Row houses could be found by the dozen in cities across American in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although many have been cleared from the urban landscape, a handful remain intact in Buffalo, primarily on the east side. This set of row houses on Emerson Place was constructed in 1893 by Benjamin B. Rice (the architect is unknown). They are a great, intact example and should be held in high regard in the local preservation community.
It was not long ago that these buildings were threatened with demolition in the later years of urban renewal. Thankfully, the right people got together in 1981 and they were declared a local landmark. Then in 1985 the buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They were saved from the wrecking ball, rehabilitated, and re-inhabited. The set at 17 to 21 Emerson Place were not so lucky and were eventually demolished. The row houses on Woodlawn Avenue just around the block were the victims of arson and subsequent demolition just a few years ago.
Unfortunately, that's about the last time this east side treasure saw investment. The row houses could use a sprucing up and they just may be getting it if the right buyer is lined up.
The entire set is being offered for sale for just over $195,000 via Realty USA, which is a bargain considering the potential return on investment. Since the buildings are already listed on the National Register, the future owner/developer of the property could pursue historic tax credits and give these buildings the rehabilitation they deserve. The tax credits would substantially offset the cost of retaining and repairing original features and finishes, repairing or replacement in-kind of the wood windows, and the interior rehabilitation.
The following comes from the National Register of Historic Places nomination from 1985.
"The two seven-unit buildings were built in 1893 in an eclectic style incorporating Colonial Revival, Shingle Style, and Eastlake features. The two identical fourteen-bay buildings have flat roofs with projecting molded denticulated cornices, vertical board friezes, with sawtooth ends, and decorative shingle sheathing. Each building rests on a stone foundation. The facades are distinguished by seven two-story bow windows each of which originally contained five narrow, elongated sash with transoms. Between the bow windows on the second floor are boarded over one-over-one double hung sash; on the first floor are entrances, also boarded, with sidelights and transoms. The molded entrance surrounds feature an Eastlake style scroll plinth and detailing.
Sawtooth shingles form a flared skirt above the denticulated, vertical board stringcourse marking the second floor. The entrance porches retain their denticulated cornices and scroll supports although the original posts and wooden steps were replaced in the 1970s. The end elevations have boarded over two-story bow windows and one-over-one double hung sash.
The interior room arrangement of each unit generally consists of, from front to rear; living room, dining room, kitchen with side hall and entrance. The second floor has bedrooms and a bath. The only surviving interior features include some period hardware, woodwork, and stairways. The row is currently vacant and in a state of disrepair although it retains the majority of its original architectural details.
The row at #33-41 Emerson Place is architecturally and historically significant as one of a rare surviving group of speculative multi-unit frame residences designed to resemble rowhouses in the City of Buffalo. The row is one of only four intact groups of similar housing remaining in the Masten neighborhood of north central Buffalo, the only area in the city where frame multi-unit rows were built in any concentration.
The Emerson Place row is one of only two surviving rows (see #17-21 Emerson Place) that have been documented as being built by the Rice family, land dealers and developers largely responsible for the construction of rows in the Masten neighborhood from 1880 to 1910.
Built in 1893 by Benjamin B. Rice, the row is one of two (see #17-21 Emerson Place) remaining along the south side of the street, forming the most intact surviving period streetscape in the neighborhood. The row, which is composed of two seven-unit buildings, is architecturally significant as a fine example of eclectic design, featuring decorative shingle sheathing and two-story bow windows.
The Emerson Place row remains as one of the most intact examples of its type and period; it illustrates a distinctive architectural response to the issue of designing standardized urban housing and recalls an important aspect in the late nineteenth century residential growth and development of the Masten neighborhood."
To see more current photos of the row houses on Emerson Place and additional photos from 1985 National Register nomination, check out the photos on Flickr here.