Stone Houses of Amherst - Table of Contents  ............................  Williamsville - Table of Contents

16 Houses - The Stone Houses of  Amherst, New York
Deborah Cohen
Patricia Lerner
  Jacqueline Simon


1. Grover Cleveland House, Main & Bailey

                                                  2016 photo  

2. Fogelsonger House, 219 Park Club Lane

                                                                  December 2017 photo

Another farmer turned successful businessman was John Fogelsonger, operator of one of the most well-known quarries in the region and the original owner of this house. His property included a geologically significant portion of the Onondaga escarpment, one of several large quarries between Buffalo and Rochester.  This escarpment was the remains of a large coral reef, and many fossils are represented in large numbers here.  You can still see the strata of limestone rock on the walls of the underpass of the Expressway under Main Street. 

It was discovered that a special layer of the stone could be burned down to produce "hydraulic cement," a waterproof mortar that would harden under water and remain waterproof. The value of the local limestone deposits were so important in the building of the Erie Canal in the early 1820s that many of the grist mills, such as Fogelsonger's, were converted to cement mills.  This quarry was run by the Fogelsonger family for over 50 years until it was sold in 1887.

The Fogelsonger house is a 3-bay, two-story house, with a typical small window on the 3rd floor under the eave of the gable.  It was probably built in the early 1820s, making it one of the earlier stone houses still remaining.  The original kitchen was in the one-story wing in the rear of the house.
In 1855, four Fogelsonger families lived on the property, all in stone houses, of course.  A second one, mostly covered and hardly recognizable, was sold by a member of the Fogelsonger family to William Dean at 64 N. Forest.

Like Michael Schenck a
nd Peter Hershey, John Fogelsonger also came here from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.

3. Park School, 4621 Harlem, Snyder

                                         December 2017 photo

One of the houses is on Harlem Road between Main Street and Sheridan Avenue, on the grounds of the Park School.   This is a small, rectangular-shaped house with 4 bays, and we believe it was built in 1831.  Originally, it did not have the dormers (they were added in the 1920s) or the canopy or roof over the door (this was added in the 1880s). If you look closely, you will see that the walls are made of irregularly coursed stone.   
The first people to live in the house, as far as we know, were John and Nancy Schenck.  The land had been purchased by John's father, Michael Schenck, who came here in 1821 from Pennsylvania.  They came with their belongings in two large covered wagons, drawn by 4 horses.  The roads were so bad, they had to stop 8 miles from Buffalo, and hitch all 8 horses to one wagon to get it out of the mud.  Schenck first bought a wooded section of land around Harlem and Main, which was known as Snyderville, and continued to amass property so he could give each of his 11 children a farm.

We saw how houses are changed physically to accommodate new needs, with dormers added to increase space and light on an upper floor or porches added, perhaps for style.  Functions of structures also change.   The house remained a residence for almost 80 years.  Sometime around the turn of the century, oats, waiting for sale, were stored in it, and after that, it was used for a collection of natural objects found on the property, such as fossils. The owner of this collection was eventually involved in the founding of the Science Museum.

4. Mennonite Meeting House, 5178 Main St, Williamsville
                                                2017 photo

5. Youngs Road, Buffalo Country Club, 250 Youngs

                                                                               2017 photo

6. 1841 Forest Rd, Williamsville

                                                        December 2017 photo

Most of the stone houses we've looked at were built near where stone was quarried. Limestone is very heavy -- it weighs about 170 pounds a cubic foot. So, George Kibler's stone house on North Forest near Heim comes as quite a surprise.  We have an idea about why the house is here.  Since the creek was navigable from a point south of Main Street to the Niagara River, flour, hay, produce of all kinds and other trade took this route from Williamsville to Canada.  It may well be that stone for this house also was moved by water from one of the quarries near Main Street to this intersection, where a busy tavern existed since the 1830s.
The owner of the house believes the smaller middle part is the oldest, built around 1841 and the larger section was added as late as 1860.  There is a sleeping loft in the older portion, but no connection on that level between the two sections. 

George Kibler same to Amherst directly from Germany. Perhaps his parents, who were Mennonites, had heard about land in Western New York from Joseph Ellicott's handbills, which were sent there.  Ten-year-old George and his sister were indentured to a grocer in exchange for the family's trip to America.

This is roughly the end of the period of stone houses in Amherst.  By this time, cut lumber was readily available, and bricks of standard sizes were being made in the area.  It easier to build in these materials which did not demand the skills of a stone mason.  It was easier to transport wood and brick.  And finally, the English traditions of wood, especially in areas where wood was plentiful, became dominant for the growing middle class.  Only common structures, such as ice houses or root cellars, continued to be built of stone.

7. Metz Homestead, 6720 Main Street, Williamsville

2001 photo courtesy of Doug Metz

8. 6701 Main Street, Williamsville

Photo courtesy of Doug Metz

9. Pratt House, 33 Mill Street, Village of Williamsville

                                                2017 photo

10. 71 Mill Street, Village of

                                         December 2017 photo
In addition to 147 Mill Street, this is another house that may have been built by the same stone masons about two years later.  Notice the very roughly coursed stone work here.  The hood over the door was added later. 

Stephen Wilson and his wife, who were probably the original owners of this house, came to the area from Utica by boat through the Erie Canal in 1835.  They spent their first winter in Buffalo, but it was said that they moved to Williamsville to escape the remnants of a cholera epidemic in the city.  The house remained in the Wilson family for almost 100 years.

11. 147 Mill Street, Village of Williamsville

                                           December 2017 photo

This is a house whose facade looks much as it did when it was built around 1837. Why does it look the way it does?  Remember that many of the early settlers here were farmers from Pennsylvania, some by way of central New York. They were of German and British origins, and together with their religion and their belongings, they brought with them the traditional house styles they were familiar with, the stone houses of Pennsylvania and the Hudson Valley. 

These houses had thick stone walls, steep roofs, and very simple, flat facades, with little ornamentation.   The style is popularly called "Pennsylvania ethnic," and the house usually has three bays, although a few have four. 

Notice how different this is from the typical New England salt box, or even the Hull House, a stone structure of the same period built by New Englanders in nearby Lancaster, NY.     

Because the interiors of all the surviving houses have been changed as they have been updated to accommodate changing times and changing owners, we can only guess that the rectangular shape of these houses incorporated two rooms, one in which all the activities took place and where the parents probably slept, and one for the best furniture and treasured belongings. 

Kitchens were usually separate structures in back or a later addition on the rear.  Mennonite houses usually include an iron stove, used for both cooking and heating, instead of the huge fireplace and crane favored by New Englanders.

12. 75 Evans, Village of Williamsville

                                                       December 2017 photo

This house on North Evans Street may be the earliest remaining stone house in Amherst. It is a simple one-and-a-half story building, with randomly placed quoins .  Quoins are rectangular cut stones that stabilize the corners by being placed alternately, first into one wall, then into the other.  Stucco has been plastered over the stones, perhaps originally, or perhaps later to preserve the exterior.  Again, a dormer has been added, as well as a simple frame lean-to. 

The original owner of this property was Jonas Williams, after whom the village of Williamsville was named. A clerk in the Batavia office of the Holland Land Company, Williams decided to head for the wilderness in 1804 and was one of the first to purchase land here,  He was an astute businessman who realized the economic advantage of the water power provided by the creek, and had a mill operating along the east side of Ellicott Creek as early as 1808, and a second mill, which we know as the Williamsville Water Mill on the other side of the creek by 1811.  As Ellicott had noted, saw mills for cutting wood, and grist mills for processing wheat were important features to attract additional settlers.    In 1890, the house and property were purchased by John Blocher, who gave 40 acres of the farm for a senior citizens home, known as the Blocher Homes.

This small, 1-1/2 story house, which may be the oldest of the remaining stone houses, possibly as early as 1810.  It, too, has been stuccoed and painted, but notice the quoins here, which have been randomly or casually placed at the corners, compared to the neatly placed quoins on the Metz house that we saw earlier. There are heavy stone lintels and sills above and below the windows.  A plank wing was added to the side in the 1850s. 

Not long afterwards, the house came into the hands of the Bigelows, who had come here from New England, via Ontario County.  Harry, the son, attended Union College, but gave up his teaching career to tend to the family farm and his vast fruit orchards.  The Blocher family, the next owner, donated some of the land for the Blocher Homes.

13. 38 Richfield

                                                             December 2017 photo

This stone house on Richfield Street [is on the property of another early buyer of land in Amherst.  Peter Hershey was one of a number of members of the [chocolate bar] Hershey family who came here from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Like most of the others who were here as early as 1820, Hershey was a farmer.  In his will, he left his wife the house and 1/2-acre of land around it, a horse, 2 cows and 8 sheep, and instructed his sons to provide their mother with 8 barrels of good marketable [slide of will] wheat flour per year, 20 bushels of Indian corn, 100 pounds of beef, "and as many potatoes as she wants for her own use."  Auctioned off were a dung fork, a plough, bulls, heifers, cows, a yoke of steers, sheep, and hogs.  By the late 1820s, there were a total of 4,000 head of cattle in Amherst.  Crops in the next few decades included -- in addition to grain and hay -- apples, potatoes, butter, cheese, pork, and wool.
A front porch was added to the Hershey house in the 1920s, blocking the view of the front door  but a view of the side gives us a sense of the early house. 

14. 71 N. Ellicott, Village of Williamsville

                                                                   December 2017 photo

The next house, on North Ellicott, is also one of the earlier houses, and was built at roughly the same point in the escarpment that parallels Main Street.  It is particularly interesting because we have documentation that permits us to follow its rehabilitation from abandonment and use as storage and neighborhood dump for 40 years to revitalized living quarters. 

Anna Maeder, a Buffalo school teacher of modest means, bought the house in 1913 and kept a diary in which she wrote of taking the hour's trolley trip  from Buffalo out and back every day for three summers. 

She added dormers for more light and space on the second floor to allow three bedrooms and a bathroom (all of these houses had outhouses in the early days).  From a house being demolished, she salvaged new doors, woodwork, slate for the roof, pillars for the new porch, and marble mantelpieces for new fireplaces.  She found quarry men who enlarged the basement by chiseling of some of the rock on which the house was built.  Four small rooms on the first floor when she bought the house became one large room when she had the partitions removed. Wiring and plumbing and heating had to be installed, new floors, staircases, cupboard, and a driveway.  She even reclaimed the stones the village dug up when they were rebuilding the street, and had neighborhood workmen recycle them to build a wall in front of the house.  Notice the arch and keystone over her windows. 

When the house
was completed, among the visitors was a elderly couple.  He was Joseph Demer, whose family had occupied the house from 1837 and who, 50 years ago that day, had brought his bride to the house to meet his mother.

15. 41 S. Cayuga, Village of Williamsville

                               December 2017 photo

16. Hopkins Old Stone Schoolhouse, 72 S. Cayuga, Village of Williamsville

                                                           2017 photo

Text © 1997 Deborah Cohen, Patricia Lerner, and Jacqueline Simon
Color photos and their arrangement © 2017 Chuck LaChiusa

Page created by Chuck LaChiusa in 2017
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