A stone’s throw from downtown hotels, the Elmwood Village is a great place to stroll and shop. You’ll find all manner of bistros, bars and cafes nestled among the clusters of galleries, boutiques, salons and shops. As The Chicago Sun-Times recently noted, “Browsers can find everything from vintage clothing…to an extensive fiction section at Talking Leaves, an independent book store with attitude. The cozy neighborhood features international cuisine choices of Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Caribbean and Spanish food.”
The Walk is 3.7 miles in length and should take approximately one hour and 45 minutes.
Starting Out: The tour begins at Spot Coffee in the heart of the Elmwood Village at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Cleveland Avenue. As you set off east on Cleveland you’ll immediately come across the Chemical No. 5 Firehouse. This striking edifice has been adapted for use as a residence and is one of the few buildings in Buffalo with Art Nouveau details. The station was originally built to accommodate horse-drawn fire-fighting equipment.
Turn right on Tudor Place, a street of beautiful turn-of-the-century mansions. Go left on West Ferry Street, so named for the ferry that once took travelers across the Niagara River to Fort Erie, Ontario on the river’s far shore.
To your left you’ll notice one of Buffalo’s most impressive apartment buildings, 800 West Ferry. Built in 1929 by Darwin R. Martin, 800 West Ferry is a luxury apartment building featuring two-level units, fireplaces, beamed ceilings and large terraces. It remains one of Buffalo’s most fashionable addresses to this day. Constructed just before the stock market crash of 1929, the building’s unfortunate timing meant financial ruin for its underwriters, including the developer’s father, Darwin D. Martin, the man who brought Frank Lloyd Wright to Buffalo and whose foundering fortunes would soon thereafter force him to abandon the Wright-designed Martin House forever.
Turn left on Delaware Avenue and pass the gracious campus of Canisius High School, which numbers the late television journalist and best-selling author Tim Russert among its graduates. It was on this site, in the long-demolished Milburn House, that President William McKinley died after being shot at the Pan-American Exposition of 1901.
Continue north on Delaware to Gates Circle, one of many traffic circles that are a part of Buffalo’s Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parkways. The circle’s ornate light standards and fountain originated on the drawing table of E.B. Green, the man responsible for many of Buffalo’s greatest landmarks, including the 1905 building of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Walk along the western rim of the circle and proceed to your left down Chapin Parkway, one of the city’s most gracious avenues. Named in honor of Col. Edward Chapin, who was killed during the Civil War, Chapin Parkway is a street of impressive homes dating from the early 20th Century, including an example (at No. 121) of work by Esenwein and Johnson, one of Buffalo’s most notable local architectural firms from its turn-of-the-century hey day.
At West Delavan go left and make a slight detour to the beautiful home and gardens of Jennifer Guercio at number 755. This lovely Victorian home is known for its spectacular gardens and is considered one of the highlights of the annual Garden Walk. Stop and admire the incredible plenitude of flowers.
Return to Chapin Parkway and continue left to Soldier’s Circle. As you make your way around the western perimeter of the circle, you’ll come across another of Buffalo’s many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Built in 1905 for William R. Heath, another Larkin Company executive (along with Darwin D. Martin) who took a chance on the still relatively unknown Wright. The Heath House is best known as a stylistic precursor to Wright’s renowned Robie House in Chicago.
Moving around the circle, you are now on Lincoln Parkway, a street of truly lavish and magnificent mansions. Cross Forest Avenue and continue to the rear of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, home of one of the great collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. Climb the steps of the neo-classical portico for a view of Hoyt Lake and Delaware Park, the crown jewel of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Buffalo Parks System. Across the street you’ll find Shakespeare Hill, the site of one of the largest free outdoor Shakespeare festivals in the country, held every summer from June through August, as well as a lovingly-maintained rose garden that’s worth a stop.
Take a left on Iroquois Drive and go left again on Elmwood Avenue. From here you’ll see the clock tower of Rockwell Hall to your right on the campus of Buffalo State College. If your schedule allows, stop in and peruse the Albright’s magnificent collection that includes the likes of Warhol, Pollock, Van Gogh, Modigliani, as well as a host of provocative contemporary artists. As you cross Rockwell Road, note the the new home of the Burchfield Penney Art Center on the opposite side of Elmwood Avenue. Designed by Gwathmey Siegel Associates, this museum houses an outstanding collection of the work of Charles Burchfield, the legendary landscape artist and watercolorist who made Buffalo his home for many years, as well as many other outstanding regional artists. Turn left on Penhurst Place and then right on Penhurst Parkway. This lovely street with a grassy median is another of Buffalo’s hidden residential gems.
Take a right at Forest Avenue and cross Elmwood Avenue for a view of the National Historic Landmark Richardson-Olmsted Complex. Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and constructed between 1870-1896, the former Buffalo State Hospital features grounds by Frederick Law Olmsted. Built of locally quarried red Medina sandstone, this was Richardson’s first major commission and contains many of the elements that characterized what came to be known as the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Currently undergoing a massive multi-million dollar restoration and re-use, the buildings can be best viewed from lawn near the corner of Richmond Avenue.
Cross Forest Avenue and proceed down Richmond Avenue to Dorchester. Turn left onto Dorchester, a gem of a street that will connect you to Bidwell Parkway. Bidwell Parkway, named for local Civil War hero Daniel Davidson Bidwell, is home to a farmer’s market from May through October and a regular schedule of concerts throughout the summer. Go left at Bidwell and then right onto Elmwood Avenue.
After such a lengthy walk, you may be in need of refreshment. Stop at Caffe Aroma at the corner of Bidwell and Elmwood for a cup of coffee and afterwards browse the well-stocked shelves of Talking Leaves Books next door.
Continue south on Elmwood and window shop your way back to our starting point at Cleveland Avenue. You’ll pass a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, cafes and boutiques, including the Neighborhood Collective, Treehouse Toys, Buffalo Fleece and many other shops.
Lunch or dinner at Cecilia’s, 716 Elmwood Avenue, would be a fitting conclusion to this invigorating walk.