If you are looking to soak in the best of Buffalo in a day, and learn more about its surprising architecture and history, the Queen City Downtown Walking Buffalo Tour is the answer you are looking for. No reservations are needed for the two-hour walking tour that focuses on downtown landmarks and takes place every Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m.
Tour stops include:
Buffalo City Hall
Inspired by the theatrical, futuristic renderings of Hugh Ferriss, Buffalo City Hall presents a dramatic profile to visitors of the city’s downtown. This Art Deco building also expresses Buffalo’s status as one of the most modern cities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while referencing the rich history of the site in the figures of its frieze, its decorative detailing and its numerous murals.
Based on utopian reconstructions of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and inspired by the Electric Tower at the Pan-American Exposition, the General Electric Tower is, ultimately, a tribute to light, and to the electrical power that transformed lighting conditions around the world.
Ellicott Square Building
Like Louis Sullivan and H. H. Richardson, Daniel Burnham’s architectural production defined the stylistic trajectory of his time, and he enjoyed many important commissions in the late nineteenth century. However, unlike Sullivan, Burnham was much more comfortable working in established stylistic traditions, and was significantly less interested in developing a unique American style of architect. This is clearly seen in his Ellicott Square Building, which, like his earlier Rookery Building (1886) in Chicago, is constructed around an interior court with glass-covered concourse.
Louis Sullivan was perhaps the preeminent American early modernist architect, and along with H. H. Richardson and Daniel Burnham, he was also one of America’s most famous architects at the time of the Guaranty’s construction. The Guaranty represents the apex of Sullivan’s tall-building design, evincing a number of refinements on the architect’s earlier Wainwright Building (1891) in St. Louis.
Designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first woman to be a member of the AIA, this beautiful French Renaissance-style hotel is notable for the rich chromatic interplay of red-brick and terracotta in its façade. Situated next to the Public Library, in its heyday, the Lafayette Hotel was one of the 15 finest hotels in the country.
Old Country Hall
The most extreme example of High Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in Buffalo, the monochromatic, symmetrical design of the Old County Hall is rich in sculptural effects, evincing a wonderful quasi-Baroque plasticity in its detailing.
Old Post Office
This building consists of numerous pavilions and galleries designed around a large, centrally lit courtyard, capped with an ornate glass ceiling.
Shea’s Performing Arts Center
Buffalo was home to numerous entertainment establishments throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Shea’s is one of the most notable examples.
St. Anthony Of Padua
Designed in a reserved Florentine Gothic Style, St. Anthony of Padua was the center of a bustling Italian community once located were the current Shoreline Apartments (designed by Paul Rudolph) currently stand.
Ellsworth Statler built several hotels in Buffalo at the turn of the last century, including one at the corner of Swan and Washington Streets between 1905 and 1908, and a second hotel on Delaware Ave. at Niagara Square between 1921 and 1923. The first hotel was notable for its innovation in plumbing design, which contributed greatly to the development of mechanical service cores for tall buildings. The system of stacked plumbing developed in this hotel is common in all tall buildings in North America, and is used in domestic architecture of more than one story today. It also made the Statler Hotel one of the first hotels to offer a private bathroom in every room with a tub and sink, and hot and cold running water.
For more information, check out PreservationBuffaloNiagara.org