Palmer Centennial House History

 

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PALMER CENTENNIAL HOUSE

The Junior League of Buffalo and The Buffalo News warmly welcome you to the 20th Decorators’ Show House.

The Palmer Centennial House, located on the corner of Lincoln Parkway and Chatham Avenue in North Buffalo, originally comprised three adjacent plots, and were part of the extensive tract of land known as the Rumsey farm, acquired by Bronson C Rumsey in 1862. Later the land was part of the vast site used for the world famous but short-lived Pan-American Exposition, toured over the summer months of 1901 by 8 million visitors.

The Palmer Centennial House was built for William J H Palmer, Jr., the only son of William J Palmer, Sr., who emigrated from Cheltenham, England in 1854, at age 19, to become a gardener in Buffalo.  In his early twenties, he had purchased lots in the City of Buffalo and later bought land in rural Lancaster and built many green houses to support his thriving floriculture business.  At the time of his death in December 1900, the business was known as William J Palmer & Son.

William J H Palmer, Jr., who had spent thirteen years working for his father, took over and expanded the business.  After acquiring land, which, following the death of Bronson Rumsey in 1902, had passed to Rumsey’s sons and daughters, and had then been purchased by the Nye Park Company, Palmer commissioned Ulysses G Orr to design his new residence on the street known as North Lincoln Boulevard.

The three story house is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts style of architecture, which acquired its descriptive name in 1997.  The Arts and Crafts movement had begun in Britain and flourished in Europe and America around 1880 to 1920. It represented traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, often depicting medieval or romantic or folk-style decorations. The roots of this style of architecture however date back to 1851 and the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations”, when over the course of 144 days 6 million visitors viewed the exhibits at the splendid Crystal Palace outside London, England. Some considered the exhibits delightful: others thought they were excessively ornate and artificial, and somewhat vulgar, as well as being indifferent to the qualities of the actual materials used. The more discriminating viewed them as an indictment of the state of British design – which exemplified the way mass-production had somehow dehumanized the work.

As such, the Arts and Crafts movement was a reaction against a complacent middle class who could ignore the appalling consequences that industrialization and factory labor inflicted on the poorer members of society.

The Palmer Centennial House, today largely true to its original design by Ulysees G Orr, is a great testament to the skill of the architect and his appreciation of the materials incorporated in the design.

The current owner purchased the house in 1996 and lived there with her family for the next 22 years.

A full history of the Palmer Centennial House is available at  www.jlbuffalo.org and www.buffaloah.com.  The history of the Palmer family can be found HERE.

A special thanks to www.wnyhistory.org for the information and www.wnyheritage.com for the photo of William J H Palmer, Jr.