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
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.