Walking down North Street on a sunny day, it is difficult to imagine the rough trail where settlers’ wagons once followed Indians into the wilderness looking for a watershed encampment, It is equally hard to imagine Old Guideboard Road, the suburban boundary of the land-rich Village of Buffalo, beyond which existed free land and enormous farming interests. Today’s North Street is a model of lately-built cosmopolitan serenity, where stately apartment buildings, religious institutions and massive brick “Country” houses attest to a century of change which nevertheless seems changeless.
At North Street and North Pearl stands the First Baptist Church. This three storey classical revival structure is the third church building to stand on the site, which was donated in 1822 on the efforts of young John Lazell, a Baptist immigrant to the Village. The first church was re-built in 1836, and the present structure completed in 1899. Three arched stained glass windows define the central mass of the building each hallmarked by an acanthus carved keystone and eggand-dart surrounds. Engaged Ionic columns complete the renaissance impression of arched gates. Pedimented pavillions flank the central mass, marked by corner quoins. The church doors are surrounded by Ionic pilasters which echo the central theme.
Down the street at No. 140 North, the Lenox Apartment House made a rather large splash when it was built in the same year. For one thing, it was the ultimate in technology. Built on a steel frame, the structure did not have to depend on masses of masonry to bear the load, allowing it to rise eight stories over a recessed court, The bathrooms were a miracle of modern plumbing and the whole thing was centrally heated, while all the plant apparatus was stowed in a separate building at the rear ‘securing immunity from heat and noise” according to a Buffalo Courier article dated May 10, 1896. The eighth floor boasted several restaurants and the attic housed serving staff who apparently had no need for immunity from heat and noise. Housekeeping flats might be as large as fifteen rooms, while “apartments” went from two to six rooms.
Mayfair Lane: Across the intersection from Irving Street is a small cobbled lane on which Buffalo’s first condominiums are ranged. To step into this alley is to take a brief stroll in a Cornwall market town or in medieval Dijon. Ornate hinges, stucco, intersecting roof-lines, diamond-lit windows, stick and quatrefoil designs all belie the 1928 construction date of the complex. Most unlikely is the entry of No. 21 Mayfair Lane. Flanked by a Tudor tower, a chained draw-bridge is overhung by a parapeted and gated medieval arch, the whole of the entrance marked by typical post-gothic embellishments: crests, quatrefoil tights and lions as grotesques. The fantastic unit was designed by Edward Green to accommodate the needs of his son, who was crippled.
Edward Green’s firm, Green and Wicks, also designed the wonderful brick Queen Anne building on the southeast corner of the North-Elmwood intersection at No. 208 North Street. A hipped and slated roof defines the imposing and stern proportions of the 1888 house: which has a character far removed from the gaiety usually identified by this style. Fourterra-cotta grotesques, ferocious and lionine, stand guard under the gambrel-like roof of the left-hand dormer. Rusticated stone lintels surround the first and second storey transomed windows. Two beautifully paneled and corbelled chimney stacks define the upward movement of the design. The porch, which was a later addition, strikes the only horizontal line in this sky-seeking theme.
Across the intersection is a heaven-seeking theme of another order. No. 220 North Street, built in 1910, is a two-storey neo-classical temple providing a spiritual home for Buffalo’s Christian Scientists. The broad, free-standing. portico is supported by Ionic columns. Its pediment echoes the roof pediment which is underpinned by a monumental entablature. The early twentieth century, like the early nineteenth, entertained an obsessive interest in Roman, Greek and Egyptian Empire motifs, aping them in monumental institutional forms utterly unlike the temples they sought to emulate, but uniquely American in the commission.
At No. 245 North Street is another building unique in Buffalo. Built in 1920 as the Girl’s Central Branch of the Y.W.C.A., it is a primary example of the attempt to lay old themes on new technology, Beneath the Georgian facade with its soaring portico, the building is a steel-frame construction with an interior designed to be wholly fireproof. Under the gambrel roof, pedimented copper-covered dormers house eight-over-eight light windows. First floor windows are multi-light French doors under transoms. A broken-scroll pediment covers the entryway. Massive chimney stacks guard either end of the structure.
At No. 267 North, a massive and dour Flemish Renaissance residence presides over the surrounding streetscape like a dowager empress. The house was home to Philip Ransom for the greater part of his 86 years, and with his death a few years ago, the last of Allen-town’s human connection with the Victorian age passed away.
The Ransom family came to the confluence of the Niagara River and Lake Erie from Massachusetts, among the first group of pioneers to erect cabins and undertake the building of the Village of Buffalo. Philip Ransom’s great grandmother, Sophia, was the first child to be born in the new settlement. The family has been, and remains, an important force in the commercial and civic life of the City.
The house makes superb use of the arched forms and of terra cotta ornament. The asymmetrical massing of its sections makes fine use of daylight to create peculiar and illusive angularities. Two roaring lionesses crown the tops of the south and west gables most appropriately.
No properties were found on this street.