History RIGHT AT HOME
By DIANE ANDRASIK
Special to the OBSERVER
“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to,” said John Ed Pearce. That seems to be true for many people who leave their homes or even their city. Surely the fondness for “old Dunkirk” stems from that yearning for things that signaled better times in our hometown. When we look at homes around the city that remind us of “Old Dunkirk” we understand that the city had a rich history, one that involved a strong industrial base with many jobs and a thriving community, and that some people lived in beautiful homes.
The Historical Society of Dunkirk will be showing off some historic houses for its Dunkirk Historic House Tour on Saturday, Sept. 7 organized in conjunction with the Academy Heights and PARK neighborhood groups. The tour will cover several historic homes: the Gross Mansion, the Eggers House, the Rudge and Beck Home, the Pucciarelli home and the Reed/Koch House.
The Gross Mansion is located at 715 Central Ave. The property has a history well-connected to the time when the city was a force in the industrial world. In the early 1870s Marshall Hinman, treasurer and later president of the Brooks Locomotive Works, built a large house on the site. Robert J. Gross, vice president of Brooks Locomotive and president of the Harrell/US Radiator Corp., bought the house in 1907, demolished it, and built the present yellow brick Georgian Revival house.
It is symmetrical, with lower hip roofs and regularly placed dormers, fan windows with spike keystones above. The fan glazing in the enclosed porch, railings over the porch, and one-story bay window unit are Georgian features.
The house became a rectory for Cardinal Mindszenty High School in 1951 until the school’s closing in 1979, when the buildings were closed up. The building served as the Christopher Wellness Center before being occupied by the STEL offices.
An art show will take place here. The artwork is on loan from the collection of work by George W. Eggers now housed at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center in Buffalo. A reception for the art show is scheduled Sept. 6, the day before the house tour, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. A representative from the Burchfield Penney Art Center of Buffalo will be present to talk about George W. Eggers. The free event is open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Donations will be gratefully accepted.
The Eggers home, is located at 438 Swan St. A modest Victorian cottage-style home, it was built in the late 1800s during a period of German immigration.
Elegant original ceilings and one small leaded glass window are remnants of the original attributes of the house. The end window cap and porch brackets are nice features, with an old photo suggesting the house had a polychromatic paint scheme. This would have been appropriate artistically as the home served as a photo studio. George A. H. Eggers, son of German immigrants to the city, built the structure to serve as both home residence and studio.
Later he built a separate studio next door at 436 Swan. Eggers is described in the Dunkirk Herald special edition of Feb. 1, 1905, as “the leading artist photographer of Dunkirk who has been established at the present quarters, corner of Swan and Fifth for 15 years.”
Three houses down the block at 422 Swan stands the home of George’s father, John Eggers, and older brother, John Eggers, Jr., both engaged in cigar making. Featured for this tour is a photo collection of photographer George A. H. Eggers and his family while they resided at 438 Swan St. from 1882-1938. George W. Eggers, the son, a gifted artist, grew up in this house. It is his artwork and lithographs that are on display at the Gross mansion.
In addition, Michael Smith, grandson of George W. Eggers, will be available between 11 a.m and 1 p.m. at 438 Swan St. to talk informally about the family and from 2 to 4 p.m. as a resource for the artist and his work.
Rudge and Beck Home
At 60 W. Fourth St. sits the Rudge and Beck Home, a home that served as the first Robert J.Gross mansion. Built around 1887 in Queen Anne style, it possesses gable ends as well as Stick Style features. Once painted to emphasize the contrast between molding strips and clap-boards, it was recently refurbished to become a “Painted Lady.” When Harry Swoyer, manager of the Brooks/Alco plant, purchased the house, he provided the house with a connection to another important era in the city’s history. Swoyer served as manager of the plant while it was still building locomotives.
In the 1920s the interior of the home was remodeled, with the upstairs converted into an apartment. The porch was enclosed with glass at that time. Be sure to walk behind the house to see at the garage – looking at the roof line makes you realize the home was owned by railroad people.
Tuning Home at 706 Park Ave. was built in 1912 in the Queen Anne Foursquare style. The Palladian window in the gable end with proper architraves is an example of a feature often included in this type of home. The pediment over the porch entrance is also part of this classicism.The second-floor bay window provides an asymmetrical spatial variety, its high central elevated window positioned so the head of a bed or dresser could be placed there. Shingles in the gable give a variety of surface texture.
The first occupants were Christian Schmidt, his wife and five children. Christian was a barber at the Erie Hotel located at the Union Depot. The family lived in the house until the wife’s death in 1927 and his a year later. The interior has been elegantly decorated by its present owners, who describe its style as “cottage chic.”
Built around 1881, the beautiful Pucciarelli home at 629 Central Ave., was designed by Enoch A. Curtis and owned by Louis Heyl, a well-known Dunkirk merchant whose family owned the Heyl building.
The house is an example of Second Empire style, with a mansard roof. It is thought to have once had a full width porch, that was later reduced to just an entry porch.
The extra large front window was probably created at that time, combining the two facade windows (just like the ones above). By 1887, it was owned/occupied by Louis B. Arver. In the 1920s the Dunkirk Club occupied the building until its sale to the private owner in 1995.
The final house on the tour sits at 529 Washington Ave. Built in the 1880’s, its style is that of Queen Anne Foursquare. It is located near Dunkirk’s Washington Park, at one time the premier location for a home.
Try to count the over 95 porch spindles the house possesses, and then move inside to appreciate the classy interior that features the Arts and Crafts movement.
Dunkirk’s Reed family, connected to the Dunkirk Radiator plant, lived in the house from 1896 to 1914. Thereafter members of the Fred Koch Brewery family resided there.
Diane Andrasik is the president of the Dunkirk Historical Society. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org