Published by fixBuffalo
on 8/20/2006 at 12:51 PM.
This little house on the urban prairie is architecturally and historically one of the most significant structures in the Hamlin Park Preservation District and remains the only other residential structure in Hamlin Park that incorporates architectural elements that were manufactured just around the corner at the J. Lyth & Sons Tile Company. Was Buffalo really home to the country's first tile company?
16 Harwood Place --------- ---------- 183 Northland Avenue
We can now call this little house - Lyth Cottage as it's located directly behind the main house at 183 Northland Avenue which was built by Alfred Lyth in 1872. According to a 1941 Courier Express article, "Harwood Place Memorial," we learn,
In the old days, the Lyth home [183 Northland Avenue] was considered suburban. The large house was surrounded by extensive lawns, gardens and orchards.
The Lyth family, according to the same article, built two houses on Harwood Place and 16 Harwood was one of them. Here's the map detailing the proximity of 183 Northland Avenue and 16 Harwood Place. When John Lyth arrived in Buffalo in 1850 with his wife, the former Mary Ann Harwood, he brought the terra cotta tile technology and know how that he'd developed in England with his brother, Francis Lyth. By 1857 John had acquired the tract of land just south of present day Northland Avenue between Purdy and Jefferson. Here's the 1881 map showing the location of his operations one block away from the current site of Canisus College's Kessler Center. Harwood Place, named after John's wife, was once a driveway into the Lyth estate and by 1894, 16 Harwood Place as the pink square on this 1894 map clearly shows, was built. In 1886, the land was deeded to the City and Harwood Place became a City street. And from the same Courier Express article we learn that the extensive stables between the Lyth House and Cottage were home to the horses used to haul the finished tile products to Buffalo's canal boats and trains.
This is the view of the J. Lyth & Sons Tile Company from an 1873 company catalog Various pictures of the same 1873 catalog clearly show the array of terra cotta and tile products produced at what various newspaper accounts reveal is the country's first tile factory. And business was booming after 1871. The Chicago Fire show cased the need for fire-proof building materials that Lyth & Sons delivered. In addition to these industrial products Lyth & Sons manufactured a wide range of ornamental brick and terra cotta tile products that were widley available and adorn many late 19th century homes here in Buffalo, NY including the Lyth House at 183 Northland Avenue. As I walked the Hamlin Park neighborhood recently, I noticed a few other brick single family homes. They appear to have been built much later and lack the specific architectural detail that make Lyth House and Lyth Cottage so significant. A few of them have terra cotta tile roofs and are located next to Humboldt Parkway, at the opposite end of Hamlin Park from the former Lyth Estate.
Fortunately, Harwood Place lies within the boundry of the City's largest historic district, Hamlin Park. Any new construction - even a new McChurch - that might be considered for Harwood Place, is subject to Preservation Board approval.
Unfortunately, the City of Buffalo has been the owner of 16 Harwood Place since 1997. You wouldn't know it by driving by as there is no 'for-sale' sign nailed to the boards. Remember the City also owns this other historic place nearby. It's why I started blogging...
Soon...more about the the extraordinary life of John's oldest son, Alfred L. Lyth (1843 - 1924), some problems involved in understanding his legacy and the first residents of 16 Harwood Place.
update...8/23/06 Lyth Cottage...Inside
There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask
of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.
- Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) from The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961.
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