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Hamlin Park Historic District Approved for State Listing, Now on the way to National Designation

The Hamlin Park Historic
District was approved for listing on the New York State Register of Historic
Places at the quarterly meeting yesterday. Now that it has been adopted by the
state, the application is on its way to National Park Service for listing on
the National Register. Hamlin Park is the first historic
district on the east side and is now one of the largest in the state.

Out of the nearly 1600
properties within the district boundaries, approximately 1370 of them are
contributing structures, while only 190 are non-contributing as a result of
integrity loss, significant alterations, loss of feeling/character, etc. That
means there are now close to 1400 east side residents that can utilize the
state historic tax credit for homeowners, a 20% tax credit. Once listed on the
National Register, commercial property owners with contributing
structures/homes in the district will also be able to use an additional 20% tax
credit from the federal government for qualified rehab work.
Viola Park

Hamlin Park is bound by Jefferson
Avenue, East Ferry Street, Humboldt Parkway, and roughly Main Street. Within
these boundaries are over 150 years of Buffalo history and an incredible
community that has been dedicated to keeping their neighborhood safe and
stable, all while preserving its beautiful homes and landscapes. It was
approved as a local historic district in 1998 within the same boundaries.
The nomination was prepared
by Preservation Studios, pro
bono, with survey work and research beginning about two years ago. The process
has been a wonderful example of a public-private partnership as the cost of
materials and survey work was offset by a “Preserve New York” grant from the
Preservation League of New York State, which was matched by the City of
Humboldt Parkway II

Just like all National
Register (NR) nominations, a period
of significance
needed to be determined for the district. Typically, an
individual building listed on the NR uses the original year of construction for
its period of significance, while a historic district has a range of years. The
period of significance for Hamlin Park is ca.1860; 1895-1975, which is very
unique. 1860 relates to the approximate date of construction of the oldest
structure in the district, the Old Stone Farmhouse at 60 Hedley place, 1895
relates to the year many of the next oldest homes were built, and 1975 relates
to the end of the Model Cities Program (more on that later).
Hughes Avenue

While there are
considerations/exceptions, individual buildings built within the last 50 years (1963)
are often not eligible for listing on the National Register in most cases and
the same goes for historic districts. Ending the period of significance for
Hamlin Park in 1975 is virtually unheard of and is likely the only one in the
state, maybe the country with that designation.
Beginning next week, I’ll be
starting a short series on the history of Hamlin Park (about 5 installments)
that pulls directly from the National Register nomination. It covers the former
Driving Park where Hamlin Park gets its name, the early agrarian history of the
area then the shift to a residential development, post-war transformation, and
much more.
Beverly Road I

This state designation and
the future national designation is something Buffalo can be proud of,
especially as we have so few east side preservation success stories. As a soon
to be homeowner in Hamlin Park and someone who played a role in the nomination,
this something I’m very proud to have been involved in and years in the making.
Special thanks to the Preservation League of New York, the Hamlin Park
Community & Taxpayers Association, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the New
York State Historic Preservation Office, and the City of Buffalo.

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

View All Articles by Mike Puma
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  • EAHS 1972

    How would this impact any possible Canisius expansion on the main campus side of Main Street? It would be nice if they could buy out the homeowners on Eastwood and Glendale and expand in that direction out to Humboldt Parkway/the hated 198. There are already some vacant lots in the area and I’m not sure how many of those homes are owner-occupied.

  • Mike Puma

    What do you mean by expansion? Are you talking leveling a few blocks for new buildings or Canisius purchasing existing homes and renting them?

  • ExpressCourier

    I think if Canisius really wants to expand they would be well suited to buy up lots and vacant buildings down Main St into Midtown. Won’t have to plow over anything historical. They could restore some gaping holes in the urban fabric. The hockey team will be playing downtown in a few years so they will have more of a presence outside of the neighborhood. They would be connected to the rest of campus and Hamlin Park via the metro. Hopefully it would encourage some legit private investment on Main. I’ve been thinking for awhile there really aren’t any/enough bars, cafes, etc. for Canisius and Medaille students to hangout and abuse free wifi in. It would really help bridge the gap between the East and West sides. Infinite potential in Midtown.

  • grad94

    congratulations to all!
    love the queen anne in the foreground of the 3rd photo.

  • Rand503

    Where’s the money to pay the piper?

  • Old First Ward

    It is starting to feel like “Historic District” hangover. Historic districts are supposed to be unique and have the feel of a isolated quaint areas with structures not found in mass anywhere else. Now, even with the OFW in the conversation, the appeal of the status is losing its prominence.
    It seems every neighborhood could qualify within some criteria. Pushing the significance period to 1975 seems like a watering down of the criteria for the sole purpose of tax credits only. I think that is an abuse of the character and nature of the designation.
    I’m not against Historic Districts at all but at what point is a Queen Anne not universal to every area of the city. Maybe we need to redefine exactly what we mean by “Historic”

  • Up and coming

    “Maybe we need to redefine exactly what we mean by “Historic””
    I’ve been sayin’ the same thing on here for years.

  • EAHS 1972

    Let me preface this with I have no idea if Canisius has plans for that area, if it has the first options on some of those houses, or if it has already purchased some of the vacant lots.
    (Actually, there are a lot more vacant lots on the streets off Main on the downtown side of the KAC and the baseball diamond. Might be cheaper to expand in that direction, but that’s the fringe of campus, not the heart like Eastwood et all).
    I’m talking buying those homes and leveling them to expand the campus footprint in the logical direction. Those homes don’t look “historical” in any sense of the word, they just look like old homes. They could put an academic quad or a dorm or something in the vacated area, backing up the Humboldt Parkway, and then have some green space, something sorely missing on campus.
    Creating a “branch” campus closer to downtown doesn’t make much sense to me. Better to have everyone in one place and make CC feel somewhat less of an urban campus shoehorned into a neighborhood.

  • Mike Puma

    Any property owner proposing demolition would first and foremost have to go through the local review before getting it approved since it is a local historic district.
    If someone wanted to level one or many of these homes in the district, such as Canisius, they could do it as far as the State and Feds are concerned, BUT ONLY IF they are not using any public money. If they tried to demo something with any state money it would trigger section 14.09 review at the state level and if they tried to demo with any federal money it would trigger section 106 review. The review bodies are in place to ensure there is no adverse impact on a designated historic resource.
    The designation at the state and national level does not limit anyone’s individual property rights unless they try to use public money for demolition (see above). Repairs and rehab work for homeowners is subjective to review by the state ONLY if they opt to use the tax credit. Otherwise, the state stays out of it. Same thing goes from a commercial property owner who also would utilize the 20% from the Feds. Unless you use the credit, you would only be subject to the local permitting process and review of the preservation board since it’s a local district.

  • Mike Puma

    These historic districts are unique and I can say with certainty that not every neighborhood nor every old building in Buffalo, or any city for that matter, can receive this designation. You cannot imagine the amount of buildings clients have brought to me that could not qualify for just that reason.
    As you will see in the following posts that detail the history of Hamlin Park, the period of significance ending in 1975 is very important to telling the greater history of America and our development. These districts and buildings don’t qualify on the sole criteria that they are old or beautiful. They tell the greater story of American history and that’s a large part of why they receive this designation.

  • Travelrrr

    Way to go Preservation Studios. Soon, WNY will be one, huge, monotonous historic district and preservationists will have conquered the world (tongue in cheek).
    Seriously, this is excellent. Hopefully, some more pockets on the East Side can qualify.

  • grad94

    Maybe we need to redefine exactly what we mean by “Historic.”
    not really. every building or neighborhood has a history but not every building or neighborhood qualifies for the national register. perhaps your mistake is assuming that ‘historic’ is synonymous with ‘national register eligible.’ it is not.

  • Rand503

    That’s because you live in Buffalo, a city that is rich in historical structures. Most cities have only a fraction of what we have and so can only designate a small area.
    Paris, Rome, and many other cities have entire vast areas that are historic — would you say that Paris has so many historic buildings that there is no real need to preserve and protect them all? Sacre coeur!

  • Old First Ward

    You are comparing Paris architecture with Hamlin Park in Buffalo?
    When I think of a historic district, I think of Prospect Ave between Georgia and Carolina. Or Cottage St. except for all the beautiful brick buildings ruined by shitty paint. Especially that first block off of Hudson. Only a moron would paint a gorgeous brick building green, brown or any other color.
    I don’t get that feeling of history and stunning architecture in Hamlin Park. Take away the tax credits and we are not even having this conversation.

  • Superman3d

    The Queen Anne you are referring to is a duplicate of 344 Richmond Avenue.

  • Superman3d

    Make that 340 Richmond Avenue.

  • ForestBird

    You sure about that Moron Vs Paint statement? Many brick buildings were painted from the time they were built.

  • ForestBird

    Why is this area unique & Historic? Cicero Hamlin had a “driving park” (for horse races) here, yes. He died, his property was bought by a Canadian who cut it into little lots & had nearly identical houses built on it. Eventually, the neighborhood “changed” and is now mostly (99%?) Black people. Is that why it is now “Historic”. Not that any of that is bad; just wondering. The whole thing is just average, cheap housing of the era.

  • ForestBird

    My house was built by William P. Vogamore; too bad for me that it’s in a politically ignored neighborhood .

  • RaChaCha

    How might this district impact the proposal to deck over a portion of the Kensington?

  • grad94

    not cheap by any means.
    around 1900, ‘cheap’ meant unheated, plumbing-free tenements in the canal district, all of which have long since been demolished, thus narrowing our idea of what poverty really looked like back then.
    ‘cheap’ meant large immigrant families crowded into two-room wood-frame cottages in broadway-fillmore, which were not graced with oak paneling, leaded glass windows, or ornate fireplaces.
    these were and still are substantial, single-family middle-class dwellings.

  • grad94

    hamlin park was first landmarked by the city of buffalo in 1998 when masiello was in office and it was a politically ignored neighborhood.

  • Old First Ward

    Many were not. I’m mainly talking about recent work. In the last decade or so.
    Starting at 144 Cottage just past Hudson is painted cream. Two doors at down at 136 is a brownish red, 132 Cottage is an olive color, then the next three starting at 126 are painted a very light aqua green. A fantastic block of Italianite architecture downgraded by cheap paint jobs hiding the beautiful patina of 19th century brick.
    Of course the good thing is that these abominations can be reversed quite easily. The potential of this block is just waiting to be exposed. If the city added new curbing and redesigned the curbstrips, this street side would be a showcase 19th century architecture. But nothing compares to the gem hiding down at 49 Cottage.

  • Old First Ward

    If you presented your report to an outsider with data showing 1600 properties listed, and 1370 are contributing structures to the period of significance, the first impression would be that this neighborhood is a preserved portal into the 19th and early 20th century.
    Then when you find out that the period of significance ends at 1975, flags start flying as to how this can be possible. I think the precedent set here just waters down the credibility of the designation. So the real question becomes if such a period of significance does not exist anywhere in the state or even in the country, why is it acceptable in this case.


    “I don’t get that feeling of history and stunning architecture in Hamlin Park.”
    And because you “don’t get that feeling”, that’s your reasoning for Hamlin Park not receiving Historic District recognition?
    Well, maybe I “don’t get that feeling” of the OFW being a Historic District, either.
    Guess its a good thing neither of us is the sole arbiter of what does and doesn’t constitute a Historic District . . .

  • Mike Puma

    The recently designated Elmwood West Historic District has a period of significance between 1867 to 1941, a period that spans 75 years compared to Hamlin Park’s stretch of 80 years. Furthermore, it has 1971 contributing homes and 258 non-contributing so about 84% of all the homes are contributing. Doing the same math for Hamlin Park, you have approximately 87% of all the homes contributing, which is pretty close to Elmwood.
    Elmwood is certainly not a portal in the the 19th and early 20th centuries, yet has almost the same percentage of homes contributing as Hamlin Park. Integrity is crucial to determining contributing status as well as other factors, such as, the building must retain integrity of location, design, setting, feeling, and association. That’s only one of about seven points a building must have met to be considering contributing.
    I would encourage you to wait until the upcoming series of Hamlin Park History posts. Also, as stated in the post, there are criteria considerations for buildings and districts that have achieved significance in less than fifty years. It’s all about the telling the greater history of American development.