Gates Circle

c. 1910 postcard. Image source: private collection

Mrs. Pardee's Splendid Gift to the City
Buffalo Evening News, February 19, 1902

"With the first meeting of the new Park Board yesterday, a new method of beautifying the city's parks was brought forward. Mrs. Charles W. Pardee offered to build at her own expense, without conditions, a beautiful fountain and resting nook on Chapin Place, a circular piece of park at the junction of Lafayette and Delaware Avenues and Chapin Parkway. The offer was accepted.

"Four of the five commissioners were present at the meeting yesterday. They were William Hengerer, William A. Joyce, George C. Ginther and Charles Mosier. President Hengerer called the meeting to order at 4 o'clock. The first business considered was Mrs. Pardee's offer, which was made by E.B. Green of Green & Wicks, the architects engaged to carry out Mrs. Pardee's plan.

"The plan is to make a true circle of the little oval park, which is about 150 feet in diameter, and after rearranging the trees to beautify it by the erection of a granite fountain. The proposed fountain is to be of quietly flowing water, not a gush, which will fall into a pool about 40 feet in diameter in the center of the park. Around the central pool will be a pathway surrounded by grass and flowers. Another path will be laid out around the grass and flower pots and on the outer side of this second pathway a row of benches will be placed. Behind these a hedge will enclose the whole.

"There will be three entrances to the park, one on Delaware Avenue, one on Chapin Parkway and another on Lafayette Avenue. The stone work will be of granite and will be highly ornamental.

"Massive granite steps about 16 feet wide will lead from the outer path down to the central pool. These will have balustrades on which will be placed large flower vases. Each of these entrances will be flanked by bronze lamps instead of the present unornamental electric lights.

"The commissioners, after hearing Mr. Green's explanation of the plans, accepted the gift, passed a resolution of thanks to Mrs. Pardee, and approved the general plan of the fountain. The board will be shown a detailed plan as soon as the architects prepare a model. It was decided to change the name of the park to Gates Circle in honor of Mrs. Pardee's mother. Mrs. Pardee's gift is made absolutely, and when the fountain is finished the commissioners alone will manage it. It is expected that the beautifying of the circle will be finished next summer."


Contrary to some local reports, none of the fountain parts or light standards were re-used from the Pan-American Exposition two years previous. E. B. Green designed the light standards. The bronze urns, flanking the steps on the other side of the fountain basin, were created by James E. Fraser of New York, a favorite pupil of Augustus St. Gaudens. According to the 1905 Albright publication, Academy Notes, the urns "are exquisitely ornamented by graceful figures of dancing girls with soft, flowing draperies."

1911 photo "on a Sunday morning.". Image source: private collection

Mrs. Georgie B. Gates Pardee, patron of the Gates Circle fountain, lived on Delaware Avenue and decided that the Chapin Circle location needed improvement. The circle had been desigend by Olmsted and Vaux in 1874. She said that the circle had to be named "Gates" instead of "Chapin" if her funds were to be spent on the new design she conceived. The Chapin Circle had been named after Colonel Edward Chapin, son of one of Buffalo's first families who had been killed in the Civil War. The Grand Army of the Republic in Buffalo protested the removal of the name of one of their own from the circle (though it remains on the parkway). Mrs. Pardee, whose husband owned the Ellicott Square Building, prevailed with the Buffalo Park Commissioners. The northern entrance to Delaware Avenue's 'millionaire's row' had an appropriatedly grand portal.

c. 1910 postcard view. Image source: private collection.

2015 view

1911 panoramic photo of Gates Circle, Porter Norton mansion at left. Image source: Library of Congress.

Copyright © 2016 Susan J. Eck. All Rights Reserved.