News Column

Goundry St. building had rich history

August 5, 2014

By Jill Keppeler, Tonawanda News, North Tonawanda, N.Y.

Aug. 05--When 208 Goundry St. in North Tonawanda burned early Tuesday the fire didn't just destroy the possessions and homes of the residents of the nine-unit apartment complex -- it took with it about 125 years of history.

The building, known at the Kent House, Kent Place or Kent Mansion, was built in 1889 and was at the time "one of the finest, most beautiful and magnificent mansions in the city," according to "North Tonawanda: Historic Treasures," a book edited by Donna Zellner Neal, executive director of the North Tonawanda History Museum.

"It's kind of a tragedy, because that was a historic home," Neal said, adding that she would have liked to see it restored to its former glory.

"It's sad. Alexander Granger Kent was really very important."

The building's story starts, according to Neal, with Kent, a lumber dealer active in business and community affairs of his time in North Tonawanda. Kent was born in 1822 in Rome, N.Y., and became a lumber dealer in 1848 when he was 26 years old. In 1860, Kent married Betsey Ransom, granddaughter of Asa Ransom, the first resident of Clarence.

Neal said that the mansion was designed by architect Stanford White of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White -- who also designed the second Madison Square Garden (which was demolished in 1925) and countless other buildings and mansions.

"White and Kent, they were friends," Neal said.

The history museum book describes the house as "a square and well-proportioned house set far back from the street in spacious grounds among rare trees. The entrance was quite impressive, with wide stone steps, four Corinthian columns beside the front door, as was flanked by side windows. A heavy paneled front door was topped by a half-circle window. On the east side, the wall was brown sandstone. A small three-part bay window naturally lit the library.

"The house had porches and balconies, as well as many large rooms, with beautiful Victorian furniture and Oriental rugs decorating them. There was an exquisite Tiffany leaded glass window, which caught the morning sun and reflected a myriad of colors."

According to the museum book, the Kent home was sold during the years of the Great Depression and was vacant until World War II, was it was converted into nine apartments, and has changed owners many times since.


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Source: Tonawanda News (NY)

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