1150/1180 Amherst Street, Buffalo: The Mansion That Moved

Ellicott-Goodrich-Gerber house, Main & High Streets, c. 1880. Image source: 1916 Buffalo Express Album

The story of 1150/1180 Amherst Street begins in 1823 at Main and High Streets. Joseph Ellicott built this home for his niece, Sara (Evans) Lyon. Wealthy merchant Colonel Guy H. Goodrich purchased and finished the house in 1831 and lived in it until brewer Charles Gerber purchased it. It remained in the Gerber family until 1892 when the house and lot were sold to the University of Buffalo for the construction of its Medical School building.

The Glenny home, 1150 Amherst St. c. 1900. Image source: United Church Home Society

John C. Glenny purchased the home for $300 and had it moved in sections to a lot he owned at 1150 Amherst St. at a cost estimated to be $10,000. Once it was reassembled, he hired architect Charles Cary to design the addition seen above. The Glennys lived in the house until 1910.

The Hoyt Mansion, c. 1920. Image source: Buffalo's 125th Anniversary World Port Celebration 1832-1957

Widowed in 1906, Mrs. John Glenny sold the home in 1910 to William B. Hoyt, a lawyer for the Pierce Motor Car Company. He hired architect Charles Cary to design a second addition to the home, creating the final iteration seen above. At this time, the library was added with oak bookcases reaching to the ceiling. The Buffalo Evening News described the mansion in 1946:

"Nestled among large trees, some estimated to be 400 years old, the mansion has a colorful history...The main hall is decorated with five-foot panels depicting the Greek mythological story of Cupid and Psyche. A stair rail of exquisite mahogany extends from the basement to the attic. There are fireplaces in all principal rooms and in the six main bedrooms, and several large mirrors of considerable value."

In 1941, the widowed Mrs. Hoyt offered the home to the Buffalo Historical Society. It was believed that the center portion of the mansion was the oldest Buffalo home still standing. But the annual maintenance costs of $3,000 - $4,000 were too steep for the Society and they declined the offer. This took place a year after architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock called it "long the finest house in Buffalo." Over its more than 100 year history it had entertained Buffalo's most elite, including three Presidents.

The mansion uninhabited, c. 1950. Image source: BECPL Scrapbooks

Mrs. Hoyt died in 1945 and her children put the house on the market. The house and its 9+ acre lot were assessed at $69,000, but no buyers came forward until the Church Home of the German Evangelical Churches of Buffalo & Its Vicinity purchased the property with the intention of using it as a home for the aged. Mrs. Hoyt's will prohibited the mansion to be used for any purpose other than educational or residential until 1956. The organization purchased the property for $35,000, of which the Glenny descendents agreed to pay $26,000 in back taxes.

The original United Church Home building at 1150/1180 Amherst. Image source: UCHS

When the property was released from restrictions, the church planned to construct a new home for the aged on part of the property. A number of neighbors mounted a legal challenge to the building-use permit issued, claiming that the neighborhood was residential and such a home was incompatible. But they failed, possibly because the property was adjacent to a school (the Nichols School Campus), also in their neighborhood.

United Church Home, c. 1960 Image source: private collection

The Church Home Society was founded in 1877 by six German evangelical churches. They had previously constructed a safe and affordable home for their widowed and aged parishioners in Forks (Routes 130 & 277, Cheektowaga). The Amherst Street property would represent growth in response to the need for increased space. It took a number of years for the church to raise the necessary construction funds. The original United Church Home building on Amherst Street opened in 1954.

United Church Home addition. Image source: UCHS

In 1976, the United Church Home facility at 1190 Amherst Street opened an addition to its original building. Over the years, the Home enjoyed an excellent reputation as a caring environment for all; it remained affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Unfortunately, state reimbursement rates for Supplemental Security Income remained stagnant for 15 years, creating a shortfall in financial support that eventually forced the United Church Home Society to close the facility permanently in September, 2003.

1180 Amherst Street

The United Church Home and its neighbor, The Nichols School, had enjoyed a long and warm relationship for nearly 50 years. The School immediately acted to purchase the United Church Home property in 2003-2004, then estimated to be 6.4 acres. It promptly demolished the original building and addition to make way for more athletic fields.

The United Church Home Society lives on in Orchard Park, location of the Fox Run Lifecare Community, described by the Society as an "exceptional living option" for seniors. The UCHS also supports Plymouth Crossroads, a home in Lancaster for homeless young men ages 16-20.

Special thanks to Mary Gregor, secretary of the United Church Home Society in 2005 and history lover, for her generous assistance with this subject.

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