Cottage Street was once the boundary between the villages of Buffalo and Black Rock, which accounts for the 90 degree bend it takes. Buffalo was planned along a strict north-south grid pattern, while Black Rock grew southwest in a sweep along the river. Where the two met, accommodations were made for the sake of continuity: Thomas Day owned the land on which Cottage Street was built, from Maryland to Hudson Streets. It was conveyed to him by the State of New York in 1828, and he sold it to Alanson Palmer in 1835. Palmer subdivided the land and sold it as lots.
Cottage Street once exemplified its name. A sleepy suburban lane at the mouth of Thomas Day’s Park, it boasted a dotting of sturdy; bright worker’s cottages and austere two-storey Italianate houses with spare stoop entrances and well-tended kitchen gardens. As you walk along the street, take note of how many of these houses have survived; it is a testament to the fact that once even modest men could build for history.
The first cottage you see on the street is nothing like its self-effacing neighbors. Stop at No. 16 Cottage Street, a two-storey Second Empire cottage built in 1882 by William Fraser, a freight agent with Northern Central Railroad. A towered pavillion incorporates the entranceway, which features a four-light semi-circular transom over the panelled doors, accented by multipane sidelights and panelled reveals. It boasts a slate tiled octagonal roof, highlighted by hooded dormers “upheld” with beautifully carved pilasters, and an unusual scallop-like moulding under the eaves. The successful adaptation of a grand style to a “doll’s-house” scale makes this cottage unique in the District.
On your walk, take note of No. 48 Cottage. It is a two storey Second Empire house topped by a slate, straight-sided mansard roof, and having shingled gable dormers with returns over the first floor segmental bay window and front entryway. The dormers house flat-capped windows with carved scroll-motif crowning caps and Doric pilasters supporting the gable returns, There is a projecting shed dormer on the side roof with brick corbelling and foliate carved brackets beneath.
Cottage Street became the street of the coal kings. The Great Lakes trade required enormous quantities of fuel and when steamboats converted to coal, and coal itself became a valuable trade commodity for shipment, men who had made money selling fuels saw the potential for vast profit. Thomas Coatsworth’s family came to the United States from England via Ottawa, Canada, in the early 1800’s, settling on a large farm to the northeast of the city. Young Thomas moved into the city of Buffalo during the first flush of its boom days. He sold wood and later coal to lake shippers, amassing a subktantial enough fortune to buy a retreat of several thousand acres on Grand island, probably from Lewis Allen.
His fortune flourished in the second great boom after the Civil War. when he purchased several lake vessels which plied the Great Lakes from Iron Mountain to the St. Lawrence. He became a pioneer in the local grain trade, establishing one of the first waterfront grain elevators in Buffalo.
Stop at No. 49 Cottage, the house Thomas Coatsworth built for his bride, Electra, in 1869. An altogether extraordinary structure, the Coatsworth mansion is an example of Second Empire architecture taken to the degree of fantasy. The octagonal tower at the corner of the house rises four stories from the street, crested with decorative cast iron. The stone window caps and their carved Eastlake style detailing are notable, as are the stone quoins which corner the building. The Neville coat of arms, under which banner the Coatsworth family served during the War of the Roses, is carved in stone above the entryway. They were on the winning side, by the way.
Twenty years later, in 1889, Thomas Coatsworth built again, this time a house for his daughter. Take note of it at No. 55 Cottage, a fine example of the shingle style. rare in the district. Elements of the style were incorporated into the American arts and crafts movement.
See also the buildings at Nos. 118,120 and 126 Cottage, which form the recently renovated streetscape facing Days Park. Good. although not unusual examples of their type, the contrasting styles-Queen Anne (118), Italianate (120), and Second Empire (126)-provide an exciting texture for the eye at the western end of the park. No. 126 is also notable as the home of another Cottage Street Coal King. George Dakin. who swiftly transported coal tonnage by cart and later by rail from the newly opened seams in northwest Pennsylvania for lake shipment.
Lastly, pass by No. 144 Cottage. When the Queen Anne style first swept the east, architects and builders may have noticed its wonderful flexibility, but Victorian folk saw in it the very height of elegance Many older homes were remodeled. adding bays, oriels and towers in an effort to give them that Queen Anne look. On this building at least, the tack-on finery resulted in a quirky, oddly appealing look, like a child in a jaunty outsized costume