1816 – 1844
Henry-Russell Hitchcock Jr.
The frontier settlement at Buffalo was burned in the War of 1812. With the peace of 1815, a new town began to rise within the frame of Joseph Ellicott’s plan of 1805. In 1825, the opening of the Erie Canal, of which Buffalo was the western terminus, soon brought real prosperity and a closer connection with eastern seaboard than with the Western Reserve to which Buffalo was the northernmost gateway. These conditions the architecture of the period illustrates.
Little remains today of this first stage of Buffalo’s growth. The general appearance of the community can, however, be recreated from maps, early views, and old photographs of the early houses and public buildings. These buildings differ less from those of the contemporary northeastern states than from those of the nearby rural areas of Western New York.
The Porter-Allen house, in plan and mass, continues the eighteenth century tradition. Its solid, simple form is decorated only with the small porch so frequently used on Post-Colonial houses everywhere. The Second Court House with its attenuated Ionic portico is of a type which the rising New England cities were building in this decade. The goodrich house is very similar, though somewhat more scholarly in its use of detail. The other houses of the twenties, using the new “row house” formula, with door to one side of the facade, and with side or rear wings, have the delicate detail and the characteristically wooden proportions of western New England houses of the same period. They were, indeed, influenced from the same source, the design manuals of Asher Benjamin. The First Church with its elaborate detail is equally eastern in character, and a completely characteristic Post-Colonial meeting-house.
In the thirties a new wave of prosperity culminated in the speculative building boom of Benjamin Rathbun. This crashed in 1836. During this decade, the more solid and severe form of the Greek Revival became the basis of style; and more buildings, both commercial and residential, were built of masonry. A very great simplicity of form with solid well-cut detail, rather than any conspicuous use of Greek columns characterized this stage of development. Houses with temple porticos were, indeed, far more rare here than in the areas just to the east and west. The castellated Gothic, moreover, made as early an appearance here as in the east, with the McKay house.
Early Buffalo was a town, laid out on a formal plan and not a city. Its houses and public buildings were designed by owners and builders, not by architects, and were built according to the rigid but gracious formula of traditional basis and Classical detail. Homogenous, and with little pretension beyond a few porticos, the architecture of these decades, as we see it in houses and churches, in hotels and factories, was native and straightforward, if often rather dull. Never again was Buffalo architecture to be so consistent and so satisfying. We cannot return to such an idyllic stage by imitating its superficial forms. We may hope, nevertheless, that some day a similarly high and even standard of architectural quality may be regained for the vastly increased complexities of a modern industrial city.
— by Henry-Russell Hitchcock
1816 – 1844 Architecture
First Presbyterian Church
Niagara, Church & Pearl Streets owner: Presbyterian Diocese of Buffalo ? years built: 1821 demolished: Unknown (Pre- 1940) Even more New England in character than Ellicott's work, but somewhat coarser in detail, it is a typical Post-Colonial meeting-house.
Main near High Street architect: Joseph Ellicott years built: 1822 The more scholarly proportions of the orders indicate that Ellicott continued his contact with the architectural developments in the East. Long the finest house in Buffalo it has been twice modelled...
Niagara Near Mohawk years built: C. 1835 demolished: Unknown (Pre-1940) A rare Buffalo Example of the small “temple” house, so frequent elsewhere in Western New York and in the Western Reserve. Identical in plan with the Orlando Allen house, it has a portico and...
Adam, Meldrum & Anderson
396-408 Main Street architect: Green and Wicks(Edward Brodhead Green & William Sydney Wicks) owner: AM&As, Bon-Ton Department Store (1994) years built: 1867 demolished: 1960 (?) Built as a hotel originally, this store has even richer, heavier, and more corrupt...
734-798 Busti Avenue architect: Joseph Gilbert Totten (Engineer) owner: US Military years built: 1841-1844 demolished: 1925-1926 A solid example of military engineering in stone, it is distinguished in its proportions and rather romantically ruined.
Buffalo Cotton Factory
Foot of Court Street owner: Lyman L. and George G. Curtiss (1861), A. McPherson (1873), Buffalo Grape Sugar Company (1875) year built: 1840 The elegant colonnade, the delicate Bulfinch-like cupola, serve to indicate that the new Buffalo is no longer a frontier...
189 Main Street architect: William A Carland (?) owner: William A Carland (Carland & Beirne), Hazard Power Company (1898), M.M. Kirshner (1920), The Nimrod (1967)" years built: 1843 demolished: 1967-1969 The decorative exuberance of the developing Gothic Revival...
Fort Porter (2-22) Rhode Island Street owner: James McKay (Never Lived There) Almost as early an example of the Gothic Revival as one could find in the East is this simple castellated structure. With the appearance of rival historic forms the days of the Greek Revival...
Terrace and Pearl architect: Benjamin Ruthbun (?) (Developer) years built: 1841 demolished: 1888 Fine proportions and Doric columns at the entrance relieve the severity of this large Greek Revival Hotel.
Sill Marshall House
700 Main Street owner: Seth E. Sill, William Fiske (1851-1861), James Braley (1861-1872), Orasmus Holmes Marshall (1872-1909) years built: 1841 demolished: 1910 This is a simple, unpretentious house of excellent proportions. The Porch is very possible later with its...
641 Delaware Avenue alternate names: Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site architect: Thomas Tilden, George Cary (1901 Renovation) owner: US Military, Joseph Masten (1847), Dexter Rumsey/Ansley Wilcox (1883) years built: "1838-1842,1863, 1890s, 1901 demolished: 1876 The...
Stevenson’s Livery Stable
Across from Adam, Meldrum and Anderson on Main Street years built: 1844 demolished: pre-1940 Although temple porticos never became exactly ubiquitous in Buffalo, by the early forties when the Greek style was declining, they were on occasion even used for livery stables.
Mohawk Street Market
Mohawk and Genesee St. architect: Benjamin Rathbun (?) (Developer) owner: Arsenal for Rebellions of 1837Market (1838-1865), Grosvenor Library (1865-1882), Police Station, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Paint and Plaster shop, YMCA years built: 1835 or 1836...
Eagle Street Theater
Eagle, west of Washington Street owner: George and Albert Brisbane years built: 1835 demolished: 1852 (fire) In the building boom of the mid-thirties, downtown Buffalo grew more urban. This handsome stone façade is comparable in dignity to the Bennett and Efner houses...
Wilcox Cobb House
37 Church Street near Pearl Street owner: Birdseye (Birdsey) Wilcox (C 1835),Oscar Cobb (1858)" years built: 1835 demolished: 1912 The smaller houses of the thirties were generally of wood and of the ‘row house’ plan, the pediment facing the street even where no...
Washington and Broadway Streets owner: Buffalo Club years built: 1835-1845 Solid, solemn, and heavy-detailed, some of the larger Greek Revival houses already suggest the approaching Victorian age, for all their continued use of the symmetrical colonial plan formula.
Efner Lewis House
Corner of Columbus Parkway West and 7th Street. owner: Elijah Doty Efner, George Howard Lewis Forms grew heavier through the decade of the thirties, but the fine cut-stone and the fretted detail on the string course give considerable refinement to this Late Greek...
Philander Bennett House
Pine Street Between Eagle and Clinton owner: Philander Bennett years built: 1831 demolished: 1888 In the thirties the larger houses were generally of masonry, with the severe heavy detail of the Greek Revival but without columns. The raised central attic and octagonal...
Washington and Broadway Streets owner: Ebenezer Johnson years built: 1834 This very original house of masonry with the new Greek Doric detail on the long front porch has an early cupola of unique decagonal form.
Orlando Allen House
Orlando Allen House owner: Orlando Allen years built: 1829 demolished: 1904 Without the portico of the Walden house, but with a side wing and porch, this became the typical formula which was rapidly replacing the symmetrical Colonial scheme of the Porter-Allen house.
Ebenezer Walden House
Main Street and Edwards Street architect: Ebenezer Walden (?) owner: Ebenezer Walden, Albert J. Meyers years built: 1825-1855 demolished: 1882 With the attenuated proportions of Ellicott’s Court House, but on the new ‘row house’ plan, it has an entrance to one side of...
Between Ferry and Breckenridge Streets (Originally 1191 Niagara Street) architect: Peter Buell Porter (?) owner: Peter Buell Porter years built: 1825-1855 demolished: 1911 (?) Still completely in the late eighteenth century tradition, this house is as solid as it is...
Second Court House
Washington and Broadway Streets architect: Joseph Ellicott owner: Erie/Niagara County years built: 1825-1855 demolished: 1876 The elegant colonnade, the delicate Bulfinch-like cupola, serve to indicate that the new Buffalo is no longer a frontier settlement, but a...