Alexander Main Curtiss House / Ronald McDonald House
780 West Ferry St., Buffalo, NY

Visitor Information

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

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1931 photo

Neoclassical Revival style


Ionic portico: modillions support cornice

Main entrance


Broken pedimented dormer




James Johnson



James A. Johnson

The architect of 780 West Ferry Street was one of the most accomplished and prolific architects of Western New York. Born in Brewerton, N.Y., James A. Johnson came to Buffalo in the late 1880's as an architect who had worked for two of the most prominent architectural firms in the nation: McKim, Mead & White and Richard Morris Hunt.

In the late 1890's, he formed a partnership in Buffalo with August Carl Esenwein The firm of Esenwein and Johnson was the architect of the Temple of Music and the Alt Nurnberg of the Pan-American Exposition, the first Statler Hotel (a glazed Art Nouveau building modeled on the Guaranty Building),


This Neoclassical Revival style brick house reproduced a style popular a century earlier at the end of the American colonial era. The use of simple, solid, symmetrical forms, generously proportioned and elegantly detailed, reflects the rationalism and confidence of the American Enlightenment.

The focus of the house's symmetrical facade is a generously arched entranceway. A heavy wooden door is separated from a broad brick archway by a continuous arch of leaded glass.

The entrance is framed and sheltered by a full height semicircular portico supported on simple Ionic columns.

The small, richly detailed vestibule opens on an interior of free flowing space, A large light-filled central hall is flanked by balanced front parlors.

The parlor to the left contains a magnificent fireplace with red and gray marble within a Sheraton-style mantelpiece. The carved corner blocks of the windows contain rosettes like those on the woodwork of the entrance. The repetition of design elements continues throughout the house.

A magnificent center staircase, the dramatic focus of the interior, dominates the center hall. A single broad flight of stairs divides into a double flight at the landing. Curved, clear leaded glass windows on each of the semicircular landings amply light the entire stairwell, which rises through three stories. The stair railings are set on very tightly spaced square spindles, which terminate without newel posts in spiral designs reminiscent of the Ionic column capitals of the portico.

- Source: "History of 780 West Ferry Street," available at the Ronald McDonald House. 716.883-1177

Special thanks to the Ronald McDonald House administrators for their cooperation
Photos and their arrangement © 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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