Once named Tuscarora Street, Franklin Street is the product of Judge Ebenezer Walden’s subdivision of his personal estate, the southern boundary of which was Edward Street and which abutted Lewis Allen’s farm to the north. From the beginning, the street attracted professionals who wanted to combine comfortable suburban living with the proximity to the boom of commerce. So many doctors hung out their shingles on Franklin Street that it was called “Pill Alley” by Buffalo wags. Franklin Streeters built big and built wonderful.
Stopping at No. 415 Franklin will put you in front of the finest example of applied Stick and Eastlake styling in the City. The two-and-one-half storey Queen Anne structure, built c. 1880, is topped by a multi-gabled roof, flanked on the facade pediment by a barge-board decorated with alternating moulded panels and rosettes. The gable is topped by a finial roof crest and a fan scroll bracket. A gabled oriel extends from the projecting second floor heavily ornamented, as is the whole acutely angular second storey, by stick details. Fishscale shingling is separated from the second storey by a moulded string course. Clean double-hung single light windows are flat-capped, and side paneled carved with urns and flowers. The Eastlake porch supports its flat roof on massive, knobbed posts and a spindle balustrade interrupted by decorative cut-outs. Fan brackets support an intricate spindle frieze and cut-out panels. If Stick and Eastlake are styles of decoration dependent upon light and shadow to state their claims on the face of the structure here the genius of man and nature have connived to convince the eye of a brilliantly faceted mass.
Down the street, at No. 432 Franklin is one of a handful of Italian Villas built in Buffalo, characterized by low pitched hip roofs and decorative elliptical lights at the floor level of the attic storey. A three-storey tower on the left side of the structure provides an asymmetric grace. The main roof ends in broad eaves supported by ornate modillion brackets and a dentilated frieze. A moulded stone course separates the attic storey from the floors below. Elongated first and second storey windows are capped by segmental arches. A first floor bay on the south side is graced with Corinthian columns supporting wide dentil-ornamented eaves. The entryway porch and the porch on the right-hand side are supported by Corinthian columns under bracketed capitals, and ornamented with heavy bracketing and dentil-moulding under the eaves. The tower is lit by round-arched lunettes. The right-hand section is a beautifully incorporated late addition. Troop I, Post 665 of the American Legion has been quartered here for more than 60 years.
Another Italian Villa down the street at No. 455 Franklin demonstrates the extent to which the appearance of the seemingly singular style can be altered. The porch, with its half circle projection out onto the lawn creates a feeling of expansive breadth in this example. Sadly, the original supports are gone. The windows here are round arched, some are paired and separated by a relief. A central entranceway covers a French style doorway with a segmental arched transom.
At No. 459-461 Franklin is an Italianate building of yet another stripe. Built in 1870, the house was constructed as a double residence, rare for the street and period. It presents its broadest face to the street. Its low-pitched roof is supported by pairs of scrolled brackets. The diminutive attic windows are double-round arched and footed with stone sills. First and second storey windows are flat- headed and surrounded by stone lintels and sills. Unusual two-storey bays project from either side. The porch is informed by semi-elliptical arches over Doric columns.
The young artist Charles Burchfield lived here during his salad days as a designer for the Birge Wallpaper Company around 1923- 1925. Burchfield, who is famed for the airiness of his vision and the clarity of his palette, was inspired to paint his famous “Red Houses” looking out his rear window to the houses behind. Some garret!
Further on, an Italianate brick building stands, banked by foliage, at No. 486 Franklin, which presents a remarkable feature. Under the typical gable roof, the windows and entryway of the structure are capped by cast iron pediments with foliated patterns in deep relief. The cast iron sills complete the unusual treatment.
Stop at No. 508 FranklIn, the house in which the venerated actress Katharine Cornell performed as a girl, along with a number of enthusiastic Allentown amateurs, including civic leader Olive Williams. The proscenium arch from the original stage still stands in the living room of this Early Tuscan Villa, built in 1870. An original board-and-batten carriage house still exists on the rear of the property. At this point it must seem that the “handful” of Italian villas built in Buffalo were all built on Franklin Street, and that is very nearly true.
But the next stop is at No. 533 Franklin, a vast departure from the European tone of the street and a rare Queen Anne style house built as a double residence. The structure has a low-slung hipped root supported by modillion brackets under the eaves, an unusual feature in a Queen Anne building. The attic windows are enclosed by stone surrounds, and modillioned cornices top the second storey bays which rest on the roof of a severe Eastlake porch. The separate entrances flank the central first floor bays.
We are now on the site of the old Poinsett Barracks, at No. 543 Franklin,the symmetry and simplicity of the Greek Revival style is brought to an unprecedented polish. The low pitched roof was once crowned with a cupola, which has been destroyed. A half-round moulding engages the frieze beneath the eaves, the whole is supported by four board pilasters which also section the facade. First and second storey windows are six-over-six lights with cornice caps and plain pilasters. The treatment is reflected in the simple entryway. In contrast, the second storey spindle balconet fronts light French doors flanked by three-light side lights and capped by a five-light transom. Reel moulding decorates the door. The Italianate exten3ion to the rear is a later addition. This is the first building to be constructed on the site after the Poineett Barracks were razed and Franklin Street extended.
Welcome to the Clinton House, at No. 556 Franklin Street. Built by Phineas Marsh in 1867, this excellent Italian Villa was purchased in the 1920’s by Dr. Marshal Clinton, a descendant of that Governor DeWitt Clinton who made the Erie Canal decisions that
No properties were found on this street.