The Ellicott Square Building & Its Namesake

The Ellicott Square Building & Its Namesake

As long as I can remember the Ellicott Square Building has always just been there.  Over the years, I’ve eaten lunch here.  I’ve shopped here. I’ve paid my monthly parking fees here.  I’ve even passed through the building in order to warm up on my way to or from someplace close by. What I mean is, I knew it was beautiful, but I was always too busy to really take notice.

Let’s take notice now.

To do that, we’ll start with its namesake.  It was named for Joseph Ellicott, who was an agent for the Holland Land Company, who owned all of Western New York at one time.  In 1804 Ellicott laid out the streets of Buffalo. While doing so, he purchased the piece of property that the Ellicott Square Building stands on. The plot was originally much larger and spanned from Swan Street to Eagle Street (now South Division), and from Main Street all the way out to Jefferson Avenue.

Joseph Ellicott, photo from wnt.ecc.edu

The original property itself had a half moon shape that jutted out into Main Street.  Ellicott had planned to build his family estate on the property, with the mansion sitting in the half moon.  But that plan never came to fruition, and he never developed the property.

Map of Buffalo Village showing part of Ellicott’s original 100 acres.   Map from “Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time: Can’t You Hear the Whistle Blowing on Exchange Street?”

Ellicott divided the rest of Buffalo into lots and sold them at a fair price, with interest, to homesteaders, businessmen and investors alike.  Ellicott was a fair man, and he was reportedly lenient with people who had trouble paying their mortgages, and at times accepted goods for payment when necessary.

It could be said of Ellicott that he foresaw the success that Buffalo would one day enjoy, and he worked hard to contribute to that success.  He in fact, was one of the first supporters of the building of the Erie Canal along with such local leaders as  George Coit  and Charles Townsend, among others.

On a side note, the city and the highway commissioners later decided that Main Street needed to be re-routed to cut straight through that half moon section of Ellicott’s land.  He responded by changing his will, so that the 100 acre plot that was to be donated to the city for a park, would remain with his family members. Had that not happened, the Ellicott Square Building most certainly would not have been built.

Joseph Ellicott passed away in 1826.  He never married or had children, but the rest of his family members inherited the property.

Fast forward almost 70 years, to 1895.  Ellicott’s family members and their heirs still own part of that original 100 acre property. Namely, the part that the Ellicott Square Building sits on today.  At that time, it was already a thriving city block, known as “Ellicott Square”.  

Buildings on the thriving “Ellicott Square” before the Ellicott Square Building was built in 1895-96.   Both Photos from Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo, Severance, Frank H.

The Ellicott Company (Joseph’s family & their heirs) wanted to erect an office   building that would span the entire block.  They commissioned the Daniel H. Burnham Company, specifically Charles Atwood as the architect to do the job. The result was the Ellicott Square Building, which opened in May of 1896.  

The razing of buildings aside, which was commonplace in Buffalo at the time, you can understand the vision they had in designing the Ellicott Square Building.  They looked at it as merging all the existing buildings into one cohesive, and very efficient, working building.

When completed it was the largest office building in the world.  It indeed spans the entire city block.  It is 10 stories of steel frame construction with the capacity to support 10 more, had 60 offices, 16 counting rooms and 40 retail spaces.

The exterior is terra cotta, granite, iron and brick facade.  The elaborate cornice was removed in 1971 when it began to crumble.  The building was painted a uniform grey at that time, as the building materials had not worn to the same color.  There are still medusa heads lining the roof of the entire building.

The Main Street side and the Washington Street side are mirror images. Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom & war, and Mercury, the Roman god of travel & commerce appear above the elaborate entrances on both of those sides of the building.

The interior is nothing short of magnificent.  The building is referred to as a square doughnut design because the first two floors are open to an incredible skylight, which admittedly needs work both inside and out. The courtyard underneath the skylight is beautiful with elegant staircases on either end leading to the second story retail spaces and offices above.  

The elaborate elevator doors were added in 1926 and the panels show the history of Buffalo, the top four panels depicting pre-industrial Buffalo, and the bottom four show a more modern industrial Buffalo.  The almost unbelievable mosaic floor was added in 1930, created from 23 million individual pieces of Italian marble. It was designed by Winthrop Kent & James A. Johnson, and includes compass points in the center of the court, with depictions of sun symbols from civilizations around the globe spanning out to the four corners.

The Ellicott Square Building was billed at the time as the place you could get two days worth of work done in one day.  You see, the idea of having so many retail shops in one office building, referred to now as mixed use, was a very new idea in 1896.  It was a time when most office workers went home for their noontime meal. Or left in the afternoon for a haircut and a shave. Or to pick up that special something for that special someone.  All that took time away from their work.   In the Ellicott Square Building, all of those places were now contained within the same space.

Ellsworth Statler (of the famed Statler Hotel chain) had a restaurant in the building.  He advertised heavily and brought people in to the 500 seat restaurant by placing $5 gold coins in five random bowls of ice cream each day. He contributed to the changing dynamic of downtown Buffalo by keeping people downtown during the lunchtime hour. His restaurant operated in the building until 1940.

I should add here that the reason I am writing about the Ellicott Square Building is by the suggestion of my Aunt.   She worked in the building in the early 1970’s and fondly remembers her time there working in such beautiful surroundings.  She remembers being very conscious of the quality of the building materials used to make it last as long as it has. She also fondly remembers eating at Brinkworth’s restaurant in the southwest corner of the lobby.  Apparently their soups and their open faced Reuben sandwiches were as memorable as the surroundings.

Restaurants were only a part of what was going on in the building in 1896.  Brothers Mitchell and Moe Mark opened the world’s first dedicated movie theater in the Ellicott Square Building in October of that year. Previous to this theater, movies were only shown in traveling shows in lecture halls and vaudeville theaters. This was the first cinema designed as a moving picture theater.  It was reportedly very opulent, with a white & gold color scheme, was carpeted in rich velvet and featured elaborately carved woodwork. People who paid the fee, which in the beginning was 3 cents, would be shown a series of short clips that were roughly one minute long.  In the first year alone, Mitchell Mark stated that 200,000 people came through its doors.

Statue of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens, who lived in Buffalo for a short time) in the courtyard.

While inside the building now, with my eyes wide open, I feel the rich history here.  I feel the Italian tile floor beneath my feet, the beautifully worn marble on the stairs, the intricate wrought iron work on the railings, the huge skylight, the brass elevator doors…and the energy.  The place is bustling. But there are people sitting at the tables, relaxing, taking it all in as well.

They are enjoying lunch at one of four food stands (delicious food I might add!).  There is a barber shop (it’s considered cool to go to a barber shop these days), doctors, lawyers, a dentist, a gym, real estate companies, a bank, several shops, NYS offices, and the list goes on and on.

Ironically, the present owner of the building is the Ellicott Development Company, which is owned by Carl Paladino, who is no relation to Joseph Ellicott or his heirs.

It’s pretty cool that today, almost 125 years later, this building is still incredible and still being used for the same basic vision the Ellicott Company had when they first built it.  A mixed use office building with retail space to serve the people who work in the building and the surrounding downtown area.   My aunt with her story of working in the building, made me think about how many people have passed through the revolving doors at the entrances and have spent time enjoying the wonders that are the Ellicott Square Building.   Aunt Judi, let’s go to lunch there together soon!

Check it out next time you’re downtown, maybe grab a bite to eat on your lunch hour, or do a little shopping, or get a haircut, or…

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City Living: Bryant Street + St. Georges Square

City Living: Bryant Street + St. Georges Square

After I wrote the post about Norwood Ave, I received an email from a reader asking me to write about Bryant Street. It was already on my list, but that email made me put it on the actual schedule. This is why I love getting your emails!

So I set out with a friend to take a morning walk around the Elmwood Village and to check out Bryant Street up close. I admit, driving it is usually how I see it. Which we all know means I don’t really see it.

Bryant Street runs between Main Street and Richmond Ave. I’m going to concentrate on the section between Delaware and Elmwood. I’m not even going to discuss the former Women and Children’s Hospital Building or the new build at the northeast corner of Bryant and Elmwood. Mostly because there is so much going on this street, that I have to limit what to talk about.

That’s probably the hardest part of my job as a blogger. Deciding what not to talk about. Almost every time I publish a post, someone will contact me with additional information about the subject. Most of the time (not always!) I already knew about the info, but had to choose not to include it, because I am under no illusions here.

Basically, if the post is too long, no one will read it. Not joking.

Back to Bryant

Anyways, back to Bryant Street. Bryant has quite a collection of homes from the late 1800s, which is relatively old as the Elmwood Village goes. It’s also got a cul-de-sac that was added in the 1950s with newer homes built between 1956 and 1962! Which is relatively new as the Elmwood Village goes. There are E.B. Green designed apartment houses too! And finally, we’ll visit a family we’ve visited before, back in September of 2020. Come hike with me.

Let’s Take a Look

The corner of Delaware and Bryant is anchored on both sides by apartments, and the addresses are both on Delaware. Both appear to be nice places to live. They’re on one of Buffalo’s best streets in the middle of Millionaire’s Row. The building on the south side of Bryant is simply called 900 Delaware, pictured first. The building on the north side is called Bryant Apartments, shown in the second grouping.

Lovely, both of them. The landscaping at 900 Delaware is stunning and park-like.

At the Bryant Apartments, the wrought iron hooks me! And those lions facing Delaware, wow!

More Homes Along Bryant

There is some question as to when this home (below) was built. The city has it at 1850, but the Elmwood Historic District Registration Application lists it as 1877. That’s a big difference. Makes me wonder if the 1850 home was torn down at some point, and this home built? Real estate ads list it as 1850. Either way, this home has now been broken up into apartments. But you can see what a lovely one family home it must have been. The exterior retains all of the charm of the late 19th century.

According to an article in the Buffalo Courier in March of 1907, E.B. Green purchased this house “to be used as a home”. Regular readers of the blog will recognize that name as one of Buffalo’s most well respected and prolific architects of his day. Cool. I always love to see the kind of homes an architect would choose to purchase.

Please note that I don’t know for sure that ‘the’ E.B. Green moved into this home himself.

And this one, below. Isn’t it great with that bay window that flows right from the first floor into the second floor, in the mansard roof! Sweet. I also really like the window next to it. How unusual!

Next – E.B. Green – Again!

And just across the street are these. When my friend and I came upon them, we were absolutely enchanted. I mean, come on! These are the stuff secret garden stories are written about!

I love everything about these. Including the fact that when I went home, I did a bit of research and learned they were designed by E.B. Green in 1916! It shows. They’re spectacular. And I wonder who does the landscaping – that’s what really makes these stand out. Although, the landscaping provides quite a bit of privacy, you’d really never notice them unless you were on foot!

They were built as townhomes, and all three are still fantastic today! I especially love the wrought iron and the entryways. They make me want to go inside!

Moving Right Along

This home, below, is a double – having separate addresses.

There are a couple of familiar names associated with this house. Buffalo Attorney William B. Hoyt Sr., for one. I found evidence that he was living here in 1894. But here’s another discrepancy. Buffalo city records list this house as being built in 1896. Maybe those records are not exactly accurate, sometimes they’re off a bit, depending on recordkeeping and tax records etc.

Check out this tower with its conical roof and detailing! Lovely!

Also associated with this home is the Hascal Taylor family. Hascal Taylor was the man who commissioned Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan to design the Guaranty Building. But Taylor passed away just before the actual building began, in 1895. The Guaranty Construction Company (the builder who was hired to build it) secured financing and went ahead with construction. Lucky for us they did. Can’t really imagine Buffalo without it!

Anyway, the Taylor family, including Hascal, his wife Louise and three children, Kate, Emory and Jessie, at one time lived on Delaware Ave. However, by 1911 all three children were living in this home on Bryant. Louise had passed away by then as well. Kate passed away in 1911, and Emory and Jessie both followed her in 1913, just a couple of months apart. What a sad story!

And More

This home, below, has an interesting story. One couple who lived here was Mr. & Mrs. John R. Munroe. They came to Buffalo in 1850, from Coniston, England. This home was built in 1900, but it is unclear whether they actually built the home. You see, John was in the construction business, and built many of the Delaware Mansions. So he lived very close to all the homes he helped build. Cool.

When Mrs. Munroe passed away in 1907, the pair were the only living charter members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1854!

This home, below, was built in 1870! It was listed for sale in 1874, stating that it was nearly new, had marble fireplaces, gas lights throughout, a parlour, a sitting room, library, a large dining room, a kitchen and a wood shed on the first floor, and six sleeping rooms upstairs. Also, a ‘splendid well of water’, and a basement under it all. Sweet!

The lot was listed as ‘102 foot frontage, 192 feet deep with all kinds of the choicest fruits growing’. There’s something you wouldn’t see in a real estate ad today!

Also, if this lot was that wide in 1874, it would make sense that this was the first home in this little section. There are three other homes that are probably also on the original lot, which were sectioned off and sold at some point. Very, very interesting.

Next, below, which I believe to be on the original property of the Monroe family, is interesting indeed. This is where my friend said, “I have never even noticed the driveway, or the garage! I need to slow down and start noticing things!” This is why walking is good. You see more!

It’s at this home that I met Jill, who has lived here for eighteen years. She loves the house, and the neighborhood. She says the garage addition was added in the late 1950’s or possibly 1960. I’m sure it’s a very convenient addition to the home! Love your rock collection, Jill!

And These Three

This home is charming. Check out the arched window in the pediment on the porch! The oval leaded glass window, and the dormers add even more charm!

This is the last home on the north side of the street, above, before running into the former Women and Children’s Hospital, which was moved to the Medical Campus on Ellicott Street and renamed Oishei Children’s Hospital. The former hospital is slated for massive renovations, including residential, educational, retail, hospitality and public spaces. The Elmwood Village and the residents of Bryant and Hodge Streets await this project moving forward.

Crossing the Street

Crossing the street at Oakland Place I notice a home on Bryant, to my left, below. I’ve never noticed this house before. It’s a double that appears to be in fantastic shape. It’s got everything you could possibly want, including that upper deck to watch the sunset while grilling up something scrumptious. Just sayin. It’s a great house!

This home, below is actually on Oakland Place and is almost completely private thanks to the trees!

Across Oakland Place is a home that has it’s address on Bryant Street, according to the city. But used to have an Oakland Place address, and appears to still have that address affixed to the home. It’s visible in this photo below. To me, it faces Oakland Place, and I believe it’s the address that is currently being used. Not sure why this kind of thing happens, but I’ve seen it before. It is a beautiful home, yes?!

And a set of triplets, below. I’ve seen this before too, where there are three homes built in a neighborhood like this, and they’re all the same house. Executed somewhat differently, but essentially the same. Take a look. All three are very well done and have been maintained well!

Next Up, Two Apartment Buildings

I would live in either of these. Reminiscent of New Orleans, these apartment buildings are fabulous. They’ve both had their porches restored, and they’re magnificent! Yes, I’d live in either one, but only if I could have one of the front apartments that include a porch! You all know how I love a good porch! And these are some of the best in Buffalo!

Of course, the view from these porches is the old hospital. Would have been okay back in the day, but now? Not so much. (Let’s go Ellicott Development Company and Sinatra Real Estate.)

And Three More

This first one is having work done on the porch. It seems they’re having structural issues. I like to see a homeowner taking care of this kind of thing before it’s too late to save it. This is a great home, curious little railing over the second floor window. Love the shingles and detailing on the peak. The landscaping is pretty nice too!

This one is pretty, below, but I wish we could see more of it. I like the large eaves, and look at the details above the double hung window. Beautiful!

And this one, below, is intriguing. I love the wrought iron, especially on the windows at the front. From the street, the (former) openings on the side of the building itself don’t appear to have been wide enough for carriages, but then, what are they? And if they were originally for carriages, why four of them in addition to the two garages?

After a little research, I found that this home used to be a dress shop which opened in 1928. It was Tucker’s Dress Shop, owned by Frank Tucker. The openings were most likely display windows! The shop catered to ‘a higher class’ according to their advertisements and held their own with the likes of the JN Adam Co., The Sample Dress Shop, and Flint & Kent. Cool!

I’d love to time travel to shop in any one of those stores in 1928. When, oh when, will time travel be a thing?!

This is the last home on the street before Elmwood Ave and is across from a new, mixed-use building going up on the northeast corner of Bryant and Elmwood. I like the look of the plan for this building, but I’m not sure the Elmwood Village needs many more of these. Time will tell.

Now, let’s get to that family I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

The Goodyears

Back in September of 2020, I wrote a post about the Goodyear Mansion on Delaware Ave. Bryant street is just around the corner from that home/turned school/now turning into an apartment building. Here on Bryant, we’ve got the chance to meet up with our old friends the Goodyears and their various homes. It’s a great story.

Remember Ella Goodyear, wife of lumber/railroad tycoon Charles Goodyear, and their four children, A. Conger, Esther, Charles Jr and Bradley? Well, Ella arranged to purchase or build homes for three of the four that backed up to her own home and extensive grounds on Delaware Ave. I couldn’t find any evidence that Bradley (the youngest Goodyear child) ever lived on Bryant or Oakland Place. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t.

Photo Credit: Bogalusa Story by C.W. Goodyear

First Up

Let’s start with this one, below. It’s not actually on Bryant. It’s on Oakland Place around the corner. But it used to be on Bryant. Specifically, at 178. (That number is no longer used on Bryant.) Ella purchased the house in 1911 or 1912. She had it lifted up, turned, and moved into its final resting spot on Oakland Place, where she already owned a plot of land adjacent to her own home.

Yard work being done here at the former Goodyear home.

Charles and Grace (Rumsey) Goodyear Jr. spent the first part of their marriage in Louisiana, while Charles oversaw Goodyear lumber interests there. But Grace insisted on returning to Buffalo in 1911. Her family was also a prominent Buffalo family and she wanted to return to her roots here. They moved into the Oakland Place home, above. Ella had it transferred into Grace’s name. There, they stayed for ten years.

When Charles and Grace moved into a newly completed home on Bryant Street (below), Grace returned the home to Ella, who rented it out for a while, before transferring ownership to her daughter Esther in 1936.

The new home on Bryant is beautiful. The Tudor styling is unique on Bryant, and the use of stone here is fantastic! I love the windows!

Sad to Report

Sadly, the home on Bryant Street (above) was not a happy one for Charles Jr. and Grace. Charles had an affair with Marion Spaulding, wife of Stephan Van Rensselaer (SVR, as he was known) Spaulding Sr., also members of Buffalo ‘society’. By 1935, the two had divorced their spouses, and married each other. Needless to say, this was cause for great scandal among the upper echelon of Buffalo society at the time.

Whenever I think of it, I wonder how Ella felt about it. I’d like to have known her actual personality. It’s so hard to know by just reading about a person.

A. Conger Goodyear Home on Bryant

Anson Conger Goodyear, eldest son of Ella and Charles, lived in this home (below) with his wife, Mary Foreman. The couple bought and tore down a home on Bryant Street, and in its place built this home in the photo below, in 1908.

A. Conger is perhaps best known as a founder and the first president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He and Mary divorced in 1928. Both ended up near, or in New York City, and both eventually remarried. But this was their home for many years.

It’s a duplex now. It’s certainly large enough! The brick wall that runs the length of the property is imposing as you walk by. The irregular shaped openings in the brick reveal it is three bricks wide. Which is actually four bricks wide, when you take into account the Flemish bonding, the turning of some of the bricks in a pattern. Seems like a bit of overkill, but I do like the wall!

Arnold and Esther Goodyear Watson’s Home

Ella’s daughter Esther married Arnold Watson. Together in this home, below, they raised three daughters, Ellen Portia (Ella), Esther, and Ann. This is quite a large home, and according to census records it was used, at least in later years, by Esther and Arnold as a boarding house. It appears that this is now a two, or possibly three family home. It’s certainly large enough. Very interesting.

It sure is beautiful. The entryway is gorgeous! The windows are great, with their splayed brick lintels and keystones. I love a good row of dormers with original windows as well. And look at the wrought iron above the entryway. Love it!

Let’s talk about the backyard of this home. You see, Ella got her wish to surround herself with most of her children and even some of her grandchildren. Her granddaughter Ellen Portia (named for her) moved into the home on Oakland Place, with it’s property backing up to Ella’s mansion on Delaware.

Just a side note: Ellen married SVR Spaulding Jr, son of SVR and Marion Spaulding, who had the affair and eventually married Charles Jr. Wonder if Ella went to the wedding. I hope she did.

So anyway, the backyard of Esther and Arnold’s home was extensive and connected with Ella’s mansion on Delaware and the Goodyear home on Oakland Place.

St. Georges Square

But that all changed in the 1950s. I haven’t been able to discern when or how the Goodyear ‘estate’ that the family created by piecing together all these properties was broken up and eventually changed hands. But in the 1950s, developer Hugh Perry teamed up with architect Gordon Hayes to create St. George’s Place.

St. George’s Place is a cul-de-sac that runs south of Bryant in between A. Conger Goodyear and Esther Goodyear Watson’s two homes. It fills the area that was Esther’s extensive backyard, which was massive by city standards and now that I think about it, most suburban standards as well.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most people don’t even know that this place exists. It’s like walking off a city street and into a far flung neighborhood in Clarence. I say that because the Colonial Style homes that are on St. George’s Place remind me of the home of a friend of mine from high school, who lived in Clarence. And the homes on her street were just like the homes on St. George’s place.

Let’s See Them

When you look at these photos, remember that you’re in the middle of the city.

Pretty.

And it’s quiet here. You feel as if you’re in a little development in the country.

Stately.

A little vanilla for my taste. All the homes but one, are white. Almost all have black trim.

Like a country farmhouse.

I’m told by a workman nearby that these homes and three others on Bryant (the Goodyear homes?) are all part of a homeowner’s association (HOA). All the landscaping is included. The landscaping for the summer is not yet completed, at least not last week when I shot these photos. The landscapers were there working on the homes on Bryant though, and St. Georges Square was to be next. If the homes on Bryant were any indication, it will be a beautiful summer here.

It sort of makes me wonder though. I didn’t see anyone out on St. Georges Square. Wish I could have met a few neighbors. Then again, this is such a private area, maybe they want it that way, and wouldn’t like to meet me. Hope I’m wrong.

This Dutch Colonial is my personal favorite on St. George’s Place.

Colonial Williamsburg

Hugh Perry and Gordon Hayes designed this cul-de-sac to capitalize on Colonial Williamsburg as a popular vacation destination of the 1950s. The purchasers of the properties had to agree to build some variety of a Colonial dwelling on the land. They’ve succeeded. This certainly seems like what I know to have been extremely popular among white, upper middle class people in the 1950s and 60s.

In this case though, there was no need to actually leave the city to keep the riff-raff out. They only needed a “Private Road” sign. It seems to be still working today, because you know I’m not afraid to go anywhere. But I asked my friend to come with me specifically on this walk to give me the confidence to walk past that private road sign and on to that city street and take a look around. (I’ve never actually seen anyone walk in there.)

I’m trying to be positive here. But I would much, much rather live on Bryant Street than in St. Georges Square. That’s just me, though. I know there are an awful lot of people who would love to live here, and that’s good, I guess. Like my Grandmother used to say, “If we were all alike, think how boring life would be.” Indeed.

My Impressions

Did I say at the beginning of this post that there’s a lot going on here? So much! Between E.B. Green buying one of the homes and the townhomes he designed here, all the amazing apartments, some of the homes and their stories, and the Goodyears! Wow.

I admit I’ve become fascinated with the Goodyear family. When I wrote the piece back in September about the Goodyear mansion on Delaware, I got a little taste of the family. After coming here to Bryant, I feel like I’ve gone down the proverbial rabbit hole. Somehow, I’m going to have to fit in some more reading about them. My interest is piqued!

I met several people on the street while hiking here. Two homeowners who were friendly and love the street. A few people who were walking, or walking their dogs, who don’t live on Bryant, but live nearby. One of them, I actually walked the length of the street and chatted with. Very nice lady. Two men who were working on the porch of the yellow house. They’re the ones who told me that the apartment houses just had their porches re-done (they did the work, and a fine job they did!). And one very friendly landscaper who told me what he knew about the old Goodyear land and St. Georges Square.

St. Georges Square

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been wanting to see this street for so long now, that I have to admit, it was a bit of a letdown. I expected it to be fantastic, because of the “Private Road” sign near Bryant Street. That type of thing evokes visions of a fabulous “private estate” or some such thing. As if wishing for privacy means there is something worth keeping private. Are they nice homes? Yes. To be sure.

But, having been born a Mika, when someone tells one of us not to do something, we immediately want to do it. It’s in our genes. Like when we see a “private road” sign, we immediately think there’s something amazing to be seen on the other side of it. Turns out, in this case, it was somewhat anticlimactic. Nice homes, in an even nicer location.

Here’s what I’ve learned from Bryant Street, it’s much the same as I’ve learned on every other street I’ve written about. Go out and take a look for yourself. Don’t trespass on private property, but go see what you want to see. Talk to the neighbors on the street. Talk to homeowners you see outside while you’re walking. A long time ago, I heard a quote I’ll never forget. “Communication is the key to better understanding and mutual confidence.”

So true. The more we communicate with each other (in person) the better off we’ll all be. Take a walk. Do some communicating with your fellow Buffalonians.

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Castles of Buffalo

Castles of Buffalo

I have a confession to make. I don’t get downtown very often anymore. Working from home is great, but I admit I miss the action. I only get downtown a handful of times each month. Everytime I do, I get that old familiar feeling. That “I love this town” feeling. I don’t know how to explain it. Downtown Buffalo is just a part of me.

And I think I may be rubbing off on my granddaughter Aoife (pronounced ‘eefa’). To be fair, my son, Aoife’s father, works downtown in the Brisbane Building so that may have had an influence too, but either way Aoife loves downtown.

So, a couple of months ago I had one of my favorite photos of city hall (below) put on canvas. When it arrived, I showed it to Aoife and asked her if she knew what it was. With a big confident smile, she said, “Yes. It’s a castle!” She’s three. So I said, “You’re right, it’s a Buffalo Castle.”

Since then, Aoife loves to ‘go walking’ downtown to see all the Buffalo Castles. I was downtown this morning walking along Main Street, and thought of how Aoife looks with awe at our Buffalo castles. I was inspired to share them with you.

Let’s Get Started with City Hall

Buffalo City Hall. It’s one of the largest municipal buildings in the U.S, at 32 floors and over 560,000 square feet. That aside, it’s an exquisite example of Art Deco design. The architects are Deitel & Wade, and it was completed in 1932. I love this building.

When she’s a little older, I’ll teach Aoife about all the little details that are everywhere on this building. The frieze above the front entryway depicting the history of our city up to the year it was built. The details on the windows. The Native American designs at the top of the building. And the statues on either side of two of Buffalo’s presidents – Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland. Those two may or may not be there when she’s old enough to learn about them. But for now, to Aoife, city hall is the original castle. We both love it.

I especially love the way the building presides majestically over Niagara Square and the McKinley Monument. And speaking of that…

The McKinley Monument

This monument is of course here in honor of President William McKinley who was fatally shot at the Temple of Music, an attraction at the Pan American Exposition in September, 1901. The architects were Carrere and Hastings, and the animals were sculpted by A. Phimister Proctor.

From all accounts, Buffalo deeply mourned the death of McKinley and great thought was given to the design of the monument. It has been said that the sleeping lions were included as a sign of strength, a nod to McKinley’s presidency and the turtles (yes, you have to look for them, but they’re there) were included as a symbol of eternal life, which is what the city at the time hoped for President McKinley.

The monument was dedicated in 1907, six years after McKinley’s untimely death. It underwent its first restoration in 2017. The square itself has changed around it many times, but the monument is here to stay. Not necessarily a castle, but Aoife loves the animals and the fountain, so it’s going on the list!

The Statler Building

In the shadow of the McKinley Monument, it’s easy to see the Statler Hotel, one of my other grandchildrens’ favorites. Apparently Miles learned about it in first grade in a social studies class and was awed that one man owned a building so giant (his words). I talked about Ellsworth Statler in another post, including what’s going on in that building now. He had great influence on downtown life in Buffalo back in the day. I guess you could say that he helped to create the downtown vibe that I love so much.

The hotel itself is definitely one of our castles.

Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse

Just west of the Statler building, is the U.S. Courthouse. Not all of our ‘castles’ are old. This one was built in 2011. At that time, I worked in the Seneca One tower on the 30th floor, and my office overlooked Main Street. So I watched the courthouse being built. Robert H. Jackson is a Western New Yorker who served as a Supreme Court Justice, so it is fitting that the building is named for him.

Not normally a fan of very many modern buildings, I didn’t expect to like this one. But I do. There’s something very pleasing about the design. The architects are Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates out of New York City. The lower glass wall visible in the photo has the entire U.S. Constitution etched into it. Pretty cool. Castle worthy.

Old County Hall

And then there’s this. This building speaks to me, like some do. It gives me a real feeling of history in Buffalo. Built in 1876, it’s the oldest of the downtown ‘castles’. The center clock and bell tower is 270 feet tall – must have been an amazing sight to see in 1876! Especially since the clocks were back lit by gas lamps at night.

Picture this. It’s 1876. When it gets dark at night, it gets really dark. Not like today with street lights ablaze and illuminated buildings everywhere. It got really dark back then. The nightly lighting of the clock tower became an evening destination for the citizens of Buffalo. Rich and poor alike would take their evening walks or carriage rides to the Old County Hall to behold this clock tower. It still impresses today.

I devoted an entire blog post to this building because it’s one of those that makes me wish time travel could be a thing so that I could shoot back to 1880 or so to see the clock tower lit up without the distraction of all the other lights in the area.

While walking near this building Aoife asked me who the ‘people’ were on top of the tower. Good question. They respresent Justice, Agriculture, Mechanical Arts, and Commerce. That explanation, of course, meant nothing to her, but it meant a great deal to the people of Buffalo in 1876. Enough that they would put them high above us on pedestals to guard over the city. This, is a Buffalo castle.

The Guaranty Building

As we walked away from the Old County Hall, Aoife looked up and said, “Oh Nana, I like those circle windows.” She was, of course, looking at the Guaranty Building. Good eye, kid.

As we approached the Guaranty Building on the opposite side of the road, on Church Street, I started to tell Aoife the story of this building. How it was built in 1895-96, how it was the tallest building in Buffalo at the time, and how it was designed by a very famous architect named Louis Sullivan. Aoife couldn’t have cared less about that. Did I mention that she’s three?

In the meantime, we had crossed Church Street and stood at the base of the corner of the building looking up at the tree of life carving which drew our eyes up to the cornice. That she was interested in. Along with the other Art Nouveau details in the terra cotta exterior, and she was also impressed with the gargoyles. We went into the lobby, where we gawked at the Tiffany-like ceilings, the mosaic walls, and the bronze elevator cages. All are simply gorgeous.

As we walked away from this Buffalo treasure, Aoife said, “That was definitely a castle.” I agree.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Right across the street from the Guaranty Building is St. Paul’s Cathedral. If all those spires don’t make you think of a castle, I don’t know what would!

This church was built in 1851 and was designed by Richard Upjohn, who was well known for his English Gothic church designs. Beautiful inside and out, it is definitely one to go take a look at. I am always struck by how, no matter where on the street you are looking at this building, it appears that you are looking at the main entrance (which is actually on Pearl Street).

The Ellicott Square Building

Now, I don’t really think the Ellicott Square Building resembles a castle, but Aoife sure does enjoy all the faces on the facade. I’ll admit that after I pointed out the Medusa heads lining the cornice of the building, they scared her a little bit. So I told her they were little girls welcoming her into their building. She accepted it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The architect was Charles Atwood of Daniel Burnham and Company, one of the most prestigious architectural firms in the U.S. What a fantastic example of Italian Renaissance design this building is!

But to me, it’s the interior of the building that puts it on Aoife’s list of Buffalo castles. Whenever I walk into the atrium, I can’t help but look up and around the room. The staircases, the Italian marble mosaic floors, the elevators! It’s still stunning after all these years. 124 to be exact, having been completed in 1896. At that time it was the largest office building in the world. In the world!

It’s definitely castle worthy.

The Old Post Office / ECC City Campus

Back out on the street, I take Aoife through an alley over to the Old Post Office. She takes one look and states, “I think this one is a castle, Nana.” I agree. What do you think?

It was completed in 1901, and had three government architects, Jeremiah O’Rourke, William Aiken and James Knox Taylor. It’s a mix of styles between Victorian Gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque.

And to a kid this one is perhaps the most castle-like of all. It’s a real stunner! And like city hall, there are a lot of details to look at here. Gargoyles, eagles, lynx and bison. And, like the Ellicott Square Building, the inside is amazing! In Aoife’s words, “Woah…”

One M&T Plaza

As Aoife and I head back to Main Street, we see One M&T Plaza. She tells me she doesn’t think this one is a castle. But the closer we get, I can see the wheels turning. And I think she’s changing her mind.

Then we see it. The fountain. That puts her over the edge. It goes on the list. It’s a castle to Aoife because of the fountain. Ah! To be three and have your only responsibility be the discovery of everything around you. That fountain made her so happy.

I’m beginning to think Aoife does have a great eye, because this fountain was designed by Harry Bertoia, and I’ve heard his larger sculptures now sell for upwards of a million dollars! It is a beautiful fountain, and its curves are a nice contrast to the modern, straight lines of the building.

So One M&T Plaza was designed by Minoru Yamasaki and was completed in 1966. He was finishing up this building while starting his next job, the World Trade Center (Twin Towers) in New York City. I don’t have to tell you what happened to that building. Let’s suffice it to say that I am grateful that we still have this building to show off to our grandchildren.

One M&T Plaza is the Buffalo Headquarters of M&T Bank here in Buffalo. And I gotta tell you, they have been Buffalo boosters since their inception in 1856. They’ve stayed true to Buffalo all this time. And they continue to do so. No, I do not work for M&T. I just happen to think that they’ve been good to Buffalo.

The Hotel Lafayette

As we head into Lafayette Square, Aoife points out the Hotel Lafayette and says, “I pick that castle, Nana.” I was wondering what she meant, when she went on to say, “It’s a good one! Just look!”

She’s right. Just look at it.

Completed in 1904 (with two additions to follow), it’s an awesome building. And it was designed by the first working woman architect in the country, Louise Blanchard Bethune. She was a Buffalonian! And apparently she was quite a woman. She reportedly would be shouted at in the streets for riding her bicycle, something that was considered unseemly for a woman in the 1880s and 90s. Can you imagine? No, I can’t either. I would have been in trouble all the time back then!

Read my post here for more about Louise. She was really an interesting woman.

The Hotel Lafayette is now a mix of apartments and hotel rooms, banquet halls, a coffee shop, full service restaurant, and a working brewery. That’s a mouth full. The Lafayette is excellent, inside and out. Castle worthy.

The Rand Building

The Rand Building is, to me, a beautiful building that I don’t think gets enough respect. In fact, I wrote a post about it, where I give my humble opinion about why it doesn’t get the respect I think it deserves. Because I think this building is cool. Strong, solid, and true.

It was built for the Marine Bank and named for George F. Rand Sr., who was at one time the President of Marine Bank here in Buffalo. It was completed in 1929 and was the last commercial building to be built in Buffalo before the stock market crash and the depression began. True to its time period, it’s a decent example of Art Deco design. But you’ve got to really look at it to notice all the subtleties of the design.

I love it, and so does Aoife. Come to think of it, so does Aoife’s father, my son. All fans of the Rand. It’s a castle.

Coincidentally, the next commercial building to be built downtown post depression (1959!) was the Tishman Building, which is now the Hilton Garden Inn, pictured here, to the left of the Rand.

Buffalo Savings Bank / Goldome Bank / M&T Bank

This is probably Aoife’s least favorite Buffalo Castle. I don’t have a clue why. What child wouldn’t be impressed with that shiny gold dome atop this incredible neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style building?

Well, Aoife apparently. She told me that she likes it, but she doesn’t love it. To be fair, we didn’t go inside. That would have elevated its status, I’m sure. The inside is nothing short of magnificent. I love it.

It’s a Green & Wicks design and was completed in 1901 as the Buffalo Savings Bank. It was billed as the working man’s bank. You see, up until this point, banking was reserved for the rich. It gave regular people incentive to save their money for whatever it is they desired. Cool.

Interesting side note: the dome was not originally gold. 24-carat gold leaf was added when Goldome Bank took over the building. The cost to cover the dome with 140,000 sheets of gold leaf was $500,000. More than it cost to build the original building!

It’s a Buffalo castle! I don’t care what Aoife says!

My Impressions of Buffalo Castles

Well, I’m exhausted! Aoife wore me out ‘going walking’ looking at all the Buffalo castles. You know, there’s a reason why people have babies when they’re young! I’m just kidding. Aoife was exhausted too! But not too tired to pose with Daddy at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of Lafayette Square.

Photo Credit: Kristen Zelasko

Sometimes I think it’s a good idea to look at something through someone else’s eyes. And sometimes it’s great to see things through the eyes of a child. We walk, ride and drive around the streets of downtown Buffalo and totally miss the amazing architecture all around us.

These buildings that Aoife and I have deemed ‘castles’ are not by any means a complete list. These are just some of our favorites.

Take an urban hike. Look around. Really see our city. Choose your own castles. If you’ve got children or grandchildren, take them with you and look at the city through their eyes. It’ll be like seeing it for the first time. And they may surprise you with their insight and their opinions. Even Aoife, at three, offers these. The way she fell in love with the fountain, or the Hotel Lafayette. It was pretty cool to see.

Get out and enjoy your city Buffalo!

*Get the book! They make great keepsakes or gifts for friends and family.  Click here or on the photo below. They make great gifts!

*All photos in this post are mine unless otherwise noted.

Buffalo’s Three Statlers – A Man, and Two Hotels

Buffalo’s Three Statlers – A Man, and Two Hotels

About a year ago now, I had a conversation with my grandson, Miles, about my work. He’s 12. We were scrolling through some of my posts, and he asked if I had written about the Statler Hotel. It was apparently his favorite building in Buffalo. I admit to being surprised. When I asked him why, he said it was because he learned about the Statler when he was in first grade. And that, to him, it seems amazing to own a huge hotel like the Statler. The subject came up with him again recently, and, well, here we are.

But there is more than one story to be told when writing about the Statler Hotel in Buffalo. Because there were two Statler Hotels in Buffalo. And in order to tell those stories, I have to tell you a bit about Ellsworth Statler, the man behind the building of one of America’s first hotel chains. So, this will be three stories in one.

Statler #1 – Ellsworth M. Statler

Before we discuss the hotels, let’s talk about Ellsworth Milton Statler. He was a very interesting man indeed.

He was born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. When he was young his family moved to Ohio, just across the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia. At the age of 9 he went to work tending furnace fires at a glass factory. Statler began his career in hotels at the age of 13 as a bellboy for $6/month, board and tips. At 15 he was promoted to head bellman. Ellsworth set about learning bookkeeping and by 19 he was made hotel manager. A hotel manager at 19! Talk about a go getter. Can you imagine?

Ellsworth Statler at 18
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Not the type to let grass grow under his feet, Statler leased the hotel’s billiard room and made it profitable with the help from his younger brother who had become an expert at the game. Ellsworth arranged for tournaments where his brother, Osceola, would win time and again. People began to come from miles around to challenge the young pool shark.

Eventually, Statler used the profits from the billiard room to purchase a bowling alley. There, he doubled the four lanes to 8, and added a billiard room of his own. He organized a city wide (Wheeling, WV) bowling tournament with a grand prize of $300 to the winning team. It was a hit, and bowling quickly became one of Wheeling’s favorite pastimes. He set his mother and sister up making and serving meat pies and sandwiches at a white linen type restaurant in town as well.

The Buffalo Connection

By the 1890’s, Ellsworth’s brother Osceola was managing the billiard room. His brother Bill was in charge of the bowling alley, and his mother and sister, Alabama, were successfully running the restaurant. All of this netted Ellsworth a neat $10,000 a year. That would be just over $280,000 today. Not bad for a man of about 30 years old.

But Ellsworth had a dream. He wanted to open a hotel. A big one.

As it happened, Statler had occasion to pass through Buffalo on his way home from a fishing trip in Canada. While here he noticed the construction of the Ellicott Square Building. He heard the building’s owners were searching for a tenant to run a full service restaurant inside the building. Ellsworth saw the potential and jumped at the chance. You see, Buffalo was growing to be one of the largest cities in America at the time.

The Ellicott Square Building, where Statler opened his first business in Buffalo,
The Statler Restaurant.

Ellsworth saw it as a stepping stone to that hotel he wanted. So, in 1896, Ellsworth moved to Buffalo and opened the Statler Restaurant in the Ellicott Square Building. Technically Statler #2, but we’re only talking hotels today. The restaurant was a huge success.

A Temporary Fix

For the Pan American Exposition in 1901, Ellsworth built and ran a hotel very near the grounds of the Expo. The temporary wooden structure had just over 2,000 rooms. He was one of the few in Buffalo who netted a profit on the Exposition, albeit a small one. He did the same thing at the 1904 St. Louis World’s fair, but this time profited to the tune of roughly $360,000 (about $10 million today).

Neither of these hotels were permanent. When Buffalo hosted the Pan American Exposition, almost all of the structures were designed to be easily disassembled. That way, the land could be returned to its original state. We now know that an awful lot of that land was never returned to its previous state, but, that was the plan at the time. So a temporary hotel was seen by Statler as a way to invest, learn about building a hotel, and make some money along the way. And he most likely hoped to parlay the profits into his own dream of a permanent hotel.

Statler’s Vision

Statler had a clear vision for what he thought a hotel should be.

It’s important at this point to note that hotels at the time were quite different than they are today. Even the best hotels had shared bathroom facilities. Guests were charged extra for hot water. A typical room was furnished with a bed, a straight back chair and a hook on the door to hang clothes. Some owners only considered their hotels at capacity if every double bed had two people booked into them, and would at times book strangers into the same double bed. Can you imagine?

But you see where I’m going here. More thought was given to profits than to the comfort of the guests.

Statler wanted to make his guests comfortable. It was his belief that a regular Joe needed the same things as a traveling prince did in a hotel room. And he planned to give it to them at an affordable price.

Buffalo Statler # 2

With his profits from the temporary hotels, Ellsworth Statler built The Buffalo Statler hotel on the southeast corner of Washington and Swan. Now the site of the edge of our ball diamond. This was 1907.

Surprised? Did you think I was going to say he built the hotel on Niagara Square? Stick with me on this one. We’ll get to that.

The architects were Esenwein & Johnson. It was a beautiful, Art Nouveau design along the lines of the Guaranty Building. A steel frame construction covered in glazed polychrome terra cotta. The terra cotta was creme colored with green stylized plant forms. Some red terra cotta was used at the cornice. It was considered at the time to be a fantastic use of glazed terra cotta. The building was spectacular.

The Buffalo Statler, 300 rooms – 300 baths.
Postcard Photo source: unknown

Postcard Photo Credit: Unknown

Seeking an edge on competing hotels, Statler designed what is called the ‘Statler plumbing shaft’. It allowed for bathrooms to be built back to back, enabling each hotel room to have its own bathroom facilities. This was unheard of at the time, but is commonplace today. He advertised with the slogan ‘A room and a bath for a dollar and a half’. This was affordable at the time. And food was included!

Photo credit: New York Heritage digital collections – 1910

A Note About Statler’s Hotels

Now, the Buffalo Statler was not considered a luxury hotel by any means. By design. But they were comfortable. Statler also impressed upon his staff that the number one rule of working in his hotel was service. Above all else, give good service to every guest no matter what.

Well, guess what? It worked. The Buffalo Statler was wildly popular. And why not? Everyone wants to be treated well. Especially when you think of how difficult travel must have been at the time. To stay at a hotel where you were treated properly must have been a great comfort to weary travelers.

Up until now all hotel owners cared about was the bottom line. Profits. Statler revolutionized the way hotels were run, as it turns out, across America. Because as we all know, Statler didn’t stop with one hotel. He went on to build other hotels in other cities, all with the same philosophy. Some of which are still being operated today. His chain of hotels is reputedly the first of its kind in America.

But he also came back to Buffalo, as you well know.

What’s Next? Buffalo Statler #3 of Course

In 1923, Statler built another hotel in Buffalo. He changed the name of the original Statler (above) to the Buffalo Hotel, and called this one the Hotel Statler. This is the building on Niagara Square that we all know.

This hotel had everything you could want in a hotel for its day. A ballroom, a lounge, four dining rooms, a tea room, a swimming pool, a turkish bath, and a barbershop. Multiple presidents stayed here. Anyone who was anyone, if they came to Buffalo, they stayed at the Statler. It was Buffalo’s most elaborate luxury hotel at the time, and remained “the” place to stay and lavishly entertain in Buffalo for decades to come.

Photo credit: mypostcard. com

But Ellsworth Statler would not live to see those decades. He passed away in 1928 at the age of 64.

As a result, his second wife, Alice, carried on with Statler Hotel Company until 1954, when she sold out to Hilton Hotels for a cool $111 million. To that date, it was the largest hotel merger and also the largest private real estate transaction in history.

An Uncertain Future for #3

Shortly thereafter, the hotel began its long, slow transition to offices. The hotel itself closed completely in 1982, but the offices, lounge and banquet halls remained open. The name was changed to The Statler Towers. After a failed attempt by Bashar Issa to renovate the building into a hotel and condos, the building went into bankruptcy. In 2011, Buffalo real estate developer Mark Croce purchased the building. He rebranded the building as Statler City and immediately began renovations. It was a huge job, and progress was slow going. Banquet facilities opened, but not until 2016. But boy are they beautiful!

Sadly, Croce did not live to see his dream for the Statler completed. He was killed in a helicopter crash on January 10, 2020. It is not clear what will happen to the Statler building at this point in time.

Update: May 28, 2020

In the news today, Buffalo developer Douglas Jemal has an agreement in place to purchase the Statler City. This is his third acquisition downtown. He is in the process of redeveloping Seneca One Tower to mixed reviews, and is awaiting approval for his plans for the former Buffalo Police Headquarters on the southwest corner of Church Street at Niagara.

Time will tell how Jemal’s vision for the Statler Building looks. In the meantime, I remain hopeful.

My Impressions

Ellsworth Statler was really the father of the modern hotel industry. Through his many innovations, hotels are run completely different now. He was the first to offer bathrooms with bathtubs in every hotel room with both hot and cold water at no extra charge. The first to offer telephones and radios in every room. Desks with electric lamps, outfitted with stationery and pens for guests use. And many more… We take it for granted, but these were all new and innovative at the time he implemented them.

E.M. Statler (as he preferred to be called)
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

If you think about it, it all boiled down to service for the guests. Which was always Statler’s priority. By all accounts, in all my research, he also treated his staff well. He understood that if he respected them, paid them well, and treated them well, they would want to do well for the guests. And that, in my humble opinion, was the genius behind Ellsworth Milton Statler. You see, he never got too big for his britches. I once read that no matter how wealthy he got, he still always wore $20 suits and $4 shoes. That is a man I would have liked to have known.

I hope to one day see his legacy live on in Buffalo, so that I can show it to Miles.

**Lead photo credit: Statler City website

Edward Austin Kent – An Overlooked Buffalo Architect

Edward Austin Kent – An Overlooked Buffalo Architect

A few days ago when I wrote Titanic – The Buffalo Connection, I learned quite a bit about Edward Austin Kent, who lost his life when the Titanic sank. I was so intrigued that I decided to learn more and to bring it to you. This is still the anniversary week of his tragic death after all. And the whole story of the Titanic disaster is irresistible to a history nerd like me.

So here we go.

Edward Kent – The Early Years

Edward Austin Kent was born in Bangor, Maine in 1854. His parents, Henry Mellen Kent and Harriet Farnham Kent moved to Buffalo in 1865. Henry, a dry goods merchant, together with W.B. Flint, bought a large department store and renamed it Flint and Kent. Buffalo already boasted several great department stores, but Flint and Kent would become known as one of Buffalo’s finest.

Edward Austin Kent
Photo credit: wikipedia. com

Edward, like most sons of Buffalo society, attended the Brigg’s Classical School of Buffalo, an elite college preparatory school located within the park on the Rumsey Estate. He later graduated from Yale, and studied architecture at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where both Louis Sullivan (Guaranty Building) and H.H. Richardson (Richardson Olmsted Complex) studied. He also spent time studying in England. Pretty impressive education.

Kent came back to the states in 1877, settled in Syracuse, NY, and became a junior partner in the architectural firm of Silsbee and Kent. He then spent two years in D.C. as a government architect, which seems like an odd move. A step down? Or was government work like this viewed as prestigious back then? Doubtful. I suppose we’ll never know.

Back in Buffalo

Edward returned to Buffalo in 1884 and started his own Architectural firm and later located it in the Ellicott Square Building. The firm was quite successful. Here’s a fun and little known fact: together with his brother William, also an architect, Kent designed the much acclaimed mosaic floor in the Ellicott Square Building. People talk about the floor all the time, but not who designed it!

The mosaic floor in the Ellicott Square Building, 23 million individual pieces of Italian tile, designed by Edward Kent & his brother William.
Closeups of the floor below.

Kent was among those who founded the Buffalo Society of Architects in 1886, and was voted their first Secretary. In 1890, that group merged with the American Institute of Architects. Kent was elected their president three times. He represented the Buffalo Chapter of the AIA at an international conference in Berlin in 1909.

By all accounts, Edward Kent was the consummate gentleman. It doesn’t appear that he ever married, or had any personal entanglements of any kind. None that are recorded anyway.

Let’s take a look at some of his most notable designs.

Some of Edward Kent’s Notable Designs

Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo
Photo Credit: Unknown
Interior of the Unitarian Universalist Church, Buffalo, NY – Just gorgeous!
Photo Credit: buffalouu. com

The Titanic

In January of 1912, Edward Kent, a frequent traveler across the Atlantic, embarked upon a two month vacation that took him to Egypt and France. He also spent some time in England while delaying his return to the states in order to ‘sail’ aboard the Titanic.

He boarded as a first class passenger, enjoying all the comforts that came with that. He met frequently with a group of friends, among who were Helen Churchill Candee and Archibald Gracie, and mingled with other members of society on board. It is unclear whether Kent was asleep when the ship hit the iceberg, or whether he was with some others of his group in the smoking room. I’ve read accounts stating both.

Plaque to Kent in Unitarian Universalist Church
Photo credit: encyclopediatitanica. com

But what is well documented are these two things: First, Kent encountered Helen Churchill Candee and helped her into lifeboat #6, but not until after she gave him an ivory and gold miniature of her mother, for safekeeping. And second, Kent helped to load many women and children into lifeboats before the ship listed heavily, and he was swept into the sea.

Edward Austin Kent’s body was recovered (body #258) and was returned to Buffalo. Incredibly, the miniature given to him by Helen Churchill Candee was still in his pocket and was eventually returned to her. Kent is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery here in Buffalo.

My Impressions

As I’ve spent time reading about Edward Kent it occurs to me that outside his body of work, and a few scant details of the Titanic disaster, we don’t really know much about him personally. He was from a family of both wealth and stature here in Buffalo, and his family was active in the Unitarian Church (as it was called back then). It is likely that when John Albright donated the land for the church in 1906, that Kent was chosen to design it partially because of that connection. To my eye, it’s his greatest work here in Buffalo.

Make one of your quarantine walks down Elmwood Avenue to the corner of West Ferry and check out that church. It’s beautiful from the outside. But when the quarantine ends, go inside. Like so many other churches in Buffalo, it’s true beauty lies within. Take a moment to search out the plaque to Edward Austin Kent, and think about the man who helped so many find safety that fateful night in April of 1912.

**Lead image photo credit: unknown

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