Louis J. Bennett - Table of Contents  ...............................  Central Park - Table of Contents

Lewis J. Bennett

Source: Men of Buffalo, Chicago: A. N. Marquis & Co, 1902

Bennett's House, 354 Depew Ave, 
(demolished in November 1932 by Huber-Lanctot Housewrecking)

Source: Buffalo, the City Beautiful, Hubbell, Mark H., ed. Buffalo Truth Publishing Co., 1931

Buffalo Evening News, August 23, 1894:
"The meeting [to discuss a new 'family club' - Otowega Club] was held in the billiard room on the third floor, to which they were conveyed in a passenger elevator run by power from a natural gas well at the front of the Bennett's garden. Mr. Bennett escorting them in "blocks of five" and operating the elevator in the temporary absence of an attendant."

Sanford map

Buffalo Cement Co.
On display at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society Museum in 2005

Amherst at Starin.
Belt Line Railroad, Central Park Station, Watchman's Tower, and Stables.
Erected starting 1894


Bennett Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

Bennett Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

Detail - Bennett Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

Reprinted from
Genealogical and Family History of Western New York,
ed. by William Richard Cutter, 1912, Vol. II

Lewis Jackson, eldest son of William Bennett, was born on the farm in Duanesburgh, Schenectady county, New York, July 7, 1833. He attended the public schools, and being a delicate boy was not considered strong enough for farm labor.

He began business life August 27, 1849, as clerk in a grocery store at Fultonville, New York, kept by Chapman & Smith, where he remained until January 1, 1851. From the latter date until the following April he attended the high school at Fort Plain, New York. he then returned to Fultonville and clerked for Starin & Freeman until October 1, then worked for Blood & Conyne one month in a dry goods store. November 1, 1851, he became a partner of his old employer, Chapman, in the firm of Chapman, Peak & Company. In the spring of 1853, he, with Mr. Chapman, purchased Mr. Peak's interest, the firm then operating until April 1, 1856 as Chapman & Bennett. Poor health then compelled his retirement, his interest in the firm being disposed of to William W. Kline.

He then took a western trip, leaving New York on June 5, 1856, going to California, returning in October. On November 1, 1856, he re-entered his old firm, which was reorganized as L. J. Bennett & Company. This firm continued in operation until April 1, 1866, when Mr. Bennett sold out to his partners.


On May 8, 1866, he located in Buffalo, taking charge of contracts held with the state for repairs on the Erie canal, which work was finished January 1, 1868. He then, as a member of the firm Spalding & Bennett, engaged in contracting harbor work and iron bridge building. The firm built many iron bridges for the towns of Erie county, being the pioneers in iron bridge building in the country towns.

Mr. Bennett next became, in 1874, treasurer of the Buffalo Hydraulic Cement Company, of Buffalo, continuing until 1876, when he began business in the same line for himself. He purchased land, erected buildings, and in March, 1877, organized the Buffalo Cement Company, of which he was the first and only president (1911). This company were successful cement manufacturers for thirty years, then discontinued manufacturing and confined their operations to real estate investment and in the development of suburban Buffalo. The Bennett-Pierce addition to Buffalo, known as Central Park, was purchased from a score of owners, laid out in streets and placed upon the market. This is now one of the city's most exclusive residential districts.

Other business interests

Mr. Bennett has many other important business interests, both in and outside Buffalo. He is actively engaged at his office each day, and as energetic in prosecuting his plans as though be were a score of years younger.

From boyhood he has always been deeply interested in the public school system. In 1860, while a school trustee of Fultonville, he led the fight that resulted in a change from the "rate bill system" to an absolutely free public school supported by taxation. This was probably the first district to adopt such a system.

In 1861 he was appointed by the state canal board collector of canal tolls at Fultonville for one year and in 1862 was reappointed.

In February, 1865, he was elected supervisor, defeating Andrew J. Yates, a well known and popular Democrat. During his term of office the covered wood bridge connecting Fultonville with Fonda was carried away, March 17, 1865, and replaced with the present iron structure. During the same term the county poor farm, located in the town of Glen, was sold and a new system of caring for the county poor adopted.

Mr. Bennett is a Universalist in religious belief, and although a member of no church is a generous supporter of all. Politically, as may have been inferred, he is a Republican. He is a charter member and was the first treasurer of Fultonville Lodge NO. 531, Free and Accepted Masons; a companion of Chapter No. 71, Royal Arch Masons, Johnstown, New York, and a Sir Knight of Apollo Commandery No. 15, Knights Templar, Troy, New York.

He is a life member of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences and of Buffalo Historical Society, formerly holding official position in both; also a member of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He presented the former society with a most valuable collection of fossils that is exhibited at their rooms, the largest and most complete collection in the world. He is also a member of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, and one of the two hundred and fifty honorary trustees of the Lincoln Farm Association, organized to preserve the birthplace of President Abraham Lincoln.

He married, in Johnstown, New York, October 6, 1857, Mary F. Spalding, born June 1,1840, daughter of Andrew and Emeline (Hamilton) Spalding, of Johnstown, New York.


1. Leslie, born May 25, 186o, at Fultonville, New York; educated in Buffalo common and high schools, and is a graduate of the State Normal College; he is now vice-president, secretary and assistant treasurer of Buffalo Cement Company.

2. Louisa A., born May 16, 1868; married James P. Wood, of Buffalo, November 16, 1887; children, (XVI) generation: Helen B., Frances L., Harriet A., Mildred V., and James B.

 Lewis J. Bennett and Central Park

Located adjacent to Parkside, Lewis J. Bennett developed the area north of the Belt Line Railroad known as Central Park.

On 200 acres west of Main Street and north of the Belt Line, Bennett began to develop a neighborhood in 1889.

Two principal conditions for the development of the area were the proximity of Olmsted & Vaux-designed Delaware Park and the completion of the 1860-1882 Belt Line Railroad, which enabled Buffalo to boast more train track than any city in world! The only remaining station of the original 19 is at Starin & Amherst (photo above).

The boundaries of Central Park were Main, Woodbridge, Parkside, Linden, Starin, and Amherst streets. Working with Charles Besch, he plotted the location of the streets. Along the planned streets, they dug holes, blasted into the bedrock and planted elm trees. This initial preparation took four years and cost $300,000 to complete. Originally, nineteen stone markers delineated the boundaries of the neighborhood.

On 20 May, 1892, Bennett formally signed the zoning ordinances which would shape the neighborhood. Deed restrictions more stringent than Buffalo's, e.g., no commercial R3 businesses allowed, and only one dwelling and one barn per lot (with eleven exceptions) were allowed.

Zoning ordinances called for only single family homes being at least two stories in height with barns to be placed in the rear of all residences. He also outlined the minimum costs for all residences and zoned them according to what streets they would be located on. Homes on Depew were to cost a minimum of $4,000, those on Main $3,500 and those on Linden $2,500. To insure that large houses would be built, he provided free (large) foundations on corner lots.

Otowega Club: An integral part of the social life of the neighborhood was the Otowega Club. Located on Starin at Linden (now a vacant triangle) the building contained a bowling alley, billiard hall, card room, dance hall and dining room. Prior to its destruction in the 1940s, it served as the meeting place for residents and for religious bodies organizing congregations in the community. For more information, see Bassett House

Many of the streets in Central park were named after Bennett's family and friends.

Bennett built the first house in Central Park for himself . He hired prominent Buffalo architect Milton Beebe to design a 24-room house at 354 Depew, located just north of what is now named Burke's Green.

Burke's Green: This originally unnamed triangular piece of land with a fountain (original fountain dismantled in 1920's - new one installed 2002) was deeded to the City by L. J. Bennett to be used as a  park. It was officially named Burke's Green in memory of F. Brendan Burke, a civic minded Central Parker in the 1960's. Although it is a City owned Park, the Central Park Association has maintained it since the 1960's.

Bennett's house was demolished in 1935 and replaced by 12 lots. Mrs. Bennett then moved to the Campanile Apartments

Bennett High School is named after Lewis J. Bennett, who donated the land for the school and for All High Stadium, as well as the land for three churches in Central Park.

For additional history, see the Bassett House, 278 Depew Avenue

Text sources:

Special thanks to Barbara Townsend for sharing her research.

Color photos and their arrangement 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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