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Millrace North – A charming model of functionality

When Millrace North entered the market in 1969, it was advertised as “an exclusive group of eight Georgian Townhouses overlooking Ellicott Creek.” Base price then was $55,000. Today, Millrace North units list between $350,000 and $500,000. That’s a considerable jump for any piece of property built in the modern era when construction quality was generally poor. But the developer of Millrace added value by doing more than a few things well.

Let’s look at location. Millrace North sits on a one-acre plot that caps the northern end of North Cayuga Road. It’s positioned at the edge of Glen Park, on the shore of Ellicott Creek, in the Village of Williamsville, just minutes from downtown Buffalo via the Kensington Expressway. The setting is subtle seclusion. On a quiet day, you can hear the flow of Glen Falls from a Millrace terrace.

A row of six attached Georgian-style townhouses and two freestanding units make up Millrace North. Built in 1969 by local developer Donald E. Davis, the structures are loaded with curb appeal. They are slender and solid in red brick, with rich white trim. A landscaped island and circular drive separate the front doors of Millrace North from North Cayuga Road. The multilevel townhouses range in size from 2,400 to 3,500 square feet.

All have fireplaces and attached garages, and most have backyard terraces within steps of the creek. From some, you can see the gorge.

Davis was an architectural history buff. A Buffalo Courier-Express article from 1969, “Condominiums Finding Favor Here,” reports Davis was intrigued with American townhouses of the 18th and 19th centuries. He researched their history in Philadelphia and Georgetown before building Millrace North. Working with architect Richard B. Maides, Davis designed Millrace North as an authentic replica, accounting in part for its finer construction.

Millrace North is about more than location and architectural style. Setting Millrace apart from similar developments is its inclusion of a separate apartment within each condo, much like the “maid’s quarters” of older condominium buildings. Some residents have used the bonus space to house a nanny, an in-law, grandchild or caretaker. Others have rented it for supplemental income, or used it as a private guest suite. Several have turned the space into an in-home office.

If, like Rybczynski said, architecture that works is “architecture that helps us make the most of our daily lives,” Millrace North works wonderfully. It packages charm with modern amenities, a country-like setting close to entertainment, shopping, highways and services. All that in addition to a secondary apartment that allows residents to adapt well to various stages of life. Davis was onto something with his home-within-a-home concept, and one wonders why other modern builders have not latched on.

– Marilyn Cappellino