Irving Place was dedicated in 1855 as Bowery Street, which once
indicated a place where trees bewared overhead, shading a lane.
As you begin your walk, take note of the lovely Eastlake decoration
which graces a simple Italianate structure at No. 22 Irving.
The second stop to make is at No. 29 Irving. The simple Italianate
residence, built in 1870, is distinguished by a pedimented entrance portico,
segmentally arched around a keystone and supported by square columns. Brackets
over the columns support a dentilated cornice. Paired brackets and dentil
moulding repeat the motif under the eaves.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's early childhood was spent in this house, after
his father took a job as a salesman for Proctor and Gamble in 1903.
Recollections of this period, recorded in young Scott's diary, and repeated
years later in his letters to his daughter, reveal the time he spent in Buffalo
as less than happy. He was frustrated by the disciplinary oppression of his
school, confused by the tensions of his home life and often felt isolated by
his desire to write. Nonetheless, performances of the early plays of F. Scott
Fitzgerald could be had for a nickel at this house in "Scotty's
Next, stop to look at No. 44 Irving, which is too beautiful to miss.
The "American Style", a term once used to describe the bracketed
Italianate form interpreted by American builders and carpenters, is wholly
typified in this house. The classic and austere front gabled form, with paired
brackets supporting the eaves, is covered with wood clapboard. An Eastlake
porch bands the front, featuring rounded posts with fan brackets and a delicate
spindlework frieze. The tracery windows are, perhaps, the keynote of the house,
brewed and framed with segmental cornicing.
The next house on your tour, though notable as an architectural form,
is more important for the remarkable woman who lived in it. The house, at No.
54 Irving Place, is a fine Italianate villa built in 1868 by Joseph Churchyard,
president of the East Side Railroad Company. His granddaughter was Olive
Williams, a community activist nonpareil, born in 1890 in the Irving Place
house. Miss Williams leftSmith College to work for the New York League of Women
Voters in Albany during a time when child labor laws and legislation giving
women a 48-hour work week were passed over stiff business opposition. She left
it during World War 1, to become a "farmerette" in Connecticut, and
left that after the U.S. entered the war to serve as a canteen worker in
France. She was one of few women advisors at the San Francisco formation of the
Miss Williams was one of the founders of the Franklin School, and one of its first teachers. She worked to raise money for a
Massachusetts-based camp for diabetic children. She was a founder of the
Buffalo League of Women Voters and the Buffalo Council on World Affairs. She
was the founder and long-time president of the Allentown Association. The list
of her credits and activities could proceed endlessly.
In the last year of her life, according to her life-long friend, Louise
Michaels, Miss Williams found herself in her kitchen serving coffee to a then
very young folk singer named Arlo Guthrie. Typically, Miss Williams sought to
understand the concerns of America's young through the eyes of one of their
troubadors. After a lively discussion, Guthrie pronounced her a "groovy lady."
She lived a life passionately dedicated to preserving the old and
comprehending the new, Groovy indeed.
Look at the house at No. 59 Irving, built in 1882, a two-and-one-half
storey Queen Anne with Tudor styling supporting a hipped roof. The entranceway
is bracketed by fluted pilasters crowned by pedimented entablatures. Two
rusticated round arches featuring terra cotta decorative relief highlight the
ground floor. There are three second-storey oriels on the facade, accented by
paired windows, stick styling and steeply gabled wall dormers above. The
dormers are beautified by ornate bargeboards and diamond tracery windows. From
this site northward, all the housing is built on the site of the Old North
At No. 63 Irving is another Shingle style house, so rare in Allentown.
The structure has a chimney stack with decorated terra cotta chimney pots in
the fishscale shingled front gable, which hovers over 16-light windows
surrounded by raked moulding. The north-facing pedimented gable covers three round
arched windows with a sun motif decorating the transoms and three square lights
on either side of the lower sash. The side pediment is supported by
acanthus-carved brackets. Oriels on the second floor facade are graced by
multi-light transoms, The first floor benefits from the exposure of the chimney
stack with three embedded glass lights as ornament. The wood paneled door is
enclosed in a multi-light vestibule and leads to a rock-faced stone porch with
brick balustrade and tapered shingled posts. Shingle style, like its cousin the
Stick style house, is usually writ large and rusticated with self-conscious
deliberation; this example, with its excellent detail and scaled .down.
proportions, is a unique departure from the norm.
Before you leave Irving Place, take a look at the house at No. 82.
Built in 1878, the structure was originally the stable and carriage house of
160 North Street. The projecting front pavillion supports a double hipped roof,
covering a rounded arched door with a moulding surround. French-style doors on
the second storey facade lead onto a balconet, crowned by a wonderful
pedimented entablature, beneath which corbel stops support half-pilasters. A
pedimented wall dormer on the left face has an enclosed tympanym ornamented
with a sun-ray design. The building is a fine example of the adaptation of a
service structure for residential use.
When President John Tyler ordered the Army moved to the banks of the Niagara River, residences began springing up beyond North St., long regarded as the city's boundary.
The moving of Buffalo's cemetary from the plot at North St.-Delaware Ave. to Forest Lawn in 1853 also coincided with the emergence of Bowery St.
At first, Bowery was a rutted dirt road with a scattering of small houses. But between 1860 and 1900, top-quality homes went up and the street's character changed.
Its residents became uncomfortable with the name Bowery. Manhattan's Bowery section was becoming the country's most spectacular skid row.
And so on Aug. 24, 1874, Bowery St. became Irving Pl. - named for author Washington Irving.