Field Trip Walking Tour
Shea's Performing Arts Center (1926)Shea's Info Audio File
C. W. and G. W. Rapp
646 Main St
Buffalo, NY 14202
With the popular rise of movie palaces and nickelodeons in the early twentieth century, public entertainment establishments, like Shea’s, vied with one other to create the most opulent and theatrical venues for their patrons. Buffalo was home to numerous entertainment establishments throughout the first half of the twentieth century, all of them emulating (to some degree) the emphasis on spectacle seen in Garnier’s Paris Opera House; venues, like the early shopping districts and covered markets, to which people came, not only to see, but also to be seen, and Shea’s is no exception. Today, Shea’s is the last of these magnificent pleasure palaces standing in Buffalo, but a visit to this incredible performing arts center provides a window into a period when the show was only part of the entertainment, and the venue was as much a stage as that on which the official performers plied their trade.
For more information: http://buffaloah.com/a/main/646/peters/peters.html
Market Arcade (1892)
Green and Wicks
639 Main Street
There are incredibly strong associations between the architecture of E. B. Green and the city of Buffalo; not only was Green one of Buffalo’s most renowned indigenous architects, but his work can also be seen throughout the city. While the Market Arcade may not be emblematic of Green and Wicks’s architecture oeuvre, it does respond well to its intended program, while at the same time, finding a secure place within the tradition of spectacular architecture originating with the Garnier’s Paris Opera House, and with the emerging indoor mall that is indicative of the rise of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century. Thus, it embodies strategies also seen in the Paris Arcades and in Eiffel’s Au Bon Marche in Paris. This is a place where both the consumers and the merchandise were on display, and where the importance of appearance reigned supreme.
It is the only extant 19th century indoor market located in Buffalo, and bears distinct similarities to the Burlington Arcade in London, which the original owner, G. B. Marshall, suggested to Green and Wicks as a model. Beaux-Arts in style, the Market Arcade is intimately scaled, and once served to connect the Main Street pedestrian mall to the nearby Chippewa Market.
For more information: http://buffaloah.com/a/bflobest/market/market.html
Electric Tower (1912)
August Esenwein and John Johnson
535 Washington Street
Based on utopian reconstructions of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and inspired by the Electric Tower at the Pan-American Exposition, the General Electric Tower is, ultimately, a tribute to light, and to the electrical power that transformed lighting conditions around the world. The Tower exhibits a unique octagonal plan, complemented by a gleaming white terracotta exterior that emphasizes the nature of light in architectural form. It is designed in a Neo-Classical Beaux-Arts style, and is nicely complemented by additions built in 1924 and 1927. It is notable for the way in which light plays across the façade, creating a dialogue of solid and void through the reflectance of the terracotta façade as it is counterpoised by the extensive fenestration, which appears dark in comparison.
Lafayette Hotel (1904)
Louise Blanchard Bethune
391 Washington Street
Designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first woman to be a member of the AIA, this beautiful French Renaissance-style hotel is notable for the rich chromatic interplay of red-brick and terracotta in its façade. Situated next to the Public Library, in its heyday, the Lafayette Hotel was one of the 15 finest hotels in the country. Originally designed to accommodate the influx of people expected for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, the Lafayette hotel didn’t open its doors until 1904.
For more information:http://buffaloah.com/a/washngtn/391/index.html#Like
Old Post Office (1894-1901)
Jeremiah O’Rourke, William Aiken and James Knox Taylor
121 Ellicott Street
Described in Buffalo Architecture: A Guide as a progeny of H. H. Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse, this building reflects the importance of Richardson’s influence, which pervades many of Buffalo’s late 19th century architecture, and which can be seen firsthand at his Buffalo State Hospital complex. The building consists of numerous pavilions and galleries designed around a large, centrally lit courtyard, capped with an ornate glass ceiling, similar to that of the nearby Ellicott Square Building by Daniel Burnham, whose influence was perhaps equal to that of Richardson. The building is an eclectic combination of several historical styles, including Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance, with Renaissance styling dominating the large interior courtyard, Gothic detailing evident on the exterior of the building, and Romanesque touches evident in the rounded arches of the exterior and in the toll Florentine Romanesque tower.
This building is also important for the way in which it was renovated and reused as a community college in its later history.
For more information:
Ellicott Square Building (1895-1896)
D. H. Burnham and Company
295 Main Street
Like Louis Sullivan and H. H. Richardson, Daniel Burnham’s architectural production defined the stylistic trajectory of his time, and he enjoyed many important commissions in the late nineteenth century. However, unlike Sullivan, Burnham was much more comfortable working in established stylistic traditions, and was significantly less interested in developing a unique American style of architect. This is clearly seen in his Ellicott Square Building, which, like his earlier Rookery Building (1886) in Chicago, is constructed around an interior court with glass-covered concourse. The detailing of the buildings terracotta exterior is academic French Renaissance in derivation, while the interior court includes an ornate mosaic floor made from 23 million pieces of imported Italian marble depicting sun symbols from civilizations from around the world. The center contains a disc showing points of the compass, surrounded by a chain, symbolizing the strength of business organizations in the United states.
For more information: http://www.buffaloah.com/a/main/295/brooks.html
St. Paul's Episcopal Church (1849-1851)
128 Pearl Street
Inspired by the social theories of John Ruskin and A. W. N. Pugin (who designed the Gothic detailing for the Parliament Building in London), Richard Upjohn turned to Gothic architecture as a salve for the “sickness” of industrialization, and as an alternative to the “corruption” of the classical revival (with its pagan associations), which were viewed as emblematic of the spiritual crippling caused by industrial environments. Thus, the language of St. Paul’s, which is derived from a particular form of 13th century British Gothic known as Early English, is at once a reference to the religious character of the building and a symbol of spiritual reawakening designed specifically to heal the wounds of industrial materialism by emphasizing craft over mass production and handwork over that of the machine. The structure is notable for its Medina sandstone exterior, its lancet windows, the simplicity of its moldings, the hammerbeam roof structure of its interior (an expression of architectural sincerity, and the beauty of exposed structural elements common to later Gothic vaulting.
A fire in 1888 compromised much of the original building, which was rebuilt by Robert Gibson, who added a clerestory, transept arches and detailing from the Decorated Gothic style of the 14th century – something with which the original architect might have had some exception given his particular social orientation. The naturalistically carved capitals and the curvilinear tracery of the chancel window are also characteristics of this more ornate phase of English Gothic architecture.
For more information: http:Guaranty Building (also known as Prudential Building) (1895 – 1896)Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler
28 Church Street
Louis Sullivan was perhaps the preeminent American early modernist architect, and along with H. H. Richardson and Daniel Burnham, he was also one of America’s most famous architects at the time of the Guaranty’s construction. The Guaranty represents the apex of Sullivan’s tall-building design, evincing a number of refinements on the architect’s earlier Wainwright Building (1891) in St. Louis. Here, the squat, Renaissance-inspired form of the Wainwright has been elongated, emphasizing the verticality of the structure, and the stringent tripartite division of the Wainwright’s façade has been softened, providing a more organic integration of its parts. However, while the facades of both the Wainwright and the Guaranty Buildings derive their organization from Renaissance palazzos, what sets Sullivan apart from his peers is his conscious attempt to develop a distinctly American architectural tradition.
This is best seen in the terracotta ornamental detailing of the Guaranty’s façade, which eschews historical references in preference for abstract geometrical and foliate designs. These motifs cover the entirety of the exterior, and extend to the handrails and pier detailing of the interior. Combined with Sullivan’s emphasis of the vertical nature of the building, these details represent a conscious effort to create a uniquely American style. This said, the soft, salmon colored terracotta embellishments of the building’s exterior are not entirely decorative, as the terracotta provides a layer of fireproofing for the building’s innovative steel structure; a problem of early American tall building design that is, here, elegantly resolved through decorative detailing.
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Old County Hall (1871 – 1876)
Andrew J. Warner; Sculpture: Giovanni F. Sala
92 Franklin Street
The grandest example of High Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in Buffalo, the monochromatic, symmetrical design of the Old County Hall is rich in sculptural effects, evincing a wonderful quasi-Baroque plasticity in its detailing. This is perhaps best captured in the play of light and shadow across the volumes of the building, resulting in illusionistic conditions of solid and void that emphasize the structure’s monumentality. The severity of the design, as well as its sculptural detailing may be influenced by the architecture of H. H. Richardson, on whose Buffalo State Hospital Andrew Warner served as supervising architect.
The statues on the monumental clock tower represent the figures of Justice, the Mechanical Arts, Agriculture and Commerce, aligning the political ascendency of the city with its economic prowess at the time of the building’s construction. The building also stands on the site of the old Franklin Square Cemetery, Buffalo’s second burial ground, rooting the Old County Hall, almost literally, into the earliest, tumultuous history of the city’s birth.
For more information: http://www.buffaloah.com/a/franklin/92/index.html
64 Court St
Buffalo, NY 14202
NYS Office Building
65 Court St
Buffalo, NY 14202
Statler Towers (1921 – 1923)
George B. Post and Sons
107 Delaware Ave
Buffalo, NY 14202
Ellsworth Statler built several hotels in Buffalo at the turn of the last century, including one at the corner of Swan and Washington Streets between 1905 and 1908, and a second hotel on Delaware Ave. at Niagara Square between 1921 and 1923. The first hotel was notable for its innovation in plumbing design, which contributed greatly to the development of mechanical service cores for tall buildings. The system of stacked plumbing developed in this hotel is common in all tall buildings in North America, and is used in domestic architecture of more than one story today. It also made the Statler Hotel one of the first hotels to offer a private bathroom in every room with a tub and sink, and hot and cold running water.
The second hotel, which today sits where the former Millard Fillmore mansion once stood, is notable for the opulence of its main reception room and ballroom, as well as the interesting lintels of its windows. The red-brick façade is balanced well by the white of its detailing, a color combination that is common in much of Buffalo’s historic architecture. This hotel has recently been purchased, and there are plans for future renovation and adaptive reuse.
Buffalo City Hall (1929-1930)
George J. Dietel and John J. Wade, with Sullivan W. Jones
65 Niagara Square
Buffalo, NY 14202
Inspired by the theatrical, futuristic renderings of Hugh Ferriss, Buffalo City Hall presents a dramatic profile to visitors of the city’s downtown. This Art Deco building also expresses Buffalo’s status as one of the most modern cities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while referencing the rich history of the site in the figures of its frieze, its decorative detailing and its numerous murals. The frieze includes 21 figures that represent aspects of the city’s cultural and economic life, while the bronze doors of its main entrance incorporate symbols of the Native American tribes that once inhabited the region. Statues of Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland adorn the corners, connecting Buffalo’s regional importance to its national presence. Of equal note are the murals of the interior, its sculpted piers and its famous sunburst skylight window. The observatory on the 28th floor affords spectacular views of the city and lake Erie.
St. Anthony of Padua (1891)
160 Court Street
Designed in a reserved Florentine Gothic Style, St. Anthony of Padua was the center of a bustling Italian community once located were the current Shoreline Apartments (designed by Paul Rudolph) currently stand. Demolished under Mayor Sedita (who came from this neighborhood), the loss of this community and others like it in the downtown region throughout the mid- to late twentieth century has become emblematic of the difficult times that the city faced during these decades, and the arguably misdirected response of local business and government leaders in their attempt to stem exurban migration, and reinvigorate downtown businesses. Today, only St. Anthony’s remains of this once vibrant Italian community, a monument to the former diversity of the downtown area, and of its complex, and sometimes tragic, history.
Richardson Olmsted Complex (also known as the Buffalo State Hospital) (1871-1896)
H. H. Richardson
400 Forest Avenue
Like Louis Sullivan and Danial Burnham, H. H. Richardson was one of the most renowned architects of his day, and his contributions to American 19th century architecture cannot be over-estimated. Of the extant examples of this architect’s profuse oeuvre, the Buffalo State Hospital is one of the largest, and represents his only hospital design. The Buffalo State Hospital uses a Kirkbride plan (common to psychiatric institutions of the day), with patient housing radiating from the central admissions and administrative complex, whose two prominent towers give the Hospital its distinctive profile. Designed in a revivalist Romanesque style, and integrated within an Omstead-designed park setting, the Hospital represents a particularly progressive approach to psychiatric care, in which more disturbed patients were housed further from the administrative center, and progressed towards this center as their ailments subsided, with the ultimate goal of leaving the facility entirely cured.
The size, configuration and condition of the existing buildings pose significant challenges to the revitalization and reuse of this complex, but they also provide a number of unique opportunities for inventive adaptive reuse initiatives.
For more information: www.richardson-olmsted.com.
Albright Knox Museum (1900-1905)
Green and Wicks
1285 Elmwood Avenue
Designed by E. B. Green, who was not only one of Buffalo’s most famous architects at the time, but who was also a close friend of John J. Albright, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery harkens back to the Erectheum of the Athenian Acropolis for its main symbolic imagery. Seventy-four freestanding columns circumvent the structure, forming the porticoes, hemicycle and loggia of the building, which also includes two Erectheum porches, containing scaled-down duplicates of the original Greek buildings iconic columns. When completed, the building contained more than 5,000 tons of marble and had more columns than any other building in the United States, except for the Capitol Building in Washington D. C. The marble was sourced in the same Maryland quarry from which the marble used for the Washington Monument was excavated.
In 1962, the Albright-Knox hired Buffalo native Gordon Bunshaft to provide an addition to the museum. Designed in the International Style, Bunshaft’s noticeably modern addition uses the same proportions found in the original museum. This provided formal resonances between the original building and its new addition, while the severity of Bunshaft’s rigidly rectilinear architecture serves as an austere contrast to the opulence of the earlier building. This contrast is best seen in Bunshaft’s “black box,” which houses the auditorium, and which creates a chromatic dialogue with the white finish of the marble façade of the main museum.
For more information: http://buffaloah.com/a/elmwd/1285/albhist.html
Buffalo Historical Society (formerly the Pan-American Building) (1901)
25 Nottingham Court
The only permanent building erected for the Pan-American Exposition, the building that now houses the Buffalo Historical Society served as the New York State Pavilion during the Expo. The building is designed in a Neo-Classical style, and is faced with Vermont Marble. The south portico, which overlooks Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, is a scaled-down version of the East façade of the Parthenon. The building was expanded in 1927, to match the architect’s original plans for the building, by the addition of the Library and Auditorium. Eleven sculptures, depicting significant events in local history, surround the building, and allegorical figures depicting History and Ethnology appear on the bronze entrance doors.
The building became the headquarters for the Buffalo Historical Society in 1902.
For more information: http://www.bechs.org/about_us/about_us.html