1243 Delaware Avenue: Harry Yates Home/Unity Church


1243 Delaware Avenue, c. 1910. Image Source: Beautiful Homes of Buffalo

Left: Harry Yates c. 1900


The house above at 1243 Delaware Avenue was constructed in the late 1870s or early 1880s. The Edward Rischman and Gustave Fleishmann families who occupied the house between 1880 and 1905 are not remembered by history unlike the last owner, Harry Yates. Born in Rochester, Harry Yates was president of the Silver Lake Ice Company and the Silver Lake Railroad at age 21. At age 24, he moved to Buffalo in 1892 as general agent for the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal and Ice Company. By 1900 he was living at 487 Delaware, known today as the Midway. Within a year he would purchase land in Orchard Park for a farm to rest and retire the horses he used in his coal and ice delivery business, a town where he would eventually own 3500 acres, the largest acreage under cultivation by a single owner in New York State.

In 1904, Harry Yates was persuaded by his father-in-law to take on what would be the defining career of his life. Walter Duffy, a Rochester millionaire patent mediicine manufacturer, had built the Lafayette Hotel at the corner of Washington and Clinton streets. Harry Yates would be treasurer of the hotel, which he and his sons would operate for the next 50 years.By 1905, Harry Yates had moved his wife and children to 1243 Delaware Avenue. In addition, he would soon become vice-president of the Buffalo Union Furnace Company, working with Frank Baird. His long and productive career was beginning.


1243 Delaware today.

Harry Yates grew to love his Orchard Park farms so much so that in 1912 he moved his family, which included four sons and two daughters, permanently to Orchard Park. He retained ownership of the house at 1243 and the land after the house was subsequently demolished. In 1948, the city approved construction by a Yates-owned company, "1243 Delaware Avenue Corporation," of 16 two-story single-family brick homes on the property. The estimated sale price was to be $24,000 - $27,000 (c. $225,000 in 2009 dollars). The homes were not built.

In 1953, the land was sold to the Unity Center of Practical Christianity for slightly more than the assessed value of $28,400. 1243 Delaware Avenue is currently the site of Unity Church.

To his fellow Buffalo businessmen, Harry Yates was a director of M & T, later a member of the board of Liberty Bank; he was vice-chairman of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Peace Bridge Authority until its president, Frank Baird died in 1939, after which he served as president. He assisted in the organization of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, was a member of the Niagara Frontier Transit and on the board of the American Steamship Company and Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company. He eventually became president of the Lafayette Hotel as well as president of the Vendome Garage.

But it was his love for Orchard Park that distinguished Harry Yates as a person. He purchased multiple farms and raised beef cattle which he shipped to market from a special Yates Stop on the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh railroad. His dairy farms also provided milk and butter for the Lafayette Hotel. Yates persuaded his father to build an expensive station building in Orchard Park, larger than would ever be needed by B R & P train passengers.

He dammed a branch of Smoke's Creek to supply ice for shipments from his farms to market; when refrigeration eliminated the need for ice, he donated Green Lake to the town, as well as land for a Girl Scout day camp, land for a Lutheran church, and land for the Nativity of Our Lord Church and cemetery. He and his wife, Mamie, were known in Buffalo and Orchard Park for their philanthropy. In 1951 the town named Harry Yates "first citizen." He died February 11, 1956 at his home in Orchard Park.

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