LeRoy Pennysaver & News

LE ROY PENNYSAVER & NEWS - JUNE 5, 2022 by Lynne Belluscio Carl Wells, the patent medicine entrepreneur, owned a large farm and beautiful Victorian home known as “Dreamland” on East Main Street. When the house burned down, Wells hired local architect, Harold Olmsted to design a new house. As Olmsted drew the plans, he also built a cardboard model that was four feet long and was held together with brass paperclips. Olmsted, who was living in Buffalo at the time, and who didn’t drive, brought the model of the house with him on the train. At Wells’ insistence, Olmsted incorporated an attached garage which was very novel at the time. Wells also maintained that “all people are created equal and as such are deserving of a bathroom all to themselves.” To followWells’ idea, Olmsted cut out an upstairs hall and each bedroom had a bathroom. Harold Olmsted, wanted to incorporate some ironwork inside the house. He went to the Washington Foundry (the same foundry that cast the iron window frames on the Washington Block in LeRoy) to find wooden foundry patterns that were used during the Civil War. Olmsted used these patterns to cast ornamental iron which was incorporated into the new house. The iron was cast by August Fein and Sons. Co. in Buffalo. Norman Dingwall was the contractor for the new house which was built in 1923. As a point of interest, Donald Woodward’s home, now known as Mercygrove, was built for Donald Woodward in 1928 – five years later. Wells’ house had fireplaces built of solid soapstone. The smaller fireplaces were made of brick which had been trucked in from Sardinia. In 1956, Harold remembered the work that he had done for Carl and Bess Wells. “The garden was more or less there, but certain plantings were added. I had already introduced Holly in Ernest (Woodward’s) wall garden on the theory, as I had told him, that if he couldn’t afford to experiment I didn’t know any one else who could! So, we put the holly, now almost thirty feet high, at the door. My son, Burton, and I with the help of Harry Simmons, built the small bird bath and pool and Bess introduced the idea of balled Christmas trees for Christmas. One of these, a Nikka (Japanese) fir, now stands a grown tree on the front lawn and the Retinos pora plumosoa, planted the day of Elizabeth’s wedding, had attained dignified proportions on the south lawn. I stand in the Wells’ east chamber window and see below me those infant pines now grown into manhood. I feel a bit of pride in the part I played and a gratefulness to the young man who made the thing possible.” HaroldOlmstedwas an interesting man.An article in the Buffalo Evening News in 1963, gave a glimpse into his personality. He usually wore wooden shoes, handcrafted in the Netherlands and as he said “gave dignity to a dogwood walking stick.” He remembered, “Aunt Lil” Elizabeth Allen Olmsted, (whose portrait hangs in the front Hall of LeRoy House.) She gave him music lessons when he was young and after a few lessons told him: “You’d better go to drawing school.” So, he went down to Miss Muzzy’s drawing school in Buffalo. He sketched and did architectural watercolors of pillars, columns, churches, cathedrals, country houses, gardens of England, chateaux of the Loire Valley - - even the chintz curtains in the hospital room in Venice where his first child, a daughter, was born. When he returned to Buffalo, he went to work for a landscape architect, Townsend and Fleming. At the invitation of Miss Cornelia Sage, early director of the Albright Art Gallery, he had an exhibition of his European work – the first of numerous shows there. The reporter that interviewed Olmsted at his camp on Sardinia in the Cattaraugus Valley in 1963, made this observation: “You might cite his keen mind, his knowledge of so many things, his unbounded energy and enthusiasm for life – these are important - - but I think the real key is Harold’s almost unlimited interest in and love for his fellow men.” Harold LeRoy Olmsted died March 19, 1972. He was survived by his wife, Evelyn Hill Olmsted and daughters, Clara, and Emily Roderick and Grace Potts and his brother Allen S. Olmsted. “Harold LeRoy Olmsted – Architect of 118 East Main Street”