Both Buffalo Architecture, 1816-1940 and Buffalo Architecture: A Guide are late manifestations of Hitchcock’s academic definition of international style architecture. This perspective was first outlined in his 1929 text Modern Architecture: Romanticism and Reintegration, which laid the groundwork for the famous “International Style” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. This exhibit, which Hitchcock co-curated with Philip Johnson, then founder of the Department of Architecture and Design within the museum, interpreted the best of European modernism as a new formalist style of building. Their formal interpretation of modern architecture, despite many critiques from the 1930s onward, has been consistently influential as a visual standard of appreciation for preservationists and the general public. This approach, however, has sidelined the many contributions of those who were not positioned to commission an architect but nonetheless helped shape the city of Buffalo.
The “Beyond Hitchcock” room attempts to revisit and revise the historical meaning of modern architecture for contemporary audiences. The map of Buffalo shows the limited geographical focus of Buffalo Architecture: A Guide. These buildings were limited to the major civic buildings of the past and the present that best represented the wealthy elite of the city. The second map of Buffalo’s East Side introduces sites designed or commissioned by African American architects, clients, and users to accommodate their modern way of life. Reclaiming this history requires us to challenge the largely formal definition of modern architecture as a style with a conception of architecture as placemaking and spatial occupation. This sociological definition emulates the principles outlined by modern writers such as Lewis Mumford and Catherine Bauer, who understood modern architecture as a space-making practice. Visual collages of a few select historic spaces illustrate the spatial complexity that African Americans brought to existing buildings on Buffalo’s East Side—a reality that was not always manifest in the style of building but nonetheless radically altered the social fabric of the city.
These graphics were produced by architecture students at the University at Buffalo, SUNY under the supervision of Charles L. Davis II, an Associate Professor of Architectural History and Criticism.
CARTOGRAPHIC STUDIES OF BUFFALO
COLLAGES OF HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS
Buffalo Architecture Guide
Little Harlem Hotel and Nightclub
496 Michigan Avenue This collage illustrates the multiple firsts embodied by this project on Buffalo’s East Side. Commissioned as an ice cream parlor around 1910 by one of the city’s first Black businesswomen, Anne Montgomery, it was quickly transformed in the 1920s...
391 Washington Street Hotel Lafayette is a seven-story steel frame, concrete building designed in the French Renaissance style. It features decorative vitreous red brick and white terra cotta trim and was com- posed of several smaller rectangular building units...
Ellicott District Recreation Center
114 Hickory Street This building, initially known as the Ellicott District Recreation Center and now identified as the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center, was designed by Buffalo native Robert Traynham Coles. Its façade and structural composition of poured precast...
Statuary of Willert Park Courts
406 Jefferson Avenue Willert Park Courts is representative of PWA projects for public housing in its high-quality construction and incorporation of New Deal-style artwork, which included representations of the African American experience in Buffalo such as music and...
Colored Musicians Club
145 Broadway Designated a historic preservation site in 1999, the Colored Musicians Club is the only remaining Black-owned and operated club of its kind in the United States. The club’s origins are found in Local 43, a chapter of the American Federation of Musicians....
585 Michigan Avenue The Young Men’s Christian Association building on Michigan Avenue was designed by John Edmonton Brent, the second African American to design such a building for a Black community in the United States. Brent was educated at Tuskegee Institute and...
East Side Revisited
MLK Statue for Martin Luther King, Jr. Park (originally The Parade)
Completed by the African American sculptor John Woodrow Wilson, the addition of a large-scale bust of Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. is representative of a long history of place- making strategies employed by African Americans to remake public spaces in...
Fillmore Movie Theater
681 Fillmore Avenue The Fillmore Avenue Movie Theater was among the first amenities to emerge as growing neighborhoods across the East Side came to resemble self-sufficient villages within the expanding city, each with its own stores, houses of worship, and commercial...
War Memorial Stadium (later Johnny B. Wiley Pavilion)
Now the city’s premier African American neighborhood, Buffalo’s East Side was originally home to several of the city’s white ethnic immigrant communities from its founding to the mid-twentieth century. This col- lage illustrates the demographic transformations that...
Mary Talbert House
521 Michigan Avenue Mary Burnett Talbert was an American orator, activist, suffragist, and reformer. Talbert was educated at Oberlin college at a time when it was controversial for any woman, let alone a woman of color, to receive such honors. She used her education...
Fitch Creche Day Care for Young Children of Working Mothers
159 Swan Street The Fitch Crèche, nationally recognized as the first day care center for the children of working women in the United States, served as a model to be emu- lated by other American cities. Emulating philanthropic reforms established at the London Day...
Eliza Quirk House
72 Sycamore Street The Eliza Quirk House was a pre-Civil War boarding house designed and constructed circa 1848 for its original owner, Eliza Quirk, a well-known courtesan, who occupied the building until her death in 1868. The structure is a simple, red brick...