Alexander Main Curtiss House / Ronald McDonald House
780 West Ferry St., Buffalo, NY

Visitor Information

1895 - 1912

Dr. Alexander Main Curtiss and family

(Sophia Jane. Colman Curtiss and sons Colman, Geoffrey and Charles)

1913 - 1922

Evan Hollister and family
(Ruth Albright Hollister and children Mary and Evan)

1923 - 1939

Robert B. Adam II and family
(Lena Stevens Adam and children Harriet, Florence and Robert Jr.)

1940 - 1954

Subdivided as a boarding house

1955 - 1981

Rehabilitated into elegant apartments by developer Hugh Perry and architect Gordon Hayes


Ronald McDonald House

Dr. Alexander Main Curtiss

West Ferry Street between Delaware and Elmwood Avenues was one of Buffalo's most prestigious addresses at the turn of the century. This was the neighborhood that Dr. Alexander Main Curtiss chose to build a new home in 1895 (the date appears on the conductor heads at the top of the downspouts.)

The enormous estate of John J. Albright at 730 West Ferry (still marked by the extensive brick wall along the street), with grounds landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, was only a few houses away.

Dr. Curtiss was the son of Charles Gould Curtiss and Amelia Lent Main Curtiss. Charles Curtiss, a self-made man, was a close friend of Grover Cleveland.

Alexander Curtiss grew up in the family's large stone house at 63 West Huron Street, graduated from Old Central High School, Cornell University, and New York Homeopathic Medical College. He practiced medicine in Buffalo for many years and also served as a director of the Third National Bank of Buffalo and as a trustee of the Fidelity Guaranty and Security Company.

Dr. Curtiss' family consisted of his wife, Sophia Jane Colman Curtiss, and three sons, Cohnan, Geoffrey and Charles. Family members recall that in an attempt to keep order in the house, Mrs. Curtiss required her three energetic sons to use the back stairs instead of the elegant main staircase which was reserved for special occasions.

Evan Hollister

The Evan Hollister family lived at 780 West Ferry from 1913 until 1922. Mr. and Mrs. Hollister were both from prominent Buffalo families.

Evan Hollister was an outstanding trial lawyer and civic patriot who worked to promote Buffalo's business, intellectual and cultural life. .Mr. Hollister counted three U.S. Presidents among his wide circle of acquaintances: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In his leisure time, Mr., Hollister enjoyed reading and big game hunting.

Mrs. Hollister was also active in the community, carrying on her family's leadership in the Albright Art Gallery as well as involvement with the Red Cross, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, General Hospital and the Boy Scouts. To keep in mind what it took to manage a home and lifestyle of this kind in the early part of the century, the 1915 census indicates that the four-member Hollister family was served by four domestic servants and a chauffeur!

Robert B. Adam II

From 1923-1939, Robert B. Adam II, his wife Lena Stevens Adam and their three children lived in the house. Wedding receptions for the two daughters, Harriet and Florence, were held under large tents which filled the lawn on the east side of the house.

Born in 1863, Adam came to Buffalo at the age of 9 and was adopted by his uncle, Robert B. Adam Sr., whose name he acquired. A distinguished merchant who served as president of Adam, Meldrum and Anderson for 38 years,

Mr. Adam was also a noted scholar in the field of English literature. His library held a renowned collection of the works of Dr. Samuel Johnson and John Ruskin, which his father began and he expanded upon. In 1930, Yale University conferred on Adam an honorary degree in recognition of his scholarship in the field of literature. The Adam library was located on the west side of the house, just behind the parlor on the left as you walk in.

Boarding house

When the Adam family moved in 1939, the home stood vacant for a year and then was subdivided as a boarding house.


In 1955, developer Hugh Perry and architect Gordon Hayes rehabilitated the structure into elegant apartments.

Ronald McDonald House

It became the Ronald McDonald House in 1982 with an initial seed grant from the McDonald's Corporation and the support and leadership of Western New Yorkers. Current funding comes from the generosity of the community.

- Source: "History of 780 West Ferry Street," available at the Ronald McDonald House. 716.883-1177

Special thanks to the Ronald McDonald House administrators for their cooperation
Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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