegant library, which contains a fireplace with the school’s motto "Semper Fidelis" carved into the mantelpiece, an ornate oak coffered ceiling, and dark oak paneling throughout. Built-in oak bookcases were added around the perimeter of the room. At the western end of this wing was the Study Room; an open, flexible room for use as a study hall. The perpendicular rear wing contained a double-loaded corridor with a series of small "recitation rooms."

The key spaces on the second floor include the large Assembly Hall (now called the Chapel) with stage, the Social Room (now known as the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation Gallery), art studio space (now converted to offices), and rooms for a science laboratory and domestic science classes at either end of the front wing. Historic plans indicate that the bulk of the rooms on the third floor were left unfinished, perhaps left for finishing as future needs might dictate. Today this floor houses additional office spaces, but still features open rooms which appear to be generally unused. The third floor provides access to a balcony level in the Assembly Hall/Chapel space, and overlooks the vaulted Social Room/Margaret L. Wendt Gallery.

West-Chester Hall

The first major addition to the 1909 Buffalo Seminary Building arrived in the late 1920s. During the early twentieth-century in its new home, Buffalo Seminary continued to grow and prosper, increasing its enrollment. By 1928 the school had grown to such an extent that the need for an addition became apparent. The prominent Buffalo architectural firm of Bley and Lyman designed a large addition to the east side of the building. This addition contained a new gymnasium, classrooms and the northern portion was named West-Chester Hall, derived from the last names of the school’s first two Headmasters, Dr. Charles E. West (1851-1860) and Albert T. Chester (1860-1887). Construction of the addition necessitated the removal of a large Dutch Colonial Revival mansion at 34 Bidwell Parkway, and with the addition of the new wing, the three sides of Buffalo Seminary formed a closed triangular form around an interior courtyard. The design of this new space maintained the Collegiate Gothic appearance of the original 1909 building, distinctive upon close inspection, but mainly harmonizing with the older portion with its use of similarly colored pale beige brick work with prominent shaped gables at the front and rear elevations. Most of the windows in the 1929 addition were multi-light metal casement windows, which complemented the existing windows of the original portion. The new portion created a new gymnasium space, which freed up the previous basement gymnasium in the old building for new use as a cafeteria and lunch room. The addition also contained additional classrooms and an art studio which built-in cabinetry and elegant oak woodwork. While the exterior maintained a similar style as the original, many of the interior details were drawn from a more classical tradition. The West-Chester Hall interiors featured details such as broken pediments, columns, round-headed arches and other details which contrasted with the medieval-based styling of the exterior. The interior also features an abundance of Federal or Adamsesque details including delicate swags and urns on the fireplace mantles and ribs of the barrel vaults in both the upper and lower West-Chester Hall rooms; a feminizing touch that is not present in the original building.

Larkin House

In 1953, Buffalo Seminary received a generous donation which increased its real estate holdings. Following the death of her parents in 1945 and 1948, Mary Frances Larkin Kellogg (class of 1927) inherited the substantial Larkin House at 65 Lincoln Parkway (1912 by Wood & Bradney). In 1953, the house along with Larkin Field was donated to Buffalo Seminary by the prominent Kellogg and Larkin families. The house was used as the residence of the Headmaster, while the field was utilized as an athletic field and tennis court by the school. 

Science wing

By the 1960s, the continued growth of Buffalo Seminary made the need for another addition to the building necessary. Designed by Duane Lyman and Associates (the successor firm to Bley and Lyman who designed the 1929 West-Chester Hall and gymnasium addition) in 1964, the new science wing was constructed at the south-eastern end of the triangular-shaped building along Potomac Avenue. While the earlier 1929 addition had been highly sympathetic to the design and style of the original 1909 building, to the point where it was nearly indistinguishable from the earlier portion in its design, detailing and materials, this new addition was more modern in its design. Located on the site of a demolished Potomac Avenue house adjacent, the new science wing addition was one-bay wide along Potomac Avenue. It was designed using a similar pale beige brick with similar four and three unit window groups surrounded by simple tabbed molding details. The parapet is crenellated, corresponding to other portions of the building. Absent from the new addition is any other sort of elaborate exterior ornamentation, however, such as the cast crests in several of the original building’s shaped gables.

Margaret L. Wendt Performing Arts Center

Other changes to the building include the construction of the Margaret L. Wendt Performing Arts Center. The new addition was designed and constructed by the North Star Construction company beginning in 1984. Constructed on the previous roof-level of the 1929 addition, this new space served as a performance, ballet, aerobics and drama room for the school. In 2001, Buffalo Seminary raised funds needed to refurbish and modernize the school. As a part of this process, the central courtyard which had been created in 1929 with the construction of West-Chester Hall was roofed over and opened up as an internal atrium space. While still maintaining the sense of openness and light present in the original outdoor courtyard by means of the large skylights located in the new roof, the new atrium space opens to the basement lunch room. Of note in the space is the presence of the fountain which features a putto figure. Formerly located in the outdoor courtyard, the siting of the fountain within the new atrium space maintains a connection between the old open courtyard and the now-enclosed atrium.

Despite these changes and updates, the architecture of the Buffalo Seminary Building remains largely intact. The mass of the original 1909 T-plan building is still present in the current layout of the building, and it retains original features such as woodwork, exterior details, interior plan and numerous other features. Historic additions such as the gymnasium and West-Chester Hall wing (1929) and the new Science wing (1964) were sympathetic to the design and appearance of the original Collegiate Gothic building, complementing the existing building with their own comparable use of materials and ornamentation. Even more modern updates to the building such as the roofing over of the courtyard respect the original architectural fabric, maintaining a sense of open, sun-light space in the now enclosed atrium space. While Buffalo Seminary has adapted and changed in order to maintain the highest educational levels, and has likewise needed to expand and update its building, it has made every effort to preserve and respect the form, mass and detailing of the Buffalo Seminary Building.

City of Light

Perhaps Buffalo Seminary is best known to the general public through literature. Lauren Belfer (Class of 1971) revealed a unique picture of the City of Buffalo at the time of the 1901 Pan American Exposition in her book City of Light, published in 1999. Although a work of historical fiction, many of the characters and locations from the book were lifted right from the actual history of Buffalo. Characters such as John J. Albright, John Milburn, Bronson and Dexter Rumsey and Mary Talbert were all prominent Buffalonians from the era, and come to life in Belfer’s book. Among the many actual locations described in the book are places such as the Pan American grounds north of Delaware Park, the Buffalo State Asylum (now known as the Richardson-Olmsted Complex), and the Adams Power Plant in Niagara Falls. Perhaps one of the key locations in the work is the Macaulay School, at which the main character Louisa is the Headmistress. Through its descriptions of a school for the daughters of Buffalo’s prominent citizens and in context of the story, the Macaulay School is a clear fictionalization of Buffalo Seminary.

The Buffalo Seminary Building is a unique educational and cultural building and home to Buffalo’s only non-sectarian, college preparatory institute for girls. The building should be considered eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places based on Criterion C as an excellent example of early twentieth-century Collegiate Gothic educational architecture designed by a prominent Boston-area architect, George F. Newton. Subsequent additions were harmoniously designed by the prominent local firms of Bley and Lyman and Duane Lyman and Associates. The building is also eligible for listing under Criterion A for its role in the educational history of the City of Buffalo for nearly 150 years, educating many of the area’s brightest young women including Margaret L. Wendt, Lauren Belfer and countless others who carry their education and experiences at Buffalo Seminary with them across the country. The Buffalo Seminary Building is unique for its excellent and largely intact Collegiate Gothic architecture, and also for its role in shaping the lives of the women of the City of Buffalo and of the world. Where once the school attracted girls from as far away as Massachusetts, now in its 159th year, Buffalo Seminary now attracts 20% of its students from across the globe, from places as distant as China, Korea, and Jamaica, proving the international reach of the school.

Noteworthy Buffalo Seminary Graduates

Charlotte Mulligan (Class of 1863)

One of the earliest graduates from Buffalo Seminary (then still known as the Buffalo Female Academy) was pioneering social worker and activist Charlotte Mulligan, who during the late nineteenth-century was one of Buffalo’s most well-known advocates for temperance, reform and education. At the young age of 7, Miss Mulligan became the first student to enter the Buffalo Female Academy, and by all accounts was a sturdy, spirited young girl. Her early years were tempered by loss, which many felt shaped her later life. At age 19, Ms. Mulligan lost her brother James, a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War, after he became ill on a barge in the Potomac River. Shortly after, her brother Gregg died while in Florida. Following the loss of her two beloved brothers, Charlotte proclaimed that she would never marry and instead "would do something for men."

Like many young, unmarried women of the era, Charlotte Mulligan pursued a career as a teacher. At age 17 while still a senior at the Buffalo Female Academy, Charlotte bean teaching a Sunday School class in the Wells Street chapel of the First Presbyterian Church. This class was comprised of young rowdy students almost her same age, but soon these energetic young students were "tamed" thanks to the skills of Miss Mulligan. Known for her musical talents, Ms. Mulligan was also taught vocal and violin courses out of her Johnson Park home. A woman known for her refinement and talents, she also worked as Buffalo’s first newspaper woman, serving as the Buffalo Courier’s music critic for 20 years.

Out of her background of education and working with troubled students, Charlotte Mulligan founded the Guard of Honor, an early settlement house and reform program, in January of 1868 which met on Sundays at the First Presbyterian Church. Formed as a reform-based organization for working-class men, the Guard of Honor was established with the mission of guiding the moral, religious and social lives of the underprivileged. Members of the Guard pledged to abstain from alcohol, refrain from using "profane or vulgar language," and not quarrel or fight. Members also pledged to desist from gambling or associate with men, women or boys of "questionable character." The Guard of Honor also had a religious basis, requiring members to attend their weekly Sunday meetings, and attend church services. Eventually in 1884, the Guard of Honor obtained its own building at 620-622 Washington Street across from the Washington Market. The building was structured so that the first floor open to the "roughest" of the members, and as the person made improvements in their life, they could move higher and higher in the building. The second floor offered a lounge and library to those who had made progress in their treatment. Ms. Mulligan also was known to take in the needy into her own house, provide them with a bath and a place to sleep for a night. The Guard of Honor existed as a reform house until at least the 1930s.

Charlotte Mulligan was instrumental in forming the Graduates Association of the Buffalo Seminary in 1876, and was also active in helping the group establish its clubhouse. However, Ms. Mulligan had bigger hopes for the organization, envisioning it becoming a center for musical, artistic, literary and social activities in the Buffalo community. She felt that the group needed a more stately mansion to house the club she saw fit to welcome in a new century. Due to the strong-minded Charlotte Mulligan, the Twentieth Century Club was incorporated on October 3, 1894 and two years later moved into its new home on Delaware Avenue. During this time, the Twentieth Century Club was ahead of its time, providing women with an equal facility and opportunity on par with the upscale men’s clubs throughout Buffalo.

Besides her work at the Guard of Honor, the Graduates Association and as a founder of the Twentieth Century Club, Charlotte Mulligan was also the founder of the Morning Musicales and the Afternoon Musicales musical groups. She also founded the Scribblers, a writing club, which was active into the 1930s. Later in her life, she spent much of her time at her home at Clover Bank located south of the City on the shore of Lake Erie, where the aristocrats of Buffalo were known to mingle with those who had gone through the Guard of Honor. She died in 1900 at the age of 55 years.

Marian De Forest (Class of 1884)

Among the many notable graduates of Buffalo Seminary is Marian De Forest, playwright, journalist and a prominent figure in many organizations in Buffalo. Born in the City on February 27, 1864 to parents Cyrus and Sarah Germain De Forest, Marian suffered from an eye injury as a child which forced her education to begin with private tutoring at home. Despite this handicap, her hard work and perseverance allowed her to graduate from Buffalo Seminary in 1884; at the time, the youngest graduate from the prestigious school.

Marian’s early career following her graduation was as a reporter, becoming one of the first women in this profession in Western New York. Her talents as a writer allowed her to rise in the profession quickly, working as a reporter at the Buffalo Evening News newspaper  and then later with the Buffalo Commercial.

In 1901, she served as the Executive Secretary of the Board of Women Managers for the Women’s pavilion at Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition.

After the Exposition, Marian joined the Buffalo Express staff, serving as the editor of the Women’s Department and dramatic editor. During her tenure with the newspaper, she met many of the most celebrated and prominent figures in the theatrical and musical world. Encouraged by Minnie Maddem Fiske, she began her career as a playwright during this period.

Marian De Forest was not only a prominent writer, but quickly became a noted playwright as well. In 1911 her play Little Women, based on the book by Louisa May Alcott, was said to have launched the career of Katharine Cornell. At the time, Cornell was a local actress, but soon became one of the nation’s most prominent actresses. Following performances in Buffalo (in January, 1912 at the Teck Theater) and New York City, Little Women opened in 1919 at the New Theater in London, with Cornell as its star. Ms. De Forest traveled with the play to New York, London and Paris, serving not only as the author but also as publisher and director as well. By 1931, Little Women returned to New York, and also was performed by four professional companies in Buffalo as well.

Other plays written by Marian De Forest include Erstwhile Susan, Mr. Man and several unpublished works. She also worked with Zona Gale (who in 1921 became the first woman to will a Pulitzer Prize for drama) to produce a radio broadcast series Friendship Village as part of a series called Neighbors on WEAF, a national broadcasting system. Ms. De Forest was highly influential in the theatrical scene in Buffalo, bringing the highest quality performances and actors to the City including Sarah Bernhardt, Victor Herbert and Serge Koussivitsky.

Ms. De Forest was also active in the musical culture of Buffalo. In 1924, Marian left the Buffalo Express to establish and manage the Buffalo Musical Foundation. Through this organization she played a major role in bringing symphony orchestras and other musical groups to Buffalo. In 1932 she promoted the first Pop Concert, which gave work to unemployed musicians, and in the 1930s played a significant role in helping to form the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Marian De Forest was also actively involved in many social and service groups in Buffalo. She was an active member of the Buffalo Seminary Graduates Association, as well as the Lyceum Club of London (an exclusive writers’ group), the Authors League of America, the Scribblers (the same Buffalo women’s writing club founded by fellow Buffalo Seminary alumnae, Charlotte Mulligan), the Buffalo Athletic Club and other organizations. She also served as a member of the board of directors for the Buffalo Public Library and the Society for the Preservation of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

On November 8, 1919, Marian gathered a group of similar prominent professional women at the Hotel Statler, forming the Zonta Club of Buffalo. Zonta was formed as a service organization comprised of executive and professional women who sought to improve the status of women worldwide, and to help women reach a higher level of professional acceptance. The club eventually expanded from beyond Buffalo to include  nine founding clubs that made up the Confederation of Zonta Clubs. These were located in Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, Elmira, Syracuse, Erie, Utica, and  Detroit. In 1927, Zonta became known as Zonta International with the incorporation of a Toronto club. Today, Zonta is still in existence and carries on Marian’s original goal of improving the situation of women locally, nationally and internationally.

After a long battle with a cancer-related illness, Marian De Forest died on February 17, 1935 at the age of 70. A remarkable role model for women in Buffalo and throughout the world, Marian De Forest was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York in October of 2001, becoming the first Buffalo-born woman to receive the honor.

Margaret L. Wendt (Class of 1903)

Born the daughter of wealth and privilege from a prominent Buffalo family, Margaret L. Wendt is best known as the founder of a philanthropic foundation which bears her name. Born in 1885 to William Franz Wendt, owner and operator of the successful Buffalo Forge company, and the former Mary Gies, Margaret was raised in a traditional, conservative manner by an overprotective father. Perhaps a reaction to the early death of her older sister Gertrude in childbirth, Margaret was raised to be a product of the Gilded Age. Expected to follow a conventional path for women by attending a good school, followed by finishing school (not college), Margaret attended Buffalo Seminary, graduating in 1903, and although she was a bright student she was denied the opportunity to further her education by her strict father, who was described as having strong ideas about the proper role of women.

In spite of living in her protective father’s shadow, Margaret was described as a reserved young woman who was warm and compassionate, and was a lover of animals. Margaret was a frequent visitor to her family’s land in Lockport, acting as manager and tending to the business of running the horse farm. On the farm was also a large aviary with an assortment of exotic birds which appears to reflect another of her interests. Margaret was passionate about her horses and was an experienced rider both in Lockport and in Buffalo, often being spotted about town with her horse and buggy.

Ms. Wendt was also a seasoned traveler as well, frequently touring the globe with her mother. In the early twentieth-century Margaret and her mother traveled to Europe, leaving William and Gertrude at home in Buffalo. The two traveling companions returned there for a six-month tour of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East in 1924. Margaret also toured this country, taking automobile trips to New Hampshire and South Carolina often with her beloved cousin Edith.

William Wendt died in the 1920s, followed by Margaret’s mother’s death around 1940. Shortly after the death of her mother, Margaret sold the horse farm in Lockport and turned her attentions to the construction of a new beachfront cottage in Thunder Bay, Ontario, an emerging playground for the well-to-do, which was finished in 1948. Margaret also maintained her family’s home at 570 Richmond Avenue where she was frequently spotted walking her pet dog, Michael, around the neighborhood.

It was during the late 1940s and early 1950s that Margaret L. Wendt began to take a more charitable role in the Buffalo community. After a chance meeting with the Reverend Ralph Loew during her neighborhood walks, Margaret soon became involved through him in small, anonymous charitable acts to help the needy. In one act, Margaret brought a young European family to Buffalo where she helped them get established in their new community. One of the family’s sons, Ernst Both, would later become the long-time director of the Buffalo Museum of Science.

By the mid-1950s, Margaret and the Reverend Loew began creating a more organized charitable organization. Along with Rev. Loew, Ms. Wendt worked with her investment broker, Samuel D. Lunt, and her lawyer, William I. Morey, establishing the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation in 1957. Initially the funding was started with $750 thousand dollars, which earned $30 thousand dollars a year annually which was given as one, two or three thousand dollar awards. Meeting annually to discuss the awards, Margaret stressed her desire that the money be used primarily in Western New York.

During the 1950s, Margaret L. Wendt continued to pursue her personal passions for travel, her church and the cultural life of Buffalo. Unfortunately in 1959 she suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. Although Foundation trustee Samuel Lunt maintained her Richmond Avenue home, retained her maid and kept her automobile in working order for thirteen years, Margaret never regained consciousness. Margaret L. Wendt died in 1972.

In her will, she left the bulk of her estate, valued at $14,557,348, to the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, significantly increasing the foundation’s worth. The well-managed foundation has continued to thrive since her passing; in 2002 the foundation was valued at about $120 million. Annually, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation distributes about $5.5 million a year into the area economy, supporting a wide variety of cultural, architectural and social needs. A $1.5 million loan helped supped the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra during its time a need, and the foundation also assisted with the restoration efforts for the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, promoting its "cultural tourism."

The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation has also supported the restoration work at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House and Shea’s Performing Arts Center.  The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation has also given back to Buffalo Seminary, the school which provided the only formal education in Margaret’s life, contributing funding in Margaret’s name for the new Performing Arts Center (1985) as well as aiding in the restoration of the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation Gallery on the building’s second floor.

The foundation has been a key financial supporter as well as advocate for the on-going rehabilitation of the historic Genesee Gateway block on Genesee Street between Oak and Ellicott Streets in Buffalo, helping turn a neglected and highly threatened intact row of pre-Civil War era commercial buildings into a new development project.

Tara VanDerveer (Class of 1971)

Tara VanDerveer is well known as one of the winningest active coaches in NCAA Division I basketball. Serving as coach of the Stanford women’s basketball team for nearly two decades, VanDerveer led the Cardinals to two NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championships in 1990 and 1992. In 1996, during a year sabbatical from Stanford, she served as the head coach for the US Olympic women’s basketball team, which captured the gold metal in Atlanta. VanDerveer was awarded the 1990 Naismith National Coach of the Year award and is a ten-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year. She also stands out as one of only seven NCAA Women's Basketball coaches to win at least 700 games. A stand-out player during her collegiate career at Indiana University, in 2002, VanDerveer was elected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Lauren Belfer (Class of 1971)

Lauren Belfer is a Buffalo-born author and graduate of the Buffalo Seminary. After graduation, she attended Swarthmore College where she majored in Medieval Studies. Belfer later worked a wide variety of jobs including as a clerk at an art gallery, a paralegal, an assistant photo editor at a newspaper, a fact checker at magazines, and as a researcher and associate producer on documentary films. She also earned her M.F.A. from Columbia University. Belfer’s debut novel, City of Light, was published in 1999 drew on her childhood home of Buffalo. Set during the City’s Pan-American Exposition in 1901, the main character and narrator of the book serves as Headmistress of the fictional Macaulay School for Girls; a clear interpretation of the Buffalo Seminary. City of Light was a New York Times Best Seller, and was well as a number one Book Sense pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award nominee, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. The book was also a bestseller in Great Britain, and has been translated into seven languages. City of Light was also adapted into a stage play. Belfer has also published several short works of fiction in a variety of publications. Her second novel, A Fierce Radiance, was published in June 2010 and is a romantic historical thriller set in the context of the development of penicillin during World War II in New York City. 

Other notable alumnae include:

Elizabeth Coatsworth Beston (Class of 1911) – A poet and author of books for young adults

Jane Botsford Armstrong (Class of 1939) – A notable sculptor, with a long and prominent career in Manchester Center, VT

Suzanne Hoskins White (Class of 1956) – An author of several books, who recently had an article featured in the Sunday New York Times.

Robie Heilbrun Harris (Class of 1958) – A writer of children's books in the Boston, Massachusetts area

Margaret Martin (Class of 1958) – A well-known local watercolorist, who has also written about painting

Gwendolyn Yates (Class of 1979) – An Academy Award-nominated sound editor on the movie Avatar, and also worked as dialog editor on the blockbuster movie Titanic.

The Olmsted Parkway System and the Suburbanization of Buffalo

The location for the new building for Buffalo Seminary was selected in a section of Buffalo which was quickly developing as one of the City’s premiere residential areas at the turn of the twentieth-century. Initially, this area north of downtown was sparsely settled through much of the nineteenth-century, consisting mostly of farm lands. Beginning in 1868, this area of Buffalo would be slowly transformed by Frederick Law Olmsted and partner Calvert Vaux who envisioned a series of connected parkways and parks in north Buffalo. Several developmental factors in the late nineteenth-century led the area north of downtown to become highly attractive to Buffalo’s growing middle- and upper-class residents, leading to the development of this area in the late nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries.

Frederick Law Olmsted was one of the nation’s most celebrated and recognized figures in the relatively new field of American landscape architecture when he arrived in Buffalo in 1868. Ten years earlier, Olmsted with Calvert Vaux had created the landmark Central Park in New York City; one of the earliest examples of the English romantic landscape tradition which had flourished there in the eighteenth-century brought to a municipal park in the United States. In the mid-1800s, Buffalo was one of the nation’s most rapidly growing cities, attracting scores of Easterners and immigrants who were attracted to the city following the opening of the booming Erie Canal trade in 1825 and by the thriving Civil War economy. To combat the growing industrial and urban character that the City was taking on, many of Buffalo’s prominent and more progressive leaders sought the creation of a city park which could act as a public leisure grounds, offering a respite from the dirty, noisy and crowded nineteenth-century urban environment. Olmsted regarded parks as inherently democratic institutions which could be use by people from all walks of life for strolling, picnicking, boating and relaxing. Some of Buffalo’s leading figures shared this view, including US District Attorney for northern New York William Dorsheimer who was instrumental in bringing Olmsted to Buffalo, as well as Pascal Paoli Pratt (owner of a thriving ironworks) and Sherman S. Jewett (a prominent manufacturer of stoves and a director of a railroad company).

Unlike his single park concept at Central Park, Olmsted’s plan for the City of Buffalo involved creating an integrated network of landscaped parks linked by treed and landscaped parkways. Olmsted envisioned three main parks, The Park (today known as Delaware Park), The Front (later known as Front Park) and The Parade (later Humboldt Park and presently Martin Luther King Jr. Park), served as the each with its own individual character and function. The Park, the largest park area which served as a sort of centerpiece for the park system, was located in what at the time was a largely uninhabited section of Buffalo and featured ponds and a meadow as well as winding paths. The Park was sited in close proximity to the extant Forest Lawn Cemetery (1853, NR 1990).

A critical component to Olmsted’s vision for the parks of Buffalo was the series of parkways which connected the various larger parks with tree-lined streets and avenues. Drawing on the inspiration of Buffalo’s original Baroque-style street plan which featured a grid overlaid with radial streets which was original designed by surveyor Joseph Ellicott in 1804, Olmsted’s broad, landscaped streets in Buffalo were among the first of their kind designed for American cities. These parkways were accented by lushly landscaped circles which marked significant intersections, and further highlighted the integration of natural landscaping into the city fabric. Olmsted and Vaux’s plan highlighted certain Buffalo streets, widening them to 100 feet and recreating them as significant city arteries. Delaware Street which ran from Niagara Square to Chapin Place became the most prominent thoroughfare of the plan. Older streets were reconfigured along Buffalo’s West Side to create Porter Avenue and The Avenue (now Richmond Avenue) which were created to link Front Park and the West Side to The Park. Olmsted and Vaux also designed a unique inverted Y-shaped parkway which linked the radial boulevards of Bidwell Parkway and Chapin Parkway at the central Soldier’s Circle which then led northward with another parkway, Lincoln Parkway to The Park. This convergence of boulevards which still retain their expansive, open tree-lined streets with grassy medians was intended to mark one of the most prominent access points to the new park. The elaborate system of parkways tied every corner of the City into the park environment.

While Olmsted and Vaux continued developing their extensive parkway network in Buffalo throughout three decades in the second half of the nineteenth-century, developing this area of north Buffalo for residential development was a key component in their scheme. Areas around the parks and parkways began to rise in property value as a result of the enhancements, creating an area desirable for residential development. Another key factor to the development and growth of the areas north of downtown was the growth of transportation throughout Buffalo. In 1883, the Belt Line railroad, owned and operated by the New York Central Railroad, created a rail system which circumscribed the City and contained numerous passenger stations along its course. These stations in areas such as Black Rock, Delaware Avenue at The Park, Broadway and Genesee Street helped to promote easy access from these sparsely settled fringes to the downtown, thus spurring the increased settlement and development of these once remote areas in the late 1800s. At the same time, a series of electrified street cars also helped to increase accessibility to this northern region of the City. Initially opened with five lines in 1889 which ran between Cold Springs and The Park, electric streetcars by the turn of the twentieth-century would become another popular, inexpensive and widely used transportation system which also helped encourage residential settlement in areas around the downtown core. 

Early on in their park planning, Olmsted and Vaux saw the immense potential for residential development in this area of Buffalo following the completion of their park system. The desire to settle and develop the northern fringes of Buffalo had already taken root by the mid-1800s when Olmsted and Vaux began their work, and they were encouraged to consider a residential aspect to their design by local backers. Olmsted envisioned residential development in this area as characterized by wide-open spaces and individual houses set on landscaped grounds, rather than the dense, cramped urban blocks and rowhouses which were typical of the vast majority of mid-nineteenth-century cities at the time. As a result, Olmsted and Vaux proposed a residential development along the northern curve of The Park they named Parkside. Envisioned as a residential complement to their park design, the Parkside neighborhood contained several winding, intertwined streets reminiscent of the pathways which wandered through The Park. Like the Riverside development in Illinois, Parkside was a private development, but Olmsted envisioned Parkside as connected to the success of his park system. Olmsted felt that the rise in tax revenues from the development would offset the costs to the City for constructing the park system, thus economically linking the residential enclave to the park system. Olmsted’s vision for the Parkside neighborhood wasn’t carried out until the late 1880s, when it was developed by the Villa Land Company. Although Olmsted had apparently envisioned a park-like residential setting with a few broad, curving roads, the actual Parkside development had more streets which were less curved than in Olmsted’s design. By the early twentieth-century, Parkside became one of the City’s most popular and fashionable areas; in 1903-1906 Larkin Soap Company executive Darwin D. Martin was attracted to the neighborhood, commissioning prominent architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design his new Prairie-style house on Jewett Parkway.

Another factor which drew people out of downtown and out into the northern areas of Buffalo was the Pan-American Exposition, held May 1 through November 2, 1901. Constructed on what had only a few years earlier been the farmlands of Bronson C. Rumsey located just north of Olmsted’s Delaware Park, the Pan-American Exposition attracted thousands of visitors, both locally and nationally, to this area on the fringes of Buffalo. Capitalizing on the adjacent Belt Line railroad lines and passenger station which helped to transport people to the fairgrounds from houses, apartments, and hotels located throughout the city, the Pan-American Exposition spurred new development just outside its gates.

The expanding streetcar system, with lines extending along three sides of the grounds, also encouraged growth in the area. The immense economic opportunity created by the fair also spurred development in the areas around the grounds; hotels, restaurants, boarding houses and other buildings sprung up along Elmwood Avenue, Delaware Avenue, Amherst Street and other areas, with owners and businessmen seeking to cash-in on the opportunity. Following the closing of the Pan-American Exposition, the staff and plaster fair buildings were demolished, and the land was cleared. Because of the tremendous development already underway in this area, thanks in part to the attraction of the fair, the grounds were quickly parceled for new development. The Pierce Arrow automobile manufacturing company was one of the earliest occupants of the former fair grounds, locating their expansive 34-acre new modern factory complex in the north-western corner of the grounds along the Belt Line rail lines and Elmwood Avenue around 1906 (NR 1974). Much of the land was platted with curving residential streets and prepared for new houses which were constructed primarily in the early decades of the twentieth-century.

Although Parkside was one of the most prominent residential developments in Buffalo to grow in the wake of the creation of the park system, at the end of the nineteenth-century and into the twentieth-century, the area north of downtown Buffalo saw an explosion of residential development. As areas along the City’s waterfront and East Side became increasingly industrialized, and the downtown core of Buffalo became increasingly more densely settled, many area residents sought refuge from the noise, pollution and crowds by migrating northward. Olmsted’s vision of the park system encouraging the residential settlement of this desirable area proved to be true by the late 1800s, and coupled with the improvements made to public transportation, encouraged widespread residential development. As the population shifted, abandoning downtown Buffalo to largely commercial and industrial functions, secondary services followed. These new areas needed churches, schools, fire and police stations, libraries and other buildings which supported the daily lives of the new residents.

Among the many institutions which left downtown and migrated north to the growing suburban areas was Buffalo Seminary. As many of its families and patrons left their stately houses in places such as Johnson Park and Niagara Square in the late nineteenth-century, relocating to new areas such as Richmond Avenue, Linwood Avenue, Lafayette Avenue and along the beautiful Bidwell and Chapin Parkways. By the turn of the twentieth-century, Buffalo Seminary had seen many of its families relocate to these new northern suburban areas, making the daily commute to the school in Johnson Park more difficult. In order to maintain the school’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading educational facilities, the decision was made to select a site for a new school building located in closer proximity to the new core of Buffalo Seminary’s demographic. The Graduates Association, who purchased the new property, selected a very prominent site in the developing northern area of Buffalo, located along Bidwell Parkway near Soldier’s Circle, along the central Y-shaped axis and near the most prominent of his landscaped circles which Olmsted designed as a primary access route to Delaware Park traveling from the southern downtown areas. At the time in the first decade of the 1900s, the block that would become the new home of the Buffalo Seminary had begun to see development in the way of stately single-family houses.

Architect George F. Newton

Plans for the new Buffalo Seminary building were created by prominent Boston architect, George F. Newton in 1906. Newton was a well-known collegiate and ecclesiastic architect during the early twentieth-century and was a prestigious selection for architect of the new Buffalo Seminary school. Born in 1857, Newton was the third student to be awarded the Rotch Traveling Scholarship, a prestigious award established by Boston architect Arthur Rotch in 1883 to grant promising young talent the opportunity to study abroad. Newton won the award in 1886 and spent two years studying and traveling in Europe where he was connected to the Atelier Daumet, led by one of the most successful students of the famed Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Upon his return to the United States, Newton worked for the prominent architecture and engineering firm of Peabody and Stearns, working closely with mentor Robert Swain Peabody who had also studied at the Atelier Daumet some years prior. Peabody at this time had embraced the nascent John Ruskin-influenced English Gothic Revival medieval architecture, which appears to have also had a strong influence on the young George F. Newton. 

George F. Newton established his own architectural practice in the late 1890s. He rose to prominence as the first instructor of design hired at Harvard University’s newly-established architecture program in 1894. Newton was hired by program founder H. Langford Warren on the recommendation of his mentor Peabody.  In a letter to Warren, Peabody described Newton as "the best man I could think of."  Newton taught architectural design at Harvard for ten years while he maintained a substantial independent practice where he was noted for his many Gothic Revival Churches. He appears to have been an adherent to the Gothic Revival in the context of the Arts and Crafts movement, which was advocated by theorists such as John Ruskin, who supported a return to the traditions of hand crafting in the medieval manner. Interestingly, George F. Newton presented a paper as part of a four-part series on the topic of the "Influence of Steel Construction and of Plate Glass upon the Development of Modern Style" to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Annual Convention in Nashville on October 21, 1896.  In 1898, Newton was involved in organizing a significant arts and crafts exhibition, sponsored by the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston. Typical of the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the twentieth-century, a wide variety of handicrafts were on display at this exhibition including embroidered reredos by R. Clipston Sturgis, printed works by Bertram Goodhue and iron work by McKim Mead and White. Also collaborating on the exposition was architect Ralph Adams Cram, who also was a strong advocate for the Gothic Revival and Arts and Crafts during this era. 

George F. Newton was a prominent architect who undertook a wide variety of projects. Although the bulk of Newton’s work was located in Boston and throughout Massachusetts, he was not unfamiliar with the City of Buffalo. In 1906-07, he designed the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation (originally built as North Presbyterian Church) at 1000 Delaware Avenue (NR 2002). The Buffalo Homeopathic Hospital on Lafayette Street at Gates Circle (presently the Millard Fillmore Hospital) was also designed by Newton in 1911. 

Among the works by Newton include the English Gothic Winchester (Massachusetts) Unitarian Church (1898) and the First Baptist Church of Winchester (1928) and also the Wadleigh Grammar School (1900, demolished).  The granite Gothic style Newton Highlands Congregational Church located in Newton, Massachusetts, was also designed by Newton and was dedicated in 1906.  George F. Newton was also the architect for the Massachusetts-located First Congregational Church of Wellesley Hills (1901) and the First Baptist Church in Melrose (1907). Besides numerous churches, Newton also designed the Gothic Revival-style Williston Memorial Library at Mount Holyoke College (1905).  The Colonial Revival house at 7 Greenough Avenue (1893) in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood is attributed to Newton and Clarence Blackall (contributing to Sumner Hill Historic District, NR 1986). 

George F. Newton retired from architectural practice in the 1930s after a long and prominent career which spanned over forty years. He died in 1947.

Architects Bley and Lyman / Duane Lyman and Associates

The firm of Bley and Lyman and its successor firm, Duane Lyman and Associates, was one of Buffalo’s most prominent architectural firms beginning in the late nineteenth-century and spanning well into the mid-twentieth-century.

The firm was initially comprised of partners Williams Lansing, Lawrence Bley and Duane Lyman, all of whom were well known and prominent men in Buffalo.  The Lansing, Bley and Lyman partnership was formed in 1914 and lasted until about 1919-1920.  Their most prominent projects include The Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club (1916, NR 2008), the Curtiss Aeroplane Company Office and Laboratory Building (1917) in Garden City, Long Island, and the Yale University Armory (1916-1917) in New Haven, Connecticut.  During this time the firm held offices in the famed Prudential Building (1895, NR 1973) and in the Delaware Court Building which the firm designed in 1917.

Williams Lansing was born on October 1st, 1860 to one of Buffalo’s oldest and most prominent families.  After graduating from Buffalo State Normal School he went to Colorado and spent several years on western ranches before returning to Buffalo to work in the architectural office of Green and Wicks.  Lansing worked briefly as an independent architect before partnering with fellow Green and Wicks draftsman Max G. Beierl around 1892.  He served as supervising architect for the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition in 1901 before joining with Bley and Lyman in 1910.  After he left the firm of Lansing, Bley and Lyman he joined with another architect of the name Oakley in 1919.  Among his most prominent works were the Connecticut Street Armory (1898-1900, NR 1995) with State Architect Isaac Perry, the C.W. Miller Livery Stable (with Beierl in 1892-94, NR 2007) and the homes of several prominent Buffalo businessmen.  Lansing died after suffering a stroke on September 30th, 1920 at his home at 200 Bryant Street.  He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Lawrence H. Bley was born in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg on December 15th, 1884, where he resided throughout his life.  After graduating from Hamburg High School he worked in the offices of Lansing and Beierl before he partnered with Williams Lansing and Duane Lyman.  After the departure of Williams Lansing, Bley and Lyman completed numerous notable works including the Saturn Club (1921-22, NR 2005), additions to the historic E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company Building (originally ca. 1850s, 1913 addition, NR 2009) the Johnston House (1934, NR 1997), the Buffalo Federal Courthouse (with E.B. Green, 1936), the Vars Building (1929), and the Niagara Mohawk Building in Syracuse, NY (1932, with Melvin L King).  Bley was a member of the AIA, the Hamburg Knights of Columbus, Hamburg Business Men’s Association and the Kiwanis Club among many other organizations.  Lawrence Bley died in 1939.

Duane Shuyler Lyman had a long and prominent architectural career in Buffalo and has been dubbed the "Dean of Western New York Architecture" due to the prominence of many of his projects.  Born in Lockport, NY on September 9th, 1886 Lyman attended Manlius Military Academy before studying architecture at Yale University’s Graduate Sheffield Scientific School, graduating in 1908.  With his new bride Elizabeth Stimson, Lyman lived in Europe for several years before returning to Buffalo on the eve of World War I.  Lyman worked in the office of Lansing and Beierl from 1912 until 1914 when the firm of Lansing, Bley and Lyman was created.  During the War, Lyman left the firm and served as a Major in the Ordinance Department.  The firm of Lansing, Bley and Lyman lasted until about 1920 when Lansing left the partnership and Lyman returned from the war to partner with Bley.  The firm of Bley and Lyman existed from 1920-1938 when many of Lyman’s most notable works were created.  In 1938, the firm of Duane Lyman & Associates was established.  This firm was noted for their numerous school buildings which they designed around Western New York, including Williamsville South High School (1949-51, NR 2008).  The firm also was responsible for the Bethlehem Steel Co. Management Country Club (1964), M&T Central Bank (1964-66, under primary designer Minoru Yamasaki) and the Christ the King Chapel at Canisius College (1949-51). Outside of his architectural work, Duane Lyman was passionate about fishing, hunting and gardening, served as a dean of the Saturn Club and was active in the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy.  Lyman died on April 30th, 1966 in his home at 78 Oakland Place, which he had designed for himself in 1948.

Major Construction Projects:

1908-1909     Construction of the original main T-plan building designed by George F. Newton
1929     West-Chester Hall and gymnasium wing constructed by the firm of Bley and Lyman
1964    Science wing addition constructed by Duane Lyman and Associates
1985    The Margaret L. Wendt Performing Arts Center is built
2001    Enclosure of the courtyard, expanding the cafeteria into the atrium

1851 -     The Buffalo Female Academy is founded as an educational facility for the daughters of the Buffalo community. Dr. Charles West serves as the school’s first Headmaster. The school is located in the Evergreen Cottage (1814), the former home of Mayor Dr. Ebenezer Johnson.

1876 -     On the 25th Anniversary of the school, the Graduates Association forms.

1884 -    The Graduates Association builds its Chapter House across from the school building on Johnson Park. This clubhouse is the first such building built by women in the country.

1889 -     The school is renamed as Buffalo Seminary, reinforcing the school’s commitment to higher education for women.

1894 -     The Graduates sell the Johnson Park clubhouse in order to construct a new clubhouse on Delaware Avenue. This new clubhouse becomes the Twentieth Century Club.

1899 -     Jessica E. Beers becomes Principal of the school. For a few years, Buffalo Seminary and the Elmwood School form an educational union to provide a consecutive scholastic program.

1900 -     After nearly 50 years, Buffalo Seminary vacates the former Evergreen Cottage and relocates to the Twentieth Century Club. Additional classes are also held at the Heathcote School on Delaware Avenue.

1903 -     L. Gertrude Angell becomes Headmistress of the school; a position she will hold for 49 years.

1907 -     Property on Bidwell Parkway near Soldier’s Circle is purchased by the Graduates Association for a new school. The Graduates mortgage it for $40,000 to help pay for the new building which will cost $95,000.

1909 -     Designed by prominent Boston-based architect George F. Newton, the new Collegiate Gothic facility at 205 Bidwell Parkway opens.

1929 -     In conjunction with the school Trustees, the Graduates Association raises funds for an addition to house additional classrooms, an art studio, a gymnasium and West-Chester Hall. The addition is designed by prominent local firm Bley and Lyman.

1951 -    Buffalo Seminary celebrates its 100th anniversary. Graduation ceremonies take place at Kleinhans Music Hall (NHL 1989)

1953 -    Through the generosity of Mary Frances Larkin Kellogg (Class of ’27) and her family, Larkin Field and the Larkin House are acquired by Buffalo Sem.

1964 -     A new science wing is added to the building, and the school is refurbished and modernized. This new wing is designed by Duane Lyman and Associates.

1974 -    Membership to the Graduates Association is opened to anyone who attended the school.

1985 -     The Margaret L. Wendt Performing Arts Center, built with a generous grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, opens. The center is named for Margaret L. Wendt who was a graduate of Buffalo Seminary in 1903.

1991 -    After 25 years as Headmaster, Robert A. Foster retires. Foster had played a critical role in preserving the school’s independence during the 1970s, when under his leadership, the school made the decision not to merge or become co-ed, but to remain an all-girls school.

1995 -    The Graduates Association is dissolved, and the new Alumnae Association is formed. The new Association welcomes anyone who attended Buffalo Seminary for at least one year.

1999 -    Lauren Belfer (Class of ‘71) publishes City of Light, a historical novel based on Buffalo’s 1901 Pan-American Exposition. The novel’s "Macauley School for Girls" is an obvious version of Buffalo Seminary.

2001 -    Buffalo Seminary celebrates its Sesquicentennial and raises more then $5 million to refurbish the school and to increase endowment for faculty enrichment and scholarship funds.

2007 -    Jody Douglass becomes the 13th and current Head of Buffalo Seminary.

2007 -    Buffalo Seminary sells the largely underutilized Larkin House on Lincoln Parkway to Drs. Gurmeet Dhillon and Lisa Hansen for $755,000, maintaining ownership of the Larkin athletic fields.  

2008 - Buffalo Seminary launches a residential program housing students in historic homes near the school. The residential program's financial impact on Buffalo and Elmwood Village is estimated to be over $1 million a year.

2014- Buffalo Seminary rebrands  as SEM with a new logo and brand standards.

2015- SEM  launches Remarkable Opportunities, Campaign for SEM with the goal of raising $9 million.

The funds will be for exterior building improvements and the creation of a new courtyard the Magavern-Sutton Courtyard which will connect our school with our 5 next door houses which are our student residences and one is the head of school's home. The improvements began as of June 10. We will be a truly unique intimate, urban campus. SEM is the only in boarding school in the City of Buffalo, bringing in upwards of 40 students from around the world.  The students and their visiting families bring new revenue of at least $1.5 million to Elmwood Village, Buffalo and Western New York.

The campaign will also raise funds for our endowment and professional development of our faculty.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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