The City of Light

Buffalo became such a prominent city due to its location on Lake Eerie. Everything transported from East to West on the water went through Buffalo including an estimated 75% of the population at one point in time! Buffalo enjoyed increasing commerce and in 1843 the first grain elevators were built and, in the 1840s and 50s more than a dozen existed in Buffalo. Fascinatingly Buffalo was the first place in the US to get electricity, Hydroelectricity, from the Falls, and celebrated this with the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. The Electric Tower is one of my favourite structures in the city and is a replication of the temporary structure that was built for the 1901 Exposition.

The magnificent Art Deco skyscraper of City Hall in Buffalo, NY is the 3rd tallest building in the city and is larger (in area rather than height) than the Los Angeles City Hall. The centre of Joseph Ellicott’s city layout today has civic buildings on all sides.

When City Hall was built, as the 2 brick buildings either side were so massive  City Hall had to be built to be bigger, of course! The other buildings around the Square offer a variety of other interesting architectural styles

The glistening octagonal tower of City Hall peeps out from many vantage points across the city. On my first night, as storm clouds were buzzing by, the evening light caught one side and against the dark clouds it really did look dramatic.

The best, most designed view must be this one, looking from Lafayette Square down Court Street. We can look at the other buildings another time, for now lets look closer at City Hall.

There are too may carvings on the exterior to detail them all, but extensive frieze over the entrance depicts images of the people of Buffalo:

The seals of Buffalo and either side of the entrance and here is an image of the decoration inside the porch as you enter.

As you enter the building the mosaic floor, tiled ceiling, huge paintings and gilt detailing and the extravagant variety of types of stone make quite an impression:

This painting depicts America and Canada, as this relationship was very important as a trading port. Until recently Buffalo was the biggest trading entrance to the USA. The painting opposite describes Buffalo City.

There are figures carved in relief in the columns that would have held lamps at the bases; their faces appearing through the smoke.

Up we went to the Treasury, which has a drawing by Ellicott of the city he designed with all of the streets radiating out from City Hall. This gave some awkward triangular plots, which gives us Upjohn’s unique assymetrical church design that we can look at another time.

The Council Chamber is stunning. The stained glass sun design grabs your attention as it filter the north light its 7 rays are mirrored by the semi-circular rows of benches.  The Guastavino tiles on the rear wall of the council chamber, along with that in the lobby absorb the sound and prevent the otherwise boomy acoustic.

Up to the viewing platform there is free access to views accross the city, of the 5 grain elevators now disued and generating debate as to what should be done with them, and to the water front with the Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo to Canada in the distance.

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