Once a dirt path where cattle meandered, Allen Street is the main commercial thoroughfare in the district and a study of its buildings is an education in the way cities of the early twentieth century viewed the business of providing goods and services.
You will notice that residential housing is comfortably intermixed with storefronts on Allen, and that most commercial buildings provided housing and professional office space as well. As a general rule, the higher a commercial building rises on Allen Street, the older it is likely to be. Buildings of the early twenties hug the ground and sweep around corners like the sleek little roadsters popular at the time.
No. 50 Allen Street is a unique mixture of the Queen Anne residential form with Romanesque styling elements. Under a hipped and gabled roof, a three-part window is flanked by pilasters which uphold a simple entablature beneath a pediment with carpenter’s Gothic in-fill. Zig-zag and rope-moulded brick course the entire building at two levels of the first and second floor. A semi-elliptical arch defining the third-floor level extends to span two windows on the second floor which are flat-headed and topped with continuous stone trim.
At No. 66 Allen, a red tiled roof covers a 1920’s interpretation of a Tuscan “piano a strada” (street floor) built for trade. Engaged Tuscan Doric columns flank store-front windows and doors. The columns support block brackets which extend into the entablature which runs beneath the frieze under the projecting eaves. A painted wall mural by Buffalo artist Ran Webber was added in 1976.
At No. 78 Allen Street, the largest carriage house left in Allentown, built in 1878 for a mansion that once stood at the corner of Delaware and Allen. The flat-roofed structure boasts a parapeted gable on the west side, peaked by a chimney. Corbeled exterior stacks flank the gable. The eaves are decorated with a pellet moulding over a corbel frieze. Light colored brick courses run the gable and the second floor, while an accordian-pleated brick course heads the first storey.
On the other side of the street and down the road a piece, seven brick Italianate residences were built in 1870 by W. Tiffts. The three buildings on the Irving Street end were converted for commercial use. Those at Nos. 149-155 recall the early streetscape. They were originally distinguishable only by the variance in pitch of their gable roofs, and the differences in application of their ornately scrolled and pendanted brackets. The buildings were distinguished in the early twentieth century by the addition of individual
Georgian entryways and window treatments.
At No. 173 Allen, the East Hamburg Society of Friends built a simple brick structure in 1869 to operate as an urban mission. The building became the home of an independent meeting as the Quaker population in Buffalo grew. The structure remained the home of the meeting until a large house was donated at No.72 North Parade. Until recently, the windows and door of the structure were boarded, but it has recently been opened up and the original six-over-six light windows and transomed door have been restored.
A three-story commercial building at No. 196 Allen, built in 1911, boasts beautiful craftsmanship in the copper covered two-story oriels supported by massive modillions which provide the vertical thrust of its north and east faces. The oriels are pedimented and centered by relief medallions in the tympanum. They are cornered by pilaster strips and they house tripart windows which are ornamentally aproned. Stone pilasters flanking each projection define the wall spaces beneath the simple parapet.
Across the street, the four-storey commercial building at No, 197-199 Allen demonstrates the piquance of a “Painted Lady” brought to a commercial building by the painstaking act of limning each individual pattern feature of its pressed metal oriels in contrasting colors.
Further on, a building constructed in 1920 rests like a small temple at No. 204 Allen. Over the center entrance, a lintel with the Aten symbol (the wings of Horus the vulture surrounding the disk of the sun) proclaims the Egyptian antecedents of this unique example of revival style. A
cavetto cornice, echoing another which runs the length of the building at the roof line, also tops the door. On the second floor, polygonal engaged columns flank single-pane windows headed by segmented transoms. Bead-and-Reel moulding and re-verse ogee curves span the front. Carved rosettes span the frieze beneath the cornice.
At No. 207 Allen is a theater which engages the fascination of Allentowners today in the same way it did when it was built in 1913 as a house for stage productions and silent movies. The Neo-Classical structure hosts some marvelous design elements, not the least of which is the intricately carved typmanum of its corniced pediment, centered by a cartouche from which laurel
leaf garlands wind. It is crowned by a finial which projects forward as if it might take off in flight. The pediment fronts a paneled parapet which rides over a great entablature and a banded frieze. When the 1930’s style movie marquee tumbled from the building in 1985, it revealed stained glass transoms which had been hidden from view for nearly a half-century.
The theater has had a checkered career over the past fifteen years, briefly hosting foreign films, x-rated movies, second-run features and film classics between its many openings and closings. In the early 1980’s the building was another Allentown candidate for the wrecker’s ball. The Allentown Association purchased the building at auction for $1,000 in 1985 and is now
engaged in an all-out effort to raise the funds necessary to restore the building as a fully operational theater once more.
No. 228 Allen Street is possibly the loveliest commercial structure in the area. Known as the “Puritan”, the narrow, elegant building is centered by a Tuscan entryway in which a dentilated cornice supported by Corinthian pilasters houses a round-arched door.
Under the flat roof, terra cotta panels moulded in foliate and shell designs define the frieze: The attic windows are topped by terra cotta lintels. Two copper covered oriels extend from the second to the fourth stories housing windows in sets of three. Egg and dart moulding, medallions and cartouches distinguish window aprons at the third floor, while laurel wreaths decorated the second. Fourth floor aprons are ornamented by faux strap-work moulded in
relief. In a reversal of the traditional pattern, this is a commercial building which is being renovated for exclusively residential use. As a result, the plate glass windows have been boxed in for privacy.
No. 234 Allen Street is a three storey commercial structure that was purchased and used by the Allentown Association in 1986, after it was gutted by a fire. It was later purchased for commercial use.