A Walk in Delaware Park’s Rumsey Woods

By Ed Healy

Published on | Last Updated

There’s magic in these woods. An unmistakable aura conjured on the drawing board of Frederick Law Olmsted, the legendary landscape architect who envisioned the trails, clearings and gathering spots of the place we know as Rumsey Woods. It was Olmsted’s special gift to be able to recognize what he called “the genius of a place” and let it guide his design decisions. On this parcel, he and his associates succeeded in preserving the feeling of a forest, while accommodating the many uses the citizens of a growing city demanded.

While all of Olmsted’s Buffalo parks have something special to offer a visitor, the Rumsey Woods portion of Delaware Park draws a visitor towards a stone arch spanning what the annual report of the Buffalo Park Commissioners of 1887 described as “a pleasantly winding ravine” surrounded by large trees. One path takes you over the ravine in the direction of Hoyt Lake and another follows the ravine through the portal of the bridge and toward a clearing in the distance – which today is typically used as a soccer field.

Donated to the city in the late 1880s by the heirs of Dexter P. Rumsey, a wealthy businessman and original member of the Park Board of Directors, these twelve acres today are home to Shakespeare in Delaware Park, the second-oldest annual celebration of Shakespeare in the United States, a playground, the Marcy Casino, home of The Terrace restaurant, a rose garden, a statue of Abraham Lincoln, and a decorative pergola that serves as the location for many Buffalo weddings. The woods abut Hoyt Lake and a well-used walking/jogging path. In the summer months, boat rentals make the lake a lovely spot to leave it all behind.

From under the archway

There are wilder places in the Buffalo region. Places like Zoar Valley and Sprague Brook retain a genuine wildness that a city park could never hope to achieve. Yet. Walking through these woods there’s still a hint of the natural Buffalo that Olmsted must have encountered when he first surveyed this site 130 years ago. Some of the magic remains.

Ed Healy headshot

Ed Healy

Ed Healy is the vice president of marketing for Visit Buffalo Niagara.