The Move from Buffalo
The Second Empire style of architecture was popular in the United States between
1855 and 1885. It boasted high mansard roofs and a magnificence of style, something
the Lansing family would have been familiar with from Buffalo.
Henry Lansing was last identified as Secretary/Treasurer of the Buffalo and Erie Railroad,
according to the Buffalo directories, in 1869 when he was 51 years old. His home in Buffalo was on
the prestigious Delaware Avenue, beside the large Johnson property that had become a school
for girls. The Lansings had been in the Buffalo house since 1849. And while Buffalo had been
home to the family for over twenty years, they were still heavily tied to the city of Canandaigua where
Catharine had been raised. Her mother, Sarah Sherman Gibson, still lived in the former
Ontario Bank building, Catharine's father having been cashier of the bank (as well as president of
two railroads, and on the Board of Directors for the first year of existence of the New York Central).
Catharine's father, Henry B. Gibson, had died in 1863, one of the richest men in western New York.
In the 1870 census, his widow still showed a personal estate of $120,000. In 1841 Catharine's sister Sarah
Maria had married Watts Sherman, her first cousin (both Watts and Sarah Maria were grandchildren
of the first Watts Sherman), and a book on the Sherman family notes that
Sarah Maria brought with her a quarter million dollars.
Sarah Maria Gibson Sherman and Watts Sherman
In 1876, William Watts Sherman, the nephew of the Lansings and the son of Sarah Maria and Watts,
built a house in Newport RI. Today it is considered the first example of Queen Anne architecture in the United
William Watts Sherman House, Newport RI
With this as a backdrop, the Lansings purchased the home they called Woodlawn from the Dicksons in 1873
for $18,000, a good price in those days,
and the summer house shows in the Buffalo directory for that year, along with their 274 Delaware Avenue
address. In 1875, however, Henry L. Lansing disappears from the Buffalo directory altogether.
The family has moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The eventual move to Woodlawn took from the 25th of October
to the 4th of November, with James Craise and Samuel Courtney moving 30,000 pounds of household
effects for them by wagon.
With Woodlawn as their only home, it needed to be a place where their large extended family could live.
Two of the sons, Charles and Livingston, were already married and had brought their families to live
with the Lansings in the
Buffalo house in the 1870 census.
When the Lansings moved from Buffalo, son Livingston had to find his own place, but they would have
certainly expected him to bring his family for long visits.
The advantage of the Mansard style of architecture for the Woodlawn house was that the almost vertical roof
line provided a much larger living space in the same footprint space of the house.
"Lansing was responsible for extensive additions to the house and
it is considered likely that he added the third floor to the structure. By the 1880ís the
roof had been changed to the present mansard form and the 1880 tower
addition extended to become a belvedere."
[Niagara Historical Society and Museum]
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