No trip to Buffalo is complete without a stop at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin Martin House. The Martin House is the greatest example of Wright’s Prairie Style and a beacon for lovers of great architecture around the world. It’s also a fine spot to begin a walking tour of four of Buffalo’s finest neighborhoods: Parkside, Central Park, North Park and Park Meadow. Notice a pattern? That’s right, there’s no mistaking there’s a park nearby. Delaware Park is the largest of six parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the latter half of the 19th century in Buffalo and its many attractions – including the Buffalo Zoo – make it a magnet for nearby residents. And the neighborhoods surrounding the Martin House demonstrate that Darwin and Isabelle Martin chose well when picking the site for their historic home.
The Walk is 3.3 miles in length and should take approximately one hour and fifteen minutes to complete.
So, on with the tour. From the corner of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue proceed north on Summit alongside the Martin House pergola and take in the breathtaking expanse of the entire campus. Leaving the Martin House behind you’ll pass into the heart of the Parkside neighborhood and its tree-lined streets filled with classic turn-of-the-century homes: Tudor Revivals, Victorians, Queen Annes, Bungalows and Colonial Revivals, among others. For home and garden lovers, Parkside is a feast of curb appeal.
Turn right on Amherst Street and walk four blocks. You’ll cross over the Belt Line railroad tracks before turning left on Starin Avenue. On your left, you’ll see the cobblestone driveway that leads to the Bennett Station, the last of 19 train stations that were once part of a rail line that encircled the city and connected Parkside residents like Darwin Martin with the rest of Buffalo. Today, the station is privately owned, so, please respect the owner’s privacy and admire the station-turned-residence from a distance.
Walk another two blocks before turning left on Depew Avenue. This is Central Park, a neighborhood of sumptuous homes that was developed by Lewis J. Bennett, one of the many men who came to Buffalo to seek their fortunes during the city’s 19th century heyday. Bennett made his in the stone and cement business and went on to develop Central Park. A quick look around shows why Bennett’s brainchild is still considered one of the city’s most desirable areas.
Walk a block before turning right on Wallace Avenue. Across the street, you’ll see the Parkside Lutheran Church, built in 1925 in the Tudor Gothic Revival style. It’s been a neighborhood anchor and landmark since its inception.
Make a quick left on Woodbridge Avenue before turning right on Parkside Avenue. Walk two blocks to Hertel Avenue, the commercial thoroughfare at the heart of North Buffalo. You’ll find coffee shops, bars, restaurants, boutiques and retailers of all kinds along this multi-block strip. The center of the neighborhood and its most notable landmark is the North Park Theatre. Built in 1920 by local impresario Michael Bennett, the theater was part of a small regional chain run by Shea that included the magnificent 3,000-seat Shea’s Buffalo in downtown Buffalo. After experiencing some decline and neglect over the years, the North Park was restored to its original grandeur in 2014 – including its spectacular neon marquee and stained glass windows — and served up a menu of first run and revival movies, as well as the occasional live performance, until the Covid pandemic forced it to temporarily close its doors in 2020.
Walking along Hertel, you’ll pass St. Margaret’s Church and the Cornelius apartments, an adaptive re-use of the former St. Margaret’s elementary school. Go left on Saranac for a short block before making another left on Colvin Avenue.
Walk two blocks on Colvin before making a left on Tillinghast Avenue. You’re now in the Park Meadow neighborhood and on one of Buffalo’s loveliest and most stylistically eclectic streets. Mid-way down the block at no. 57, you’ll come to another Frank Lloyd Wright-designed residence, the Walter V. Davidson House. Built in 1908, shortly after the completion of the Martin House, the Davidson is more modest than its predecessor, but still distinctively from the drawing board of Wright during his Prairie period. The Davidson House is privately owned so please respect the owner’s privacy and stay on the sidewalk.
Walk to the end of Tillinghast and turn right on Parkside Avenue. From here, you’ll walk a block to the corner of Amherst Street before crossing the street. Turn right and follow the sidewalk around the rear of the Buffalo Zoo. On your left, if your timing is right, you’ll see the giraffes in their outdoor enclosure as well as a new mural dedicated to the life and work of John Brent, Buffalo’s first African-American architect. Continue around the rear of the Zoo until you come to Colvin Avenue. Make a left and another left and you’ll find yourself on Meadow Drive – known to locals as the Ring Road – and the home of the Buffalo Zoo’s collection of American bison. The bison are sometimes hard to spot, unless it’s feeding time. On your right is the Delaware Park meadow, home to a golf course, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts and a cinder path encircling it all. This is where all of North Buffalo loves to gather to see and be seen.
To complete your walk, continue past the Zoo entrance and parking lot and turn left on Jewett Parkway. Cross Parkside and walk two blocks to the Martin House – or, if you’re feeling tired, hungry and thirsty, take a left on Parkside and walk two blocks to the corner of Russell Avenue where you’ll find Fairy Cakes Cupcakery, JAM Coffee and the Parkside Meadow restaurant. Cheers!