Architecture


by Pete Burakowski

Fueled by transportation along the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal, manufacturing, and milling, Buffalo saw astronomical financial and population growth throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Along the way, some of the greatest American architecture was built (like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House and Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building), Buffalo became home to the largest number of millionaires per capita in the country, communities of hard-working blue collar families were born, and Buffalo’s waterfront earned the reputation as one of the most dangerous and vice-ridden in the world.

It’s one thing to read these stories in a book. It’s another to walk Buffalo’s streets and see for yourself where history was played out. Buffalo Tours helps you do the latter.

With dozens of tours with titles like “Crime & Scandal,” “Gold Medal Grain Elevators,” and “Splendors in Stained Glass,” Buffalo Tours offers fun, informative looks at each aspect of Buffalo. Like to have a pint with your tours? They even have a series of happy hour walks that begin and end at local pubs.

The Buffalo Tours schedule runs through October and the tours are a bargain – most are either $10 or free!

http://www.preservationbuffaloniagara.org/page/buffalo-tours/

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by Carolyn Batt

Want to see 25 of Western New York’s greatest attractions—literally from A to Z in two hours? On Tuesday, December 1st, at 8pm on WNED, it will be possible as this special spotlights more than two dozen local cultural attractions, one corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. From the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to the Buffalo Zoo, get ready to be taken on a journey across Erie, Chautauqua, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Wyoming Counties.

Highlighted through a series of “video postcards,” viewers will be able to experience unique nearby places, including attractions that house pop art by Andy Warhol and original manuscripts by Mark Twain.

Best of all, for all you Buffalo fans out there, 17 of the 25 attractions are located right in the Queen City!

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by Doug Sitler

RichmondAveBuffalo is loaded with great streets – avenues that exude character and establish a tremendous sense of place. I am so thankful that I live in a community that is far from cookie-cutter design. Streets such as Elmwood Avenue, Delaware Avenue, Hertel Avenue, and Bidwell Parkway, often and deservingly, capture the most attention from residents and guests. A street that I drive, or ride my bike, on every day is majestic Richmond Avenue – a little brother of sorts to nearby Elmwood and Delaware avenues.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the 1.8-mile Richmond Avenue is that the street is bookend with the H.H. Richardson Towers on the northern end, and the tall spire of the First Presbyterian Church and the world-class Kleinhans Music Hall at Symphony Circle on the southern end. The tower’s high perch creates a sentinel effect, as if they are watching down on the avenue. The lane also contains three, beautifully landscaped traffic circles, which hark back to the European-street grid that influenced Buffalo’s street design.

For people who love to ride bikes, Richmond Avenue is an oasis in the middle of the city. Back in the early 1990’s, the city eliminated a driving lane, and replaced it with bike lanes on both sides of the street. Taking the street’s bike lanes offer a safe and relaxing ride – which allows for more opportunities to absorb the tremendous Victorian-era houses along the street.

Whether you’re riding a bike, cruising in a car, or using your feet, Richmond Avenue is a quiet little gem that will produce an enjoyable and authentic Buffalo experience. To learn more about the street and view some interesting historical photos, visit www.buffaloah.com

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by Phil Weiss

CityHall-touristsFrom the intricate details on the elevator doors, to the master designs of the entranceways, to the beautiful and unique murals that grace the lobby and corridors, Buffalo City Hall is one place that will catch your eye at every turn. Scheduled daily at 12 p.m. weekdays throughout the summer, Buffalo City Hall runs a FREE tour that will allow you to explore this remarkable building.

The tour is led by a vastly knowledgeable docent from Buffalo Tours, who will teach you everything there is to know about the historic landmark, and then some. I was so amazed by how much history is behind this building and the immediate surrounding area. The tour begins in the lobby of City Hall where you then venture outside to hear about how the significance of Niagara Square (which is now more of a circle) and all of the external architecture of the surrounding buildings. Making your way back into City Hall, you learn more about the Queen City and its heritage through the elaborate wall paintings and also get the chance to make your way into the Treasury Department and Council Chamber.

Personally, I felt the highlight of the tour takes you up 25 floors to the observation deck where you can see for miles over the City of Buffalo and beyond. These sights are so calming and make you just say “WOW!” From that vantage point you can clearly see all the geographical features that truly makes Buffalo a unique place.

Trust me, this tour is not only worth the price (FREE!), it’s worth the time spent in visiting this wonderfully majestic building.

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by Kelsey Bradbury

M&TBankToday I took the opportunity to be a tourist in my own city, heading out on the self-guided “Walk Buffalo” tour, available free of charge from the Buffalo Niagara Visitor’s Center.

The introduction in the tour guidebook tells an abridged story of Buffalo’s past and forecasts the city’s bright and promising future. The tour guide includes written directions to each location and a labeled map. Those who take the “Walk Buffalo” tour can look for a blue buffalo painted on the sidewalk in front of each site.

The 2.5 mile tour begins at the Market Arcade Building, located at 617 Main Street, home of the Visitors Center and the offices of the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau, then continues down Main Street and to a few notable sites in the immediate area.

I was immediately smitten with the calm, but charming M&T Center (site #3), located across from Fountain Plaza. Noting the wide variety of eateries close by, I made a mental note to keep this space in mind as the perfect spot to take a break and savor a sandwich or a cup of coffee after a day in downtown Buffalo.

From there, I passed a number of impressive buildings with impressive histories. In addition to devoting a few paragraphs to tell the story of the site, the tour guidebook lists the architect and the date each building was built. Many are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and date back to the “gilded age” of Buffalo, when the city was a hub of cultural activity and majestic architectural development.

Old County Hall, St Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, historic hotels, and numerous commerce buildings are the highlights of this 28-stop tour. The tour finishes up with Chippewa Street and Shea’s Buffalo Theater, two points of interest which are best seen in the evening. In the afternoon, Chippewa Street is a great place to stop for lunch or an appetizer, but it is much livelier in the moonlight, as it is the hub of Buffalo nightlife and theater. Shea’s is the anchor of the Downtown Buffalo Theatre District, with a regal interior and a reputation for world-class shows. At night, the famous “Shea’s Buffalo” sign twinkles with a classy, retro brilliance.

For more information about the Walk Buffalo tour visit www.walkbuffalo.com or stop by the Buffalo Niagara Visitors Center, located at 617 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14203.

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by Carolyn Batt

Showhouse2009Last night my sister and I went to the 15th Decorators’ Show House. Every two years, the Junior League of Buffalo reaches out to the community and finds a historical home to be redecorated in a modern way but keeping with the home’s tradition. They then find local businesses and decorators to come into the house and transform each of the rooms. The Show House is one of the most anticipated Spring biennial events.

This year, the house is located on LeBrun Road, a street in the suburbs of Buffalo that has around a hundred jaw-dropping mansions. The Wallace Estate is composed of a 9,000 square foot country mansion, carriage house, built-in swimming pool and tennis courts. Built in 1929 by the famed architect, E.B. Green, the mansion is one of 160 remaining E.B. Green-commissioned structures in Buffalo.

Arriving at 8pm on a Tuesday night, we expected to beat the crowds. However, I’m not sure that’s possible this year. At times, the line has wrapped around the perimeter of the grounds—this is a “must-see” Buffalo tradition.

The house has three floors, and more than 40 rooms, each room thematically different and decorated by a different designer. From the deep violet walls of the Living Room and zebra print furniture, designed by the Kittinger Gallery to the cork wallpaper of the Master Bedroom and South African granite countertops of the Screening Room, every room sparks ideas and wish-lists for your own home.

The Show House takes a little over an hour to tour, and is self-guided, with docents available in every room for questions. It runs through Sunday, May 17th and tickets are $15 at the door. Proceeds are used to fund community projects.

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by Doug Sitler

electrictowerOne of the most unique looking buildings on downtown Buffalo’s skyline is The Electric Tower, located at 535 Washington Street. The pearly white terra cotta building with a 14-story octagon tower makes an indelible impression on the city’s visitors, as well as residents. The building is also significant to Buffalonians as it is the site of Buffalo’s annual downtown New Years Eve balldrop, which is one of the largest celebrations in the country. Depending on the time of year, the tower is bathed in colorful lights, often reflecting an upcoming holiday or to salute a community event or organization.

So much of the building’s identity is centered on its unique exterior, but what’s inside?

The Electric Tower is still very much a working Class A office space in downtown, so you just can’t walk in and start wandering the halls. However, it offers a very little known architectural experience. If you walk into the stunning marble lobby – which was uncovered during recent renovation – you will be completely blown away by the ornamental beauty of an architectural gem. From the floor to the ceiling, your eye will constantly be drawn to the finite detail and opulence from a bygone era. Walk straight through the lobby and you’ll discover a hallway filled with large photographs and historical documentation detailing The Electric Tower’s history. It’s a brief, but fulfilling architectural experience, that is footsteps away from the Hyatt Regency, Comfort Inn & Suites downtown, Chippewa Street, and the Buffalo Theatre District.

The Electric Tower is also one of the feature stops on the “Walk Buffalo” tour – a self-guided walking tour of historic downtown Buffalo.  The 90 minute walking tour visits over 28 sites in downtown Buffalo.

So if you’re in downtown Buffalo take a peak inside The Electric Tower for a brief encounter with Buffalo’s wonderful architecture.

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