North Pearl Street is, in many ways, the most conscientious example of a prosperous Victorian residential street left in Buffalo, despite the changes suffered by some of its homes during the 1950’s infatuation with modernization. The shaded street offers the passerby a certain ambience, an almost super-eral quiet in which it is nearly possible to hear the clatter of carriage wheels in the alley behind, the buzz of crickets, and the songs of children eager to play one last game before nightfall.
North Pearl Street homes were built for 19th century Buffalo’s upwardly mobile population and the structures reflect their builders post-Civil War prosperity. They are conservative mirrors of period styles, but built in brick and stone rather than in wood. Most importantly, these well-to-do young settlers could afford ornament and nearly every house on the street wears elegant and often unusual jewelry,
Zig-zag courses span the brick work at No. 1 North Pearl, and all the windows and doors are crowned with eyebrow moulding. A Queen Anne bay was an early attempt at “modernization”, giving the house an odd, lop-sided charm.
At No. 17 North Pearl, a remodeling which removed an Eastlake porch has actually restored the French antecedents of its Second Empire Style and exposed the wonderful round arched second storey windows to clear view. Across the street at No. 18, a flat-roofed Italianate built in 1869 sports an exquisite segmental center projecting cornice which is underpinned by a dentitated frieze and modilfion bracketing while four massive brackets of complex scroll work support the whole projection at its points of segmentation.
At No. 34 North Pearl is an excellent example of a Queen Anne structure treated with a variety of building materials and a wealth of unusual details. The two-and-one-half storey building, built in 1892, is covered by a steeply hipped roof and massed against a gabled entrance pavillion. The shingled gable pediment houses paired windows overhung with carved and scrolled entablature. Linen-fold corbels support the frieze. The pavilion houses a segmentally arched, double door entry, the shape of which is repeated in the window above and in the first floor facade windows. A three-part second-storey window on the main mass is topped by a transom set, flanked by engaged fluted Doric columns supporting a dentilated and medallioned double frieze which also rolls around the roofline of a tower set on the left hand side and balancing the building’s mass for an altogether stately treatment of the Queen Anne form.
Further down the street, at No. 47 North Pearl is a three-storey Second Empire residence built in 1878 whose roof has been exceptionally treated by the asymmetrical placement of a dormer housing paired windows and crowned by a unique swan’s neck pediment. It is counter-balanced by a smaller dormer housing an ovate four-fight window. The narrow mass of the house is visually expanded by the classic Italianate device of giving great length to the main floor windows, which are segmentally arched, while shorter round-arched windows grace the second storey. The building is an excellent example of Second Empire styling adapted to a long, narrow space.
Across the way, three houses show a variety of treatments used to individualize the simple Italianate form. At No. 48 North Pearl, an early house built in 1866, flat-headed windows and doors shoulder pedimented caps, and a low slung gable roof is supported by paired brackets for an altogether classic appearance. At No. 52, a quatrefoil window lights the gable end under a slender moulded bargeboard in a more Gothic treatment. Further on, No. 56 North Pearl is enriched by a fretted Eastlake bargeboard, scalloped to frame a pair of round arched windows in the gable end separated by fluted pilasters.
Hooded, rounded-arched dormers supported by delicate pilasters segment the slate-shingled Mansard roof at No. 70 North Pearl, in which the treatment accorded the main pavillion has been faith-fully echoed in the secondary mass. The first floor is beautifully lit by narrow segmentally arched windows behind cast iron balconets and a seven-light arched transom over the side-lit door with paneled reveals.
No. 85 North Pearl is heady old wine in a relatively new bottle. Built in 1920, it reflects the craze for all things European experienced by young Americans (after World War I) who wanted to bring home a little of the timeless grace and beauty they had found Over There. The three-storey apartment building has a front-facing Mansard cap. A stone belt course separates the third floor, over which rectangular four-over-four light windows have been set and headed by a continuous stone lintel. The second and third stories are centered by eight-light French doors which debouch onto cast iron balconies. First and second storey lintels are centered on a keystone. The entry is surmounted by a moulded hood supported on corbel stops and covering a round arched transom.
Across the intersection, Romanesque becomes the rule. A style of architecture which depends on low massing of structure, pyramidal accentuation and a broad semi-elliptical arching of additive forms, the Romanesque style has been most successfully used in churches and institutional buildings where the overwhelming weight informs the visitor of the ponderous importance of the business within. North Pearl Street, however, stands out as a prime examplar of the Romanesque form well turned to home uses.
No. 120 N. Pearl is a building demonstrating the adaptation of Romanesque elements to the double-house structures popular at the end of the nineteenth century. The two separate sections of the structure are mirror images, centered by a hip-roofed dormer set into a hip roof with clipped gable ends. Each section is fronted by a gabled pavillion, the shingled pediment of which is marked by Stick embellishment and houses a window whose upper sash has a muntined border of tiny, square lights. The second storey features flat-headed windows on splayed brick and terra cotta sills. The first floor tri-part transomed windows are set in a semi-elliptical arch with engaged, turned posts. A basement of rock-faced stone completes the rustication of the structure’s heavy mass.
Down at the end of North Pearl Street are five abutting buildings which are incomparable in the c_ty. Nos. 174-182 North Pearl Street are five tenements built in 1888 by architect Fred Fischer. Individual rooms were rented, and a central kitchen, dining and living room area were available for the use of gentlemen tenants. Eighty or so years later, the buildings had deteriorated to seedy rooming houses, the original spaces divided and sub-divided into rooms no bigger than jail cells. When architect E. Bruce Garver bought the buildings in 1972, the stench, the debris and the sheer effort required by their condition seemed unbelievable. Nonetheless, the well-built shells had been virtually untouched by time and every original feature was intact.
The three-storey structures are nearly identical, being flat roofed, and having the first floor facade entirely consumed by a semi-elliptical arch which is accented with delicate cast iron traceries. Porch and basement rails are wrought iron. Three-sided bays of copper on wood overhang the entry arch and have alternating pyramidic and round caps. Corner pilasters divide each unit, and corbel panels under the frieze provide an ornamental note to the otherwise austere facades. Restored and renovated as townhouses and apartments, the Romanesque buildings are a demonstration of the wonders that can be worked on an old house by a sensitive and creative hand.
No properties were found on this street.