Frank Lloyd Wright. Louis Sullivan. H.H. Richardson. Stanford White. Eliel and Eero Saarinen. If you were to list the great designers from the first half of the 20th century, you’d find they all converged in Buffalo. In fact, the The New York Times recently recognized Buffalo as “home to some of the greatest American architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries” and on, another occasion, “a textbook for a course in modern American buildings.”
The best of the best aren’t hard to find. We’ve highlighted them below for your must-see tour of great American architecture in Buffalo.
Considered by many to be one of our nation’s finest Art Deco public buildings, City Hall was dedicated in 1932 on the hundredth anniversary of Buffalo’s founding. Designed by John Wade, it rises 28 stories and offers 316,937 square feet of usable space. Of note are its exterior tile details, dramatic vaulted lobby, bronze doors and the frieze above the main entrance depicting aspects of city life.
Richardson Olmsted Complex
Formerly the Buffalo State Hospital, the Richardson Olmsted Complex was designed in 1870 by America’s foremost architect at the time, H.H. Richardson. Constructed of Medina sandstone, it is the largest and first major example of a style that became known as “Richardson Romanesque.” This masterwork appears on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.
Architectural historians consider the Guaranty Building to be one of the greatest achievements by legendary architect Louis Sullivan. A forerunner of the modern skyscraper, the Guaranty was one of the first steel-supported, “curtain-walled” buildings in the world. Not to be missed are its imposing cornices, terra cotta exterior, U-shaped design and ornamental facade.
One of the most distinctive and recognizable buildings in downtown Buffalo is the Electric Tower. Designed by August Esenwein and James Johnson in the Beaux Arts Revival style, the building is covered in white sand lime and brick glazed terra cotta tiles that makes it glisten in the sunlight, gleam after a rainfall and sparkle at night in the floodlights that shine on its tower.
Jacobs Executive Development Center
Designed by legendary architects McKim, Mead & White, this opulent Georgian Revival mansion once known as the Williams-Butler house was decked out to greet President William McKinley on September 6, 1901, but the President was mortally wounded just hours before the party was to begin. A Corinthian portico, ornate carvings, quarter-sawn oak paneling, three-story chandelier and massive marble fireplace are just a few of its palatial features.
The Buffalo Lighthouse is so ingrained in the Buffalo landscape that it appears on the city seal at the mouth of the Buffalo River. Built in 1833, it is also one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes. The walls of the tapered, unpainted octagonal limestone tower are four feet thick at the base and rise to 44 feet in height.
Kleinhans Music Hall
It is said that the acoustical and lighting research that preceded the design and construction of the Kleinhans Music Hall helped make it one of the finest such achievements of its time. Designed by the Finnish father and son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen and featuring graceful curves, Kleinhans is still considered one of the greatest music halls ever built and is a National Historic Landmark.
Opened in 1929 and designed by Alfred T. Fellheimer & Steward Wagner, this Art Deco style station consists of a grand concourse with 60-foot vaulted ceilings, a 17-story office tower and a five-story baggage building. Central Terminal bookends with the city’s Art Deco City Hall.
Ellsworth Statler is one of the towering figures in the history of American hospitality, creating a legendary chain of hotels. His enterprise began in Buffalo with three hotels, the grandest of which still stands. Now known as Statler City, the building is being restored with a stunning ballroom, lobby and nightclub.
Hotel @ The Lafayette
Designed by the nation’s first female architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune, the Hotel @ The Lafayette is more than a building designed in the French Renaissance style. It’s a renaissance in and of itself. Now renovated and on the National Register of Historic Places, its stunning lobby gives way to an Art Deco-themed lounge and visitors enjoy opulent touches like leaded-glass skylights, mahogany coatrooms and marble columns.