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 concrete recall Brutalism, but the low-pitched barrel-arched roof crowning the main portion of the structure and the sleek boxiness of the cantilevered second story extending northward toward Clinton Street make it a paragon through and through of the International Style’s 1960s-era iteration.
Originally completed as a final thesis project for the Master’s of Architecture program at MIT, Buffalo’s city leaders were so impressed with its design that they invited Coles to actually construct the building on the site he’d proposed for it. For his research and design project, completed in 1955, Coles prepared an analysis of the plans for the Ellicott redevelopment area in Buffalo, as well as the strengths and shortcomings of existing community recreational facilities in the vicinity. Noting that preliminary redevelopment plans included a 28-acre area for recreational use, but no specific plans yet, Coles proposed a design for a new community building and public park on the site. The recreation center would eventually house Urban League offices and classrooms, indoor recreation space including a gymnasium and pool, meeting and gathering areas, and a community health clinic.