The residence at 188 Summer Street was designed in 1900
by E.B. Green
, a prominent Buffalo architect of the era. Other Green designs include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
, the Genesee Building (now the Hyatt Hotel)
, 230 North Street, and Mayfair Lane.
Green built this home for himself and his new wife, a daughter of
Josiah Letchworth. The Letchworth family home graced North Street where
Mayfair Lane (photo
now stands. Mr. Letchworth gave his daughter and son-in-law title to
the land for this house towards the back of his very extensive
property, which at the time stretched from North to Summer with several
hundred feet of frontage on each street. Additional Letchworth houses,
including 178 Summer directly in front of 188, were built on the Summer
Street frontage in the late nineteenth century for various grandmothers
Green did not live in the house long, selling the residence to his
wife's sister-in-law when either his wife's poor health necessitated
other quarters, or she deserted him for greener pastures in California.
This Mrs. Letchworth lived at 188 Summer Street (at this time, the
property was listed on the tax rolls at 176 Summer) until her death
after World War II.
Owner - Darwin R. Martin
Darwin R. Martin
[son of Darwin D. Martin
acquired the property in 1947. At that time, the only entrance to the
house was by means of tile narrow carriageway running between No. 172
and 178 Summer. Darwin Martin acquired the l00'x400' vacant lot between
178 and 200 Summer, put in the present driveway, and changed the postal
address to 180 Summer Street. Martin also owned the Stuyvesant Hotel
Apartments and developed Stuyvesant Plaza on Elmwood Avenue as well as
the 191 North Medical Suites.
Martin also built the garage and greenhouse and made other significant
alterations. He removed partitions which had obscured the bottom part
of the main staircase, allowing it to be seen again in its original and
beautiful form. He completed the oval shape of the entrance hall. At
that same time, he closed off a door from the entrance hall to the
study or small library and had this library repanelled and the built-in
wet bar constructed. We've been told that this mahogany paneling was
moved from Martin's penthouse apartment at 800 West Ferry
, another Martin development.
The large library was also repanelled at this time with woodwork from the Frank Goodyear
house at Porter and Niagara Streets. Apparently, there had been a fire
in that area of the house late in Mrs. Letchworth's residency.
Mrs. Letchworth had enclosed the porch some time in the '20's, and
Martin replaced many paned windows with the large panels of thermopane
some time in the late '50's. Martin also filled in the two outer
doorways to this porch with bookcases.
Upstairs, Martin enlarged a bedroom and added bathrooms.
Owner - Max and Madelaine Clarkson
Max and Madelaine Clarkson bought the house in 1967 and replumbed,
rewired the house, and completely renovated the two smaller bathrooms.
They also rebuilt the kitchen with new cabinetry to match the old,
installed a Garland restaurant stove, and added a first-floor laundry
Clarkson also added two air-handling and humidification systems. He
used these ventilation systems for heating/humidification in winter,
and cooling in summer. Because of allergies, Clarkson needed a
year-round supply of fresh filtered air. The present owners prefer the
original hot water system and have only used the air-filtering systems
during large parties.
Clarkson installed burglar alarm systems and two new gas furnaces (one
for house and the other for the garage) in the early '70's.
Owner - John and Judith Fisher
John and Judith Fisher bought the house from the Clarksons in 1976.
Working with the original Green plans, they have restored some of E.B.
Green's design, including the coat room and the opening of tile house
to the sun porch by removing bookcases in the two outer doorways. In
the mid-'80's, the exterior of the house was repainted to enhance the
brick detail which had been lost to the eye when the house was entirely
The Fishers also removed all the wall-to-wall carpeting and refinished all the quarter-sawn oak
Other Fisher improvements include:
- Insulation of the attic floor
- Installation of storms and screens on all windows and doors
- Removal of butler's pantry and wall to afford eating area in kitchen
- Installation of butcher block counters in kitchen
- Extensive landscaping
- Replacement of deteriorated existing greenhouse with new glass and aluminum greenhouse
- Re-roofing house
- Replacement of old copper with new copper gutters, downspouts and valleys
- Removal of slate and replacement of decking where necessary
- Installation of snow racks on the entire roof
- Checking major structural members and replacing where deteriorated
- Replacement of all flat roofs, including the garage roof, with modified bitumen roof material
- Repointing of chimneys, relining five flues and installing three fireplace inserts
- Regluing and repainting shutters
- Replacement of four south-facing shutters
- Renovation of garage exterior
- Repointing all brick work and replacing some bricks
- Installation of new sills on the west-facing windows of the garage
There are architect's plans for new steel-framed sunroom windows.
Cracks have recently appeared in two panes. We've been informed that
early thermopane was poorly engineered.
The garden is in bloom from late-winter, when winter aconite and
snowdrops break through the snow, until early-November, with the last
of chrysanthemums. Although nothing is blooming in winter, all the
evergreen adds interest and privacy.
A number of garden "rooms" have been developcd: a crack garden, a water
garden with dwarf evergreen border, "Ed's" garden by the grape arbor, a
wild flower and fern garden under the yellowwood tree, a patio garden,
and an Italian pot garden in the front courtyard.
Thousands of daffodils, tulips, and other small bulbs have been planted
over the years. Many varieties of siberian iris, daylillies, hostas,
peonies, old-fashioned roses, and boxwood have been Ěpropagated and/or
planted, as is a collection of Exbury azaleas and hardy magnolias.
Rhubarb, blueberries, and asparagus grow in the vegetable garden. Red
and yellow raspberries arc growing in the compost area and near the
garage. Nanking cherries and Juneberries arc harvested by the birds or
made into jam.
The current owner and gardeners have made every effort to avoid
chemical fertilizers and weed-killers. Consequently, bird life is
abundant. Before Delaware-North developed adjacent property, two
families of pheasants inhabited the grounds. Sparrow hawks arc
frequently seen hunting their prey. And flickers denote changes of
season as they migrate either south or north. Many mourning doves live
and nest on the property. Recently, humming birds have been present in
The pond is inhabited by a variety of fish, tadpoles, toads, and a big
bullfrog. There are no snakes at present, but the yard is home to John
Alvarez's collection of exotic tortoises for a good part of the year.
On occasion, one escapes and is rounded up by passer-bys as it's trying
to cross Summer Street. Another escaped from the vegetable garden,
burrowed in for the winter and on the next fine spring day was spotted
ambling across the yard! Although the suburban deer population has only
made it as far south as Casa di Pizza, an opossum was sighted hanging
in one of the yews this winter.