Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara  (Online September 2013)

Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York
By James Napora
Table of Contents

Parkside / Central Park

Separated by the Belt Line Railroad (MAP), the neighborhoods of Parkside and North Park developed as people moved north of the downtown area at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Although development of The Park (Delaware Park) had begun by 1871 and Frederick Law Olmsted's subsequent master plan for the area drawn-up in 1876, full scale settlement of the area was initially slow to start.

Belt Line Railroad: The completion of the Belt Line Railroad in 1883 facilitated the movement of people to and from the area. Functioning as a freight and passenger line encircling the city, the fifteen mile-loop contained twenty stops. For a nickel, users of the rail line could easily travel from one area of the city to another or ride the entire loop around the city in approximately forty-five minutes time. The original intent of the line was to encourage industrial and residential development along its route.

Originally known as Flint Hill, the Parkside area served as a site for an army encampment during the War of 1812.

Adams Russell: In 1826, Washington Adams Russell, settled in Buffalo via the Susquehanna River Valley and purchased two hundred acres of land in the area. At that time, the Central Trail (Main Street) served as the major carriage route east with Stage Coach stops located approximately every five miles along its distance. After being paved in the 1830s, a toll house was placed at the present day intersection with Kensington Avenue. In 1841, Russell built his home in the area and began farming the land. As the area was developed in the 1880s, Russell Avenue was laid out on the original cow path to the spring in Park Meadow and his orchards became known as Orchard Place.

Elam Jewett: The second land owner in the area, Elam Jewett, purchased 450 acres of land in 1864. He constructed a sizable home known as Willowlawn, after the willows which graced the property, in the vicinity of the street which today bears the name. The willow trees were destroyed by a storm in 1901. Jewett is also noted as the person responsible for the realization of the Church of the Good Shepherd, located on the street which bears his name.

Parkside Land Company: The city finally caught up with the rural nature of the area when on 1 November, 1885, the Parkside Land Company was formed. In clearing way for the development of the area, they purchased the farms of Jewett and Russell and an adjoining tract of land north of Delaware Park owned by James P. White.

Initial development of the area bounded by Main Street, the Belt Line, Humboldt Parkway, Parkside, Amherst and Colvin Avenues with its signature curvilinear street plan began shortly thereafter. As demand for property in the area was high, the developers offered more building lots by decreasing their size from Olmsted's original intentions. Development of the area west of Colvin did not begin until 1923. At that time, streets were laid out in a manner which deviated from Olmsted's original design.

Nye Company: Parkside West, the area formally occupied by the Pan American Exposition grounds was developed after the close of the exposition. The Nye Company purchased the land and laid out streets on the former grounds creating one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in the city.

Lewis J. Bennett: Located adjacent to Parkside, Lewis J. Bennett developed the area north of the Belt Line Railroad known as Central Park. Born in Duannesburg, New York in 1833, he moved to Fultonville in 1849 to work as a toll collector on the Erie Canal. He later settled in Buffalo to work as a repairman on the canal. In 1877 he started the Buffalo Cement Company located on Main Street on the site of Bennett High School. He purchased land in north Buffalo with the intentions of extracting the [Onondaga] limestone from it for use in the preparation of cement.

On land west of Main Street and north of the Belt Line, Bennett began to develop a neighborhood in 1889. 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 the Bennett formally signed the zoning ordinances which would shape the neighborhood. They 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.

An integral part of the social life of the neighborhood was the Otawega Club. Located on Starin at Linden 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.

1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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