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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 28-A Wilcox Mansion (1993)

28-A Wilcox Mansion (1993)

Narrative by - David M. Rote
(Narratives are copyrighted)

Delaware Avenue is Buffalo's "avenue of the presidents", so called because three United States presidents were to leave their mark: Millard Fillmore lived (and died) there; William McKinley died there (at the John Milburn home); and Theodore Roosevelt took his presidential oath of office there (at the Wilcox house).

In the words of historian Richard M. Hurst: "the Ansley Wilcox house at 641 Delaware Avenue is architecturally interesting, socially important and historically significant." Its architectural history began as military officer's quarters (1838-1846) known as the "Buffalo Barracks" or the "Poinsett Barracks" after Martin Van Buren's secretary of war Joel Poinsett who visited here during the military years. Poinsett's name continues today in the holiday plant poinsettia which Poinsett is credited for introducing to the United States from Mexico. In just a few years, this military post was to give way to the more strategically located Fort Porter (see 14-A).

Ebenezer Walden - Buffalo's first attorney at law, Joseph Masten - a mayor of Buffalo and Albert P. Laning - a law partner of Grover Cleveland, all owned this property at one time or another. Dexter P. Rumsey, a prominent Buffalo tannery proprietor then became owner. A daughter of Mr. Rumsey married Buffalo attorney Ansley Wilcox whose name has long been associated with this house. After the death of the first Mrs. Wilcox, another daughter of Dexter Rumsey married Mr. Wilcox. Originally the structure faced to the east - onto the military barrack's parade field. It was during Mr. Laning's occupancy that the building took on the general look as it is today - with a columned portico in the Greek Revival style facing onto Delaware Avenue. An impressive carriage house once stood directly to the north of the building adjacent to the current main (side) public entrance. The Wilcox house was also the location of the Kathryn Lawrence Tearoom from 1939 through 1959. In 1963 Liberty National Bank, whose former branch office may be seen to the right of the Wilcox house, provided the critical funds which saved the site from the wrecker's ball at a time when another historical gem was about to be lost by the city of Buffalo.

At the time of the opening of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt participated in those ceremonies and was the guest of his friend Ansley Wilcox at the Wilcox home. Little could anyone imagine that just a few short months later, Roosevelt would be taking the presidential oath of office in the library of the Wilcox home following the assassination of President William McKinley during a reception at the Exposition's Temple of Music. The Wilcox Mansion truly became a house of history and is now included on the register of National Historic Sites of the United States.