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Architecture of Buffalo, New York facts for kids

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Taste of buffalo 2008
Niagara Square during the Taste of Buffalo in 2008

The Architecture of Buffalo, New York, particularly the buildings constructed between the American Civil War and the Great Depression, is said to have created a new, distinctly American form of architecture and to have influenced design throughout the world.


Buffalo’s original plan from the early 19th century was loosely based on Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for Washington, an Americanized version of Paris’s system of radiating boulevards. Buffalo’s radial street grid was designed by Joseph Ellicott and complemented by a system of parks and parkways designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Buffalo was the first city for which Olmsted designed an interconnected park and parkway system rather than stand-alone parks.

Buffalo Panorama 2015
Aerial view of Buffalo's skyline. At center is the Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse and the Art Deco Buffalo City Hall, with the Buffalo City Court Building to the right. On the far right is One Seneca Tower, formerly the HSBC Building.

During the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Frederick Law Olmsted declared Buffalo to be "the best planned city, as to its streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.”

According to The New York Times architecture writer Nicolai Ourousoff:

Buffalo was founded on a rich tradition of architectural experimentation. The architects who worked here were among the first to break with European traditions to create an aesthetic of their own, rooted in American ideals about individualism, commerce and social mobility.

The city contains buildings designed by American architecture masters like Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and H.H. Richardson, making Buffalo one of the most architecturally significant cities in America. It also contains many buildings designed by modern architects including Minoru Yamasaki, Toshiko Mori, Marcel Breuer and Harrison & Abramovitz.

Tallest buildings

Rank Building Height
Floors Year
01.01 One Seneca Center 01.0529 / 161 40 1972
02.02 Buffalo City Hall 02.0398 / 121 32 1931
03.03 Rand Building 03.0391 / 119 29 1929
04.04 Main Place Tower 04.0350 / 107 26 1969
05.05 Liberty Building 05.0345 / 105 23 1945
06.06 One M&T Plaza 06.0317 / 97 21 1966
07.07 Electric Tower 07.0294 / 90 14 1912
07.08 St. Paul's Cathedral 07.0275 / 84 N/A 1851
09.09 Key Center 09.0275 / 84 17 1990
10.010 Buffalo Central Terminal 10.0271 / 83 20 1929

Notable architects

Numerous architects and landscape architects have constructed landmark buildings and park systems of varying styles in Buffalo. They include:

Landmarks, monuments and public places

Buffalo Panorama 1911
Panorama view of Buffalo in 1911, with the Prudential (Guaranty) Building left of middle

Albright–Knox Art Gallery

Albright Knox Art Gallery Sculpture 2
"Karma" by Do-ho Suh (2010) in front of Albright–Knox Art Gallery

The Albright–Knox Art Gallery was designed in 1890 architect Edward Brodhead Green and funded by Buffalo entrepreneur and philanthropist, John J. Albright, a wealthy Buffalo industrialist. It was originally intended to be used as the Fine Arts Pavilion for the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, but delays in its construction caused it to remain uncompleted until 1905. In 1962, a new addition was made to the gallery through the contributions of Seymour H. Knox, Jr. and his family, and many other donors. At this time the museum was renamed the Albright–Knox Art Gallery. The new building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill architect Gordon Bunshaft, who is noted for the Lever House in New York City. The Albright–Knox Art Gallery is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Buffalo Central Terminal

The Buffalo Central Terminal is a 17-story Art Deco style station designed by architects Fellheimer & Wagner and built in 1929 for the New York Central Railroad. The terminal "was built to handle over 200 trains and 10,000 passengers daily, as well as 1,500 New York Central employees. It included shops, a restaurant, soda fountain, parking garage and all other services required for daily passenger operations." It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 7, 1984.

Buffalo City Court Building

The Buffalo City Court Building is named Frank A. Sedita City Court (for Buffalo mayor Frank A. Sedita), and designed by Pfohl, Roberts and Biggie. It is a 10-story court house built in 1974 and located in Niagara Square and adjacent to Buffalo City Hall.The structure is a classic example of Brutalist architecture; its façade is dominated by large Precast concrete panels with narrow windows. The design was conceived with limited windows in order to keep the courtrooms and judges' chambers free from outside distraction.

Buffalo City Hall

Buffalo City Hall is a 32 story Art Deco building and was completed in 1931 by Dietel, Wade & Jones. It's walls are faced with Ohio sandstone and gray Minnesota limestone, above a base of gray granite. The exterior and interior are adorned with symbolic figures and decorations representing Buffalo's history, including the Iroquois Indians, the steel industry, law and education, electrical energy, and the waterfront community. In the lobby, there are four statues, "each which represent the characteristic of good citizenship, Virtue, Diligence, Service, and Fidelity." It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 15, 1999.

Buffalo History Museum

The Buffalo History Museum was constructed in 1901 as the New York State pavilion for the Pan American Exposition of 1901 and is the sole surviving permanent structure from the exposition. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 23, 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark on February 27, 1987.

Buffalo Main Light

The Buffalo Main Light, also known as The Buffalo Lighthouse, is Buffalo's oldest building. It was built in 1833 and deactivated in 1914. It appears on the city seal at the mouth of the Buffalo River. 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. The foundation material was stone molehead and the lighthouse was constructed out of limestone and cast iron. The shape of the tower was octagonal and was 60 feet (18 m) high. The lens installed in 1857 was a third order Fresnel lens. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Delaware Park System

The Delaware Park System is a historic park system and national historic district located in the northern and western sections of Buffalo. The park system was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and developed between 1868 and 1876. The Park System comprises many parks, Delaware Park being the largest (encompassing 376 acres). There are also Gates Circle, Chapin Parkway, Soldier's Place, Lincoln Parkway, Bidwell Parkway, and Front Park, among others. The park system was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Larkin Administration Building

The Larkin Administration Building was Frank Lloyd Wright's first commission in Buffalo. Larkin executive Darwin D. Martin hired Wright to design a building that would house the large number of clerks needed to operate the mail-order business for the Larkin Soap Company. Because the building would be located in an industrial part of town, it was necessary to make the building as attractive as possible to women, who made up the bulk of the white collar work force.

The Larkin building was Wright's first commercial commission and he designed not just the building, but also the furniture, light fixtures and the china for the workers' cafeteria. Where possible, files and furniture were built into the structure, and he created desks with attached chairs that could swivel to save room. Wright included a pipe organ for lunchtime entertainment, a lending library and a conservatory to allow employees to rest and commune with nature. The Larkin Administration Building is significant for its comprehensive design, where every element performed a specific task, as well as being the first modern office building that separated blue-collar and white-collar workers.

The Larkin Company went out of business in 1937, and the building was sold. Eventually, the City of Buffalo took it over for back taxes planning to demolish it for a trucking plaza. Despite community outcry, the building was torn down in 1950.

Old Post Office

Old Post Office Buffalo NY Full View Dec 09
Old Post Office, 2009

The Old Post Office is a historic post office building located at 121 Ellicott Street in Buffalo in Erie County, New York. It was designed by the then Office of the Supervising Architect, Jeremiah O'Rourke, when construction started in 1897. The $1,500,000 (equivalent to $48,858,000 in 2021) building opened in 1901 during the tenure of James Knox Taylor and operated as Buffalo's central post office until 1963 and was the tallest building in the city from 1901 to 1912. The highly ornamented Gothic Revival style four story building features a 244-foot tower over the central entrance and a roofed courtyard. It was subsequently occupied by federal offices. Since 1981, it has been home to the city campus of Erie Community College. Its tower is 74.4 meters tall.

Prudential (Guaranty) Building

The Prudential (Guaranty) Building was completed in 1896 and was designed by Chicago architect's Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. It remains one of the first skyscrapers ever built with a steel structure and is embellished with terra cotta blocks. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 1973 and designated a National Historic Landmark on May 15, 1975.

Richardson Olmsted Complex

The Richardson Olmsted Complex is a grouping of Medina red sandstone and brick hospital buildings designed in 1870 in the Kirkbride Plan by architect Henry Hobson Richardson with grounds by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The complex was the largest commission of Richardson's career and marks the beginning of his characteristic "Romanesque Revival" style known as "Richardsonian Romanesque." It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 12, 1973 and designated a National Historic Landmark on June 24, 1986.

Sculptures and monuments

There are several sculptures and monuments located throughout the city, including:


Birge-Horton House

The Birge-Horton House was designed in 1895 by the Buffalo architectural firm of Green and Wicks and is a Georgian Revival style row house in "The Midway" section of Delaware Avenue. It is a four story brick house with stone trim. The house is situated within the boundaries of the Allentown Historic District. The Birge-Horton House was the last of the thirteen luxury row houses built from 1893-1895. All were four-story houses and each house is the work of varying architects and of different designs, however, they give an overall appearance of unified composition because of similarities in height, width, and construction materials.

Charles W. Goodyear House

The Charles W. Goodyear House was designed by Buffalo architect Edward Green, of the Buffalo architecture firm Green & Wicks, and was completed in 1903 at a cost of $500,000 (equivalent to $15,080,000 in 2021). The home was built for Charles and Ella Goodyear. The house is located in the Delaware Avenue Historic District, a federally designated historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. The exterior of the two and a half story house is brick trimmed with stone. The mansard roof includes a row of dormers with pedimented tops with a festooned motif that runs along the roofline above a dentilled cornice. The principal entrance is on the north (right) side of the house denoted by a large arched doorway, bordered on each side by stone urns. The east façade facing Delaware Avenue has a one story porch with columns, that was later bricked in.

Darwin D. Martin House

The Darwin D. Martin House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905 for Darwin D. Martin, an executive of the Larkin Soap Company. Martin chose Wright to design his own house because he was so impressed with Wright and his design for the Larkin Administration Building. The Martin House is considered to be one of the most important projects from Wright's Prairie School era. Compared to other Prairie Houses, the Martin House is unusually large and has an open plan containing fifteen distinctive patterns of nearly 400 art glass windows, designed by Wright, some of which contain over 750 individual pieces of iridescent glass, that act as light screens to connect exterior views to the spaces within. More patterns of art glass were designed for the house than for any other of Wright's Prairie Houses. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 24, 1986 and designated a National Historic Landmark, also on February 24, 1986.

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, also known as the Ansley Wilcox House, at 641 Delaware Avenue was built in 1840 by George Cary (U.S. Army) originally intended as the Barrack's officer's quarters. After the post was disbanded in 1845, the home reverted to a private residence. Subsequent owners continued to modify the structure adding and demolishing out structures and additions. In the late 19th century, Dexter Rumsey gave the property to his son-in-law Ansley Wilcox and his wife Mary Grace Rumsey. The newest inhabitants made extensive renovations to the structure.

In 1901, while attending the Pan-American Exposition, anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley. Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt rushed back to Buffalo, but arrived only after McKinley had died. Due to the tragic and politically charged circumstances of the President's death, the inauguration was held immediately, and the most appropriate site was determined to be the Wilcox home. Approximately 50 dignitaries, family members and cabinet officials gathered in the front library for the inauguration and Federal Judge John R. Hazel administered the oath. The Wilcoxes continued to live in the home until their deaths in the 1930s. The National Historic Site was authorized on November 2, 1966. As a historic area administered by the National Park Service, it was automatically listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same day.

William Dorsheimer House

The William Dorsheimer House was designed and built in 1868 by Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886) for William Dorsheimer (1832–1888), a prominent local lawyer and Lieutenant Governor of New York. It is located on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo and is a two-and-a-half-story brick dwelling. It represents the profound influence of French ideas on the arts in the post Civil War period. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

William R. Heath House

The William R. Heath House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, built in 1904–1905, and is located at 76 Soldiers Place in Buffalo, New York. It is built in the Prairie School architectural style. William Heath was a lawyer who served as office manager, and eventually vice-president, of the Larkin Company in Buffalo. Heath's wife Mary was a sister of Elbert Hubbard, a former Larkin executive. The property was a deep and narrow corner lot, facing a large traffic circle. This presented Wright with the problem of situating a substantial Prairie house, with its characteristically open structure, in a confined space with twice the street exposure. The house was placed with its long axis right up against the Bird Ave. sidewalk with sections of the traffic circle acting as the grounds that a house of this standing would normally possess.


Timeline of notable buildings

Before 1900:



1940 to the present:

Styles and schools

Buffalo Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden, Delaware Park

Buffalo architects used many design styles and belonged to a variety of architectural schools. Below is a sample of some of the styles and schools and schools found in Buffalo architecture:

Images for kids

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