Schenck House
Located on the Grover Cleveland Golf Course Site

3781 Main St., Buffalo, NY

Golf Course - Official Website

House and Golf Course History Beneath Illustrations

November 2016 Photos

Onondaga limestone

Door not original

Addition at right

"The surviving outbuildings include a red brick, two room building with a loft used either as a SpringHouse or Summer Kitchen ...  This is likely to be where the dairy butter, apple butter and cider were being processed." - Wikipedia

American, or common bond pattern

Schenck House 1823
By Tara Mancini
(online Jan. 2017)

The Schenck House - est. 1822 - is one of the earliest extant homes currently [2016] within the City of Buffalo limits. It was built by early pioneer and farmer Micheal Schenck (1772–1844) and his son Samuel Schenck (Nov. 17th 1793 - Dec. 1st 1872)  out of locally queried limestone [Onondaga limestone], where many fossils can be seen on the eastern side of the facade. The Schenck family dates back to 1709 when they first arrived in America in an effort to escape religious persecution for being Protestant, specifically Mennonite. Just over a hundred years later they would find themselves in two covered wagons, traversing the Allegheny Mountains, and settling at the border between the City of Buffalo and Town of Amherst.

Michael Schenck emigrated from Pennsylvania in August 1821 with his family in two large covered wagons, drawn by four horses, came by way of Pittsburgh, over the mountain to Erie, thence to a point then called Comstock’s, eight miles from Buffalo, where he was compelled to place eight horses to one wagon, in order to get to Buffalo, on account of bad roads, he settled in Amherst, and purchased one-half section of land at fifteen dollars per acre, near Snyder post-office, then heavy timber land.”

More specifically, the Schencks were part of a migration of German-Swiss Pennsylvanians (also called Pennsylvanian Dutch) along with people newly emigrated from Germany between the 1820s to the 1850s into the Town of Amherst and City of Buffalo. The Town of Amherst had 1,556 German and 364 Pennsylvanians arrive by the year 1850, or 43% of the total population. The City of Buffalo had 9,409 Germans, 69 Prussians and 376 Pennsylvanians by 1850, or 23% of the population. Each Federal census cycle the Schencks had male and female farmhands or laborers who were born in Germany listed as living in their household. Due to this, it is possible that the Schencks were bilingual.


Here they practiced the same farming techniques they had in Pennsylvania and earlier in Germany. These techniques by today’s standards could be termed “environmentally friendly", and Polyculture due to their use of crop rotation, production of multiple food products on a family farm, and the use of cow manure. The Schencks like other German settlers practiced the keeping and feeding of multiple types of animals; housing them in a barn through winter. This practice was consider unusual by farmers of British heritage. While the German idea of feeding and housing animals through winter was adopted by non-German farmers in the 19th century, the keeping of a variety of animals was not. Many 19th century farmers began to develop specialized farms, unofficially becoming a "pig farmer" or "cattle rancher". Three generations of Schencks continued practicing polyculture of crops and animals even when monoculture continue to expand and “special” or synthetic fertilizers were being developed and used.


The house has had some alteration over its history - most of which being in the 19th century and included a front porch and two story rear addition. The construction of the The Schenck house was likely started in June 1822 when Michael Schenck purchased the property for $1000, and completed in August 1823 when Michael sold it to his eldest son Samuel Schenck for $3500.

The Schenck House was built with a “Continental Pennsylvania German House” floor plan of three rooms over three rooms, without a Federal style “central entrance hall”, plus additional windows set into the third floor for functional light. Traditionally, this style would include a central chimney on a stone or brick central support wall.  The Continental Pennsylvania German House plan was brought over to America with immigrants in the 17th and 18th century and dates to the Middle Ages in Central Europe.

Cooking in an 1823 house would have involved using the fireplace and in the case of the Schencks a 10 plate stove and pipe. A "5 plate stove" or German Jamb stove was a cast-iron free-standing stove developed in German speaking regions in the 1550s A.D.. However, it was used for heating the sleeping and sitting areas of the first floor of the house. The kitchen was heated by the kitchen fireplace. Once in America German immigrants developed a 6 plate Six Plate stove or closed stove which was cooked on by the 1740s. Benjamin Franklin is also an inventor of a coal burning stove in 1741, Franklin stove. However, it was not free-standing and was inserted into the fireplace.


The property was originally part of the Hamlet of Snyder, in the Town of Amherst and continued to be when the family sold it to the The Country Club of Buffalo in 1898. The Country Club kept the original buildings except for a cottage - north west of the main stone house - where Samuel Schenck’s mother Catherine Schenck lived.  They added a tennis court, polo field, large club house, garages and a 16 hole golf course. The Golf Course was completed in 1902. The property was rezoned in the 1920s when it was sold to the City of Buffalo. It became a public park and golf course called Grover Cleveland Golf Course. It was transferred again in the 1970s, this time to Erie County, however, the property remained in the city limits.

Around 1970, the large barn, and significantly smaller structures were demolished. The Schenck house currently has three of the original six buildings and roughly a 180 acres of the original acres surviving to 2016. The 2003 Master Plan developed by Erie County has stated that it is looking at filing for preservation status.

Grover Cleveland Golf Course

Grover Cleveland Golf Course is a 5,621 yard par 69 course located in the City of Buffalo and is the site of the original Country Club of Buffalo [1889].

As the Country Club of Buffalo it hosted the 1912 U.S. Open won by the first American golfer to capture the crown, John J. McDermott. It is the only public golf facility in North America to be designed by two of the most famous golf architects of the early 20th Century: Walter J. Travers and Donald Ross. The course was designed by Travers in 1902, redesigned by Ross in 1920, and redesigned again in 1952 after it was purchased by the City of Buffalo [1925]. Erie County assumed ownership of the course in the 1970s.

While not long, 9 of the original Travers “1912 Open” holes still exist  and the course is noted for its very difficult green complexes designed by Ross. The 17th hole “Redan” style par 3 is annually rated as one of the best par 3s in Western New York.
- Erie County: Grover Cleveland Golf Course  (online Nov. 2016)

See also:  Otowega Golf Club

Photos and their arrangement 2016 Chuck LaChiusa
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