Watson House / Buffalo Club - Table of Contents
History of 388 Delaware Avenue
The text below is excerpted from Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families, by Edward T. Dunn. Pub. by Canisius College Press 2003
Ed. note: Because of the problem of plagiarism, footnotes are intentionally left out. Serious researchers will go to Dunn's book.
|The Buffalo Club's third and final site was #388 Delaware at Delaware Place. The site was a lot 100' by 284' with a stable to the rear on another 100' square lot. Total cost was $63,000 ($1,098,090 in 1997 dollars). The old clubhouse on Buffalo and Chippewa was sold to Mrs. Mary A. Brayley for $25,000.|
Click on illustrations for larger size
The Buffalo Club was built for a home, not a clubhouse. In the large brick building at Delaware and Trinity remodeled four times to meet the demands of increasing membership and expanding activities, the trained eye can detect the brick mansion of architecture suggestive of French Renaissance design, once one of the city's most elegant homes.
Residence of Samuel F. Pratt when he died in 1872
Watson died in 1880, and his mansion was sold to the widow of Samuel F. Pratt. No Buffalo families had better Yankee credentials than the Pratts, the first of whom, John, had come to America in 1639.
Samuel Pratt, born in Townsend, Vermont, in 1787, was the son of a veteran of the Revolution, Captain Samuel Pratt, who had come to Buffalo early in the 1800s and died there shortly after the outbreak of the War of 1812. His widow fled to Vermont after the burning of Buffalo, but returned and died in 1830.
The captain's son, Samuel, Jr., had not accompanied his family to Buffalo but came out in 1807 with his wife, Sophia Fletcher, daughter of a veteran of both the French and Indian War and the Revolution. In Buffalo Samuel, Jr., engaged in mercantile pursuits with his father and was appointed sheriff of Niagara County in 1810, served as adjutant to General Peter Porter during the War of 1812, and died at Buffalo in 1822.
Samuel Fletcher Pratt was born to Samuel, Jr. and Sophia in 1807, just before the family moved here. In 1819 he began three years clerking in a general store in Canada, returned to Buffalo, and in 1828 got a job in the hardware store of George and Thaddeus Weed, later known as Weed & Pratt. In 1836 Pratt purchased the Weed interest and in 1832 with his brother, Pascal Paoli Pratt, and Edward P. Beals, formed Samuel Fletcher Pratt & Company, which dealt in hardware, bar iron, sheet iron, tools, contractors' and railroad supplies, and coach and saddlery ware.
In 1848, with Pratt & Company continuing in its old line, a new firm, Pratt & Letchworth, was organized to deal exclusively in carriages and saddles. Partners were the Pratt brothers and William P Letchworth from Auburn, where he had used convict labor in a like enterprise. Manufacturing was done at #165 Main where inmates of the nearby jail did the work.
It was also in 1848 that Samuel F. Pratt bought into Buffalo Gas Light, of which he became president until his death. He was the first president and long-time trustee of the Buffalo Female Academy. He died in 1872.
1912 photo of Buffalo Club
His widow, Mary Jane Pratt, bought the Watson home and was living there in 1880 with three grandchildren. In 1887 she sold it to the club, whose doings occasionally made the national news:
Earlier, during the switchmen's strike of 1892, when freight cars were being derailed and burned, passenger trains uncoupled and stoned, strikebreakers terrorized, and more violence threatened, the club had played a minor role in forcing a solution. As Horton wrote with populist exaggeration:
The downtown men's club completed and strengthened the socialization of America's late nineteenth century elite. As an unfriendly observer of the process writes:
But more than socialization was involved in the process:
Changes to the Buffalo Club occurred over the years. In 1889 an addition was made to the rear for a billiard room, dining rooms, kitchen, and servants quarters, paid for partially by selling the stable and lot to the Buffalo Widows' Asylum. The board approved a gymnasium annex with six sleeping rooms in June 1898. In 1907 a wing was built on Trinity Place.
The property next to the club at #396 Delaware was acquired in 1919. In 1925 part of this was sold for $136,000 to reduce the club's debt. However in 1929 at the start of the Depression the purchaser defaulted.
In 1947 the Club bought the infant asylum at Elmwood andEdward and promptly sold much of it, retaining only the part next to the parking lot. In 1958 a north wing was added with an entrance on the ground floor. In August 1966, "the Club purchased, for cash, the adjacent property to the north on #4101 Delaware Avenue and razed the building thereon to provide additional parking space and for future protection against undesirable neighbors."