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The Tragic Tale of 650 Delaware Avenue

In 1830 Lewis F. Allen bought five acres of land situated on the southwest corner of Delaware and North Street, which was, at the time, a cemetery. A number of lots were sold, but due to the smallness of the plot, and the fact that the southern part was full of springs, development was harder than expected, thus most of the bodies interred on the grounds were moved to Forest Lawn.

Eventually, a mansion was built (lead image) at that same corner for Robert K. Root in 1896 (650 Delaware Avenue). The colonial revival house was modeled after the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. In 1923 Root died, and the property was sold to William A. Morgan who stayed on briefly.

Unfortunately, the property laid vacant until it was demolished in 1935. In 1941 Howard Johnson’s began operating out of a colonial styled restaurant, right on the same spot where the mansion was razed. By the late 1950’s it was determined that the HoJos was obsolete, and the aging decor needed upgrading.

The building was gutted from the basement up, and reopened as an modern Howard Johnson’s for the 1960’s. Ultimately, that building was demolished in 2001, to make way for the Walgreens that stands today (pardon us if we skip the photo).

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Written by D Raphael Failla

D Raphael Failla

Born in 1972 in Buffalo NY, the moment I was conceived I started talking, Since I was a child I’ve been curious about form, function, color, the dynamic and all that is sensory. My personal passions include painting in watercolors, historical research, Buying and selling antiques, collecting paranormal artifacts and invention. I administrate the Facebook pages, Buffalore, Abbazoo, “A Child’s Journey.”, Museum of Mystery, Buffalo Art Gallery, Health Reboot and Passions by D. Currently working on my next venture xrayvisionary.com

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  • Ghost of Fred Smerles’ Twin

    I am still waiting for the actual tragedy. That was a great HoJo’s, and their fried clams were pretty good back in the day, but I am not sure the passing of the chain qualifies as tragic. I was sort of hoping there would be more about some human remains floating to the surface, or something. Is there a paragraph missing?

    • armyof100clowns

      I don’t know about the dead rising, but the last time I ate at that HoJo’s with my grandmother something died in me and haunted my gut for days!

      Ghostbusters? I needed to call Roto-Rooter!

    • Sue2525

      Exactly! I thought the story got cut off. Not a very good author!

      • Bringing back Buffalo

        Same thing here. I was expecting more history of the house or why it was abandoned.

    • Michael Jarosz

      Maybe he reads the Huffington Post, where the news is either tragic, horrifying or shocking.

  • Doug Wallis

    actually I believe the story is that George Eastman copied the Root Mansion. Its a very sad period in our history that so many mansions were demolished. If you want an incredible mansion that no one ever talks about then check out the Statler Mansion.

    • mikmo323

      address?

  • bufguy

    This article leaves out some very important and interesting facts. No discussion of Robert Root who would finance the Root Building on Chippewa by Esenwein & Johnson designed in their signature terra cotta and now home to Emerson Culinary or the fact that the Root house was one of four houses in Buffalo designed by McKim Mead and White, the preeminent residential architecture firm in the east in the late 19th century. It also served as the model for the Eastman house not the other way around as the author suggests.

    • greenca

      Yes, the Eastman House was built later (1905).

    • Rand503

      Yes, for a time Buffalo had four mansions designed by one of America’s leading architecture firms, McKiim, Mead and White, and that all sat next to each other. I doubt any other city in the country was able to boast that. The fourth one was torn down so that it could provide parking for the Butler Mansion at the NW corner.

  • Vandra

    I’m amused that the loss of a mansion during the Depression seems to be given equally tragic status as the conversion of the colonial styled HoJos to the 1960’s modern style typical of the day.

  • breckenridge

    It is a shame we lost so many of these old mansions, but I can’t imagine people were too sympathetic during and immediately after the Great Depression. In addition, at the time this house was demolished, it wasn’t even 40 years old. I doubt many people today would be too upset if some mansions built in the late 1970s were to be demolished.

    • greenca

      Many mansions were torn down due the Depression, including the Larking Mansion at Lincoln and Rumsey, and several in Central Park. The families lost their fortunes and couldn’t afford the upkeep or taxes on these houses. The market for them was nonexistent, so demo seemed their only option.

      Understandable given the circumstances but still tragic for the city’s patrimony.

  • Sue2525

    And the point is?

  • eagercolin

    So the tragedy is that this lot went from a giant house for one rich person to a necessary amenity for large numbers of average people? More tragedies, please!

    • greenca

      So you would be in favor of replacing the Butler Mansion (another a giant house for one rich person) that’s still across the street from this site for a brand new Rite Aid building that would serve as a necessary amenity for large numbers of average people?

      I don’t think many people would agree with you.

      • eagercolin

        The Butler mansion isn’t used by one rich person. It’s used by a public university. Tragedy averted!

    • Rand503

      The tragedy is that great architecture is great art. To destroy it is no less a crime than to destroy a Rembrandt.
      Furthermore, architectural tourism brings money into the city, unlike a Rite Aid. With the Roosevelt site across the street, this could have been a major stop for tourists.

      • eagercolin

        Architecture is nice and all, but it’s not the same thing as great art. A Rembrandt is literally irreplaceable, but this building (or one like it) could be built today if someone wanted it. That’s because architecture is a craft, not an art. Buildings are knocked down all the time, and sometimes it’s regrettable, but it’s not the same as destroying art.

        I can’t see how this mansion would have been a major stop for tourists. It doesn’t seem to be anything special compared to other mansions nearby on Delaware, and none of them are major tourist attractions.

        • G Orty

          No building from even a hundred years ago can be feasibly rebuilt. Yes, construction is a craft, but a craft of the period in which it’s performed; and architecture is undoubtably a technical art. Construction methods and materials from only decades ago are out of use, and those people with the skills to work them are dead or are so few that they demand exorbitant costs, usually being employed strictly on publicly-funded historic preservation projects. Moreover, only until recently did architects control so much of the design as they do today, with much more relative control going to the craftsmen over specific assembly, details, and installation. So to say that any building can just be rebuilt, is ignoring both the practical and financial limitations (usually insurmountable) of doing so. To your example, Rembrandts are copied and reproduced today by artists using similar pigments and techniques to the original, and much more frequently and faithfully than anyone could hope to reproduce a Richardson, Wright, or even this building. Just look at the blown-out costs of reconstruction of just the missing portions of the Darwin Martin House.

          The point is: Historic Preservation doesn’t just save pretty buildings from being torn down. It preserves tangible examples of construction, craft, artistry – relics of an extinct social structure – that simply cannot be reproduced today.

          • G Orty

            Oh, and PS, if the Martin House isn’t great art, why did we build an entire visitor’s center for it??

          • OldFirstWard

            Well said, some very good points in there specifically relating to costs.

  • Johnny Pizza

    trag·e·dy
    ˈtrajədē/
    noun
    noun: tragedy; plural noun: tragedies
    1.
    an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

    I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    • greenca

      From Merriam-Webster:

      Definition of tragedy
      plural tragedies
      1
      a : a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man
      b : a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror
      c : the literary genre of tragic dramas
      2
      a : a disastrous event : calamity
      b : misfortune
      3
      : tragic quality or element

      I believe definition 2b (misfortune – an unhappy situation) is what is being inferred.

  • PaulBuffalo

    This article should be withdrawn and rewritten.

  • eagercolin

    “the moment I was conceived I started talking”

    The author was a very precocious zygote, apparently.

  • Doug Wallis

    A mansion that was world class in the art nuveau style but is rarely talked about is the Statler mansion. There are very few pictures of it and like the Larkin Administration Building only a few sections of the fence remain.
    http://buffaloah.com/a/bidwell/177/tc.html
    http://buffaloah.com/a/del/107/hist/source/6.html
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9be847b373fdd2363f11b7615e508e5f1ec0cbba10df1b65874c6eb0edd6be37.jpg

    • Doug Wallis

      For a kid who grew up in Buffalo when Buffalo was on its long decay, I became an enthusiast of Buffalo History and Architecture. Back then I was surrounded by these magnificent buildings being torn down, the subject of many dining room and kitchen table conversations and in many ways enthralled by what Buffalo the magnificent city we lived in. It was like a sterling silver tea set. Tarnished, Forgotten. Viewed as worthless. Pieces thrown out and neglected. Yet hoping someone would see it was sterling silver and return its luster to original dazzle and sparkle. My hope is that tomorrows kids will see how special Buffalo is and play their part in the spit and polish of restoring our city.

  • Mr. B

    I think the actual tragedy was how the dreamless sleep of the dead in the sunless earth was disturbed, so that one man could build a mansion . . .

    .

    • Mytwocents

      Yeah, does that happen nowadays? Do grave sites get moved around for new construction? I can’t imagine they do. I would think there would be a public uproar.

  • bugzzz

    GHOST IN AISLE THREE. Please send custodian.

    • Kimberly Simmeth

      The Walgreens was built in 1995, another inaccurate figure in this article

  • 6pakjimmy

    One of the rooms from this house is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City in all it’s glory. Whoever wrote this article should be fired for gross negligence.

    • BlackRockLifer

      The room you noted actually came from the Metcalfe House that was behind the Butler Mansion on North St. Two complete rooms were salvaged when that house was demolished for parking.