DeGraff Mansion (273 Goundry Street)

Dublin Core


DeGraff Mansion (273 Goundry Street)


DeGraff Mansion c1950DeGraff Mansion c.1970, from DeGraff Mansion Memoirs Few residences are as striking--or ancient--in North Tonawanda as the stately Queen Anne red brick that has presided over the southwest corner of Payne Avenue and Goundry Street since about 1883. Built for prominent early residents James H. DeGraff and Mary Simson, the home has hosted everything from Methodist prayer meetings to alleged LSD and celebrity-fueled bacchanals.

The DeGraffs

On April 30, 1885, banker, engineer and lumber businessman James H. DeGraff and his family move into their new home (the couple has been married some 26 years). James has served as Town Supervisor for both Tonawanda (1875-1876) and Wheatfield (1881-1882). It is one of the first residences in North Tonawanda to boast the luxuries of running water and a "water closet"--before the city waterworks is even completed. This is accomplished by a special reservoir tank on the third floor, to which well water is piped. 

Son LeGrand Simson DeGraff carries on his father's lumber trade with A. Weston & Son, as well as his father's compulsive bankering. He lives at 273, and installs an elevator for his elderly wife (the first in the city, according to legend). He remains in the DeGraff family home until the 1950s. He lives his final few years in DeGraff hospital (which he founded for the benefit of the Tonawandas). The irony and harmony of such an ending almost defy description. He dies April 2, 1960.

An undated item in this collection purports that a Robert Cleveland obtained the mansion from the estate of the DeGraffs.

The Aurigemas

In the 1960s, Norton Jr. (Jay) and Brigitte Aurigema take ownership, run a pizza restaurant out of the home, and host lavish parties for celebrities playing Melody Fair. One notorious soiree (with visiting stars from a touring production of Cabaret) is raided by police in the summer of 1972. LSD and narcotics are recovered, and police say there were 150 people roaming all over the house. Jay and a few others are charged, but the charges are dropped due to technical deficiencies in the search warrant.  Many amazing family photographs of some of their heady hijinks are on the DeGraff Mansion Memoirs Facebook page.

After the Aurigemas

In 1978 the current owners take charge of the historic property and go to extraordinary lengths to restore it. Their son writes on Facebook in 2023:
We had a skylift working on the house an entire summer reworking all the eves. My father used to be on the roof in his harness and scaffolding tuckpointing the chimneys. My mother recreated all the stencils for the interior walls and made new jigs for the plaster crown molding. THEY absolutely LOVED that house and cared for it immensely.
Their son is currently working on a plan to restore the ancient beauty once again, and is winning community support. Learn more at DeGraff Mansion Restoration Page.


  • Historic Treasures Volume I - Ed. Donna Zellner Neal (2011)
  • NT Library Genealogy Club Newsletter, May 2011


DeGraff Mansion, illustration (Dennis Reed Jr, 2023).jpg


For more variations, see my Art section.