8/20/2006

'Lyth Cottage'...on the urban prairie...

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.
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.
Was Buffalo really home to the country's first tile company?
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

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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.
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click image to enlarge
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.
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click image to enlarge
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
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8 comments:

STEEL said...

great job on this subject. It is important to put actual people in these valuable buildings. They become much mroe meaningfull

fix buffalo said...

Thanks...any thoughts on how we can encourage the City to market its realestate in a pro-active manner. What a shame that 'Lyth Cottage' has been sitting all alone for 9 years...

WestCoastPerspective said...

Have you talked to Chris Brown over at Kleinhans Comm. Association? He seems to have been able to work the system to get at least a few homes out of city ownership and into the hands of capable new owners. Or Michele Johnson?

How and why is the City holding this for nine years?

the neighborhood knows said...

1. What is the process for the City to sell property?

2. What is the requirement for a municipality in NY to sell property owned but not used?

3. Why doesn't the City Real Estate Department market properties? Isn't there a realtor running that department?

4. Where can I find a list of City owned properties for sale?

5. "What a shame that 'Lyth Cottage' has been sitting all alone for 9 years" is too mild - I'd say what an irreplacable waste of potential value, that should not be tolerated!

fix buffalo said...

West Coast...

Thanks. We've just lined up a very well qualified buyer!!!

I'll keep you and everyone else posted...

fix buffalo said...

Neighborhood...

1. Contact Councilman and cross your fingers.

2. Don't know. I do know that NYS has a rather transparent process of selling surplus real property. Google it to find the link...

3. Very good question. I don't know how many people in that dept. have their real estate license.

4. The list is available by going to the 9th floor of City Hall and asking for it. I mean how easy would it be to have the list available on-line with links to pics and property descriptions. I've been told that I've demoralized the entire staff of the Div. of RE at City Hall by writing such criticisms here...go figure.

5. You're right!

Anonymous said...

First of all what a wonderful history on the Lyth Cottage. I purchased this house at the auction a few days ago, and am so looking forward to the resurrection. My goal is to start in May of 2008. I live in Phoenix, AZ. and was born and raised in Buffalo. My brother in Cheektowaga and I, will be hard at work for his new old home.

Byroni3 said...

WOW, it's amazing what I'm finding 'googling' my name. I've heard about the tile business in the family history. I've seen the neighborhoods my dad and grandfather built and never knew about this area. These Lyth's are my great/great/(great?) uncle and aunt. The posts here are pretty old so it's likely nobody will see this one. Byron Lyth.