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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Buffalo in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The West Village

Buffalo's Original Historic District

 
 
The West Village Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paige Miller, May 8, 2017
1. The West Village Marker
Inscription.  Today, the West Village, which has always been a residential community, has been designated an historic district under the City of Buffalo and New York State's Landmark and Preservation Ordinance, and the federal National Register of Historic Places. The Landmark and Preservation Board extended this designation in recognition of this area's historic and architectural value. It is one of the few districts in the U.S. that has triple designation and is the oldest continually occupied neighborhood in this city.

The boundaries for the West Village are Carolina and Tracy Streets to the North, Huron to the South, South Elmwood to the East and Niagara to the West. Most of this land was originally part of the 30-acre estate of Dr. Ebenezer Johnson, who eventually became Buffalo's first mayor. Street patterns and names reflect the 1804 city plan of Joseph Ellicott as well as angled thoroughfares that once belonged to the Village of Black Rock, an early settlement formed from the New York state Reservation that bordered the Niagara River. In this area, a remarkable number of both modest and substantial domestic and even commercial structures
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built between 1830 and 1900 survive. These buildings provide important local examples of the major stylistic developments in American architecture in the Nineteenth Century.

Ebenezer Johnson built on the subdivision he laid out in 1832 consisting of land from his estate and property within the New York Reservation Lands, established by the Jay Treaty of 1797. In 1837, he donated the land between Park Place and Johnson Place to become the first city park. A visionary of his time, Johnson intended that the area imitate the residential parks found within many US cities, including NYC and Washington. Unfortunately, a silver panic in 1832 as well as an environmental disaster in 1835, had prevented the development of this residential area.

Finally, in 1845, the economy of the area allowed the development of Johnson Park as a trend setting and fashionable residential area. As you walk through the West Village you will note most homes are built of brick. This is due to a series of disastrous fires which caused Buffalo to pass a law in 1850 requiring all residential buildings within its limits to be constructed of brick. On Whitney Place to the west of where you're standing you'll encounter tall, narrow brick brownstones as well as apartment buildings built for the Pan American Exposition. Prospect Avenue, another block the the West, is primarily large single family
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and two-unit homes, while Rabin Terrace to the southwest and Cary Street to the south are made up of mostly newer homes designed to conform to the surrounding architecture.

After Mayor Johnson passed on in 1845 his "Cottage", a 24-room Palladian Villa, became the main building for the Female Academy of Buffalo, the first institute of higher learning for women in the country. At this time his estate was subdivided. Frederick Law Olmsted's 1876 map of parkland in the city of Buffalo indicates that he redesigned the green of the park. These plans were eventually incorporated into Olmsted's overall park plan.

A high percent of West Village homes were built before or during the Civil War and from its beginnings, it has been an area of varied backgrounds and mixed economic and social levels. Prime examples of Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Italian Palazzo and more are found during a simple stroll through the neighborhood. Stevedore cottages, which provided housing for families working on the Erie Canal Project are discovered in rows on some of the streets. As a modern residential neighborhood, the West Village retains a significant portion of its original style and character.

In addition to Dr. Johnson, a number of luminaries have called the West Village home: William Ketchum, the Village Trustee in 1830; Albert Tracy who was elected to the 16th, 17th and 18th Congress of the United States and member of the State Senate in the mid 1800s; Lake Caption James M. Pratt; Samuel G. Cornell, Secretary to the White Lead Company and grandfather to Catherine Cornell; legendary jazz pianist Al Tinney; and one of our most prominent citizens as a young man in law school, President Grover Cleveland.
 
Erected by West Village Renaissance Group.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Architecture. A significant historical year for this entry is 1830.
 
Location. 42° 53.544′ N, 78° 52.682′ W. Marker is in Buffalo, New York, in Erie County. Marker is at the intersection of South Elmwood Avenue and Johnson Park, on the right when traveling south on South Elmwood Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Buffalo NY 14202, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Olmsted's Vision (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Buffalo Club (approx. 0.2 miles away); Trinity Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); From Buffalo... To the White House (approx. ¼ mile away); The Mansion on Delaware Avenue (approx. ¼ mile away); William Dorsheimer House (approx. 0.3 miles away); Samuel Helm (approx. 0.3 miles away); Coit House (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Buffalo.
 
Additional keywords. Neighborhoods
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 24, 2021, by Paige Miller of Getzville, New York. This page has been viewed 79 times since then. Photo   1. submitted on July 24, 2021, by Paige Miller of Getzville, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Nov. 28, 2021