Buffalo Architectural History Minute!

Today we will look at the two permanent structures from the Pan- American exposition.

Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society Museum

The masterwork of architect George Cary (1859 – 1945), the Historical Society building was originally erected as the New York State pavilion for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 at a cost of $375,000. Built of Vermont marble in the style of a Grecian Temple, the building was the only permanent exposition structure. A textbook example of the neoclassicism popular after the Chicago Fair of 1893, George Cary designed the building in the Neoclassicalstyle with the eight-columned south portico representing a 3/4 scale version of the great Doric Parthenon in Athens, Greece overlooking “Gala Waters” (Olmsted’s name for the lake in Delaware Park).
In 1925-1929 the building was enlarged by the addition of identical wings on the east and west sides, work that was also entrusted to Cary.

The sculpture in the south facade pediment represents the forces of civilization and was carved by Edmund Amateis. Left to right: Philosophy, Industry, Art, Husbandry, History, Science, Mars, Religion, Law. On the portico steps, the statue of “Lincoln, the Emancipator,” carved by Charles N. Niehaus, was dedicated in 1902. It is a replica of the statue Niehaus sculpted for Muskegon, Michigan. For thirty years this statue was located in the Grand Court inside the Historical Building before being placed on the south portico steps. Edmund R. Amateis carved the eleven relief sculptures around the building depicting scenes from Western New York history: the trial of Red Jacket, Commodore Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie, the burning of Buffalo in 1813, Gen. Daniel D. Bidwell at Spotsylvania, the Underground Railway, the reception of Marquis de Lafayette in Buffalo in 1825, Grover Cleveland, the formation of the Buffalo historical Society. The statue of “The Centaur” was created by Charles Cary Rumsey, the architect’s nephew.

Albright Art Gallery

The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, founded in 1862, is the governing body of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. A major event in the life of the Academy occurred with the construction of the Albright Art Gallery, a generous gift from Buffalo entrepreneur and philanthropist John J. Albright. Intended to serve first as the Fine Arts Pavilion of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, it was completed too late for that purpose in 1905. The original building was designed by Edward B. Green, the distinguished Buffalo architect also responsible for the design of the Toledo Museum of Art and the Dayton Art Institute.

5,000 tons of marble were used in the building. When completed, the gallery had 102 columns, more than any building in America except the Capitol. The marble on the exterior and in the Sculpture Court comes from a quarry located near Baltimore, Maryland, the same source that was used for the Washington Monument. The Gallery in its external and interior detail follows almost exactly the high Ionic order of the Erectheion. The ten columns supporting the east portico are exact copies (in everything except scale) of the order used for the east facade of the Erectheion Each column weighs nineteen tons and the necking of the column shafts is enriched with a band of floral ornamentation arranged in a honeysuckle pattern.

On the exterior of the building, there are seventy-four freestanding columns forming the porticoes, hemicycle and loggia. The floors of the latter were originally laid with glass prisms to admit natural light into the lower level. In adapting this plan to meet the requirements of a more modern art gallery, Green and Wicks provided antechambers leading from the center of the north and south sides of the court into the picture galleries. The architectural serenity of these transepts, which are completed with columns supporting finely carved white marble entablatures, are among the museum’s most elegant features. In order to facilitate crowd flow, Green and Wicks’ floor plan called for doorways connecting all galleries. The result was a loss of valuable wall space that could only be regained by blocking up some of the doors in the smaller galleries. This deficiency in Green’s plan was noted and acted upon in later renovations. The Gallery was among the last art museums to be based on the Ionic temple form; for that reason it can be seen to a certain extent as the culmination of the temple design then in use for museums in the United States

Eighteen marble columns stretch across the western facade of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. They have a slightly convex profile suggesting the compression created by supporting massive weight and also to counter the appearance that straight lines seem to sag. Green also spaced the columns not quite an equal distance apart and leaned them ever so slightly toward the center as additional optical compensations. Later, the Gallery was significantly enhanced with the addition of a new wing designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of New York. Made possible with major donations from Seymour H. Knox, Jr. and his family, and hundreds of other contributors, the new addition was dedicated in 1962.

Buffalo historical society is to the north of the lake, Albright Knox to the South….

Andy Petruzzelli

Andy Petruzzelli

HOLT Architects, P.C.
217 N. Aurora St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
phone 607 273-7600 Ext. 151
fax 607 273-0475


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