Rochester……. architectural history minute!

Roches.. err Buffalo Architectural History Minute!

Next we will continue to explore Buffalo landmarks, Today will focus on ….

Erie County Hall

Designed by perhaps Rochester’s greatest architect, Andrew Jackson Warner, it is an outstanding example of High Victorian Romanesque. Warner was the supervising architect for Richardson’s Buffalo Psychiatric Center (formerly Buffalo State Hospital), but his Romanesque style is quite different from Richardson’s, although the buildings were constructed about the same time.

The general plan of the building is in the form of a double Roman cross with the principal facade facing Franklin Street to the east. The clock and bell tower is 40 feet square at the base and rises to a height of 268 feet. Four turrets are located on the upper central tower and upon each rests a pedestal surmounted by a 16-foot, 14-ton granite statue sculpted by Giovanni F. Sala. The northeast corner represents “Justice”; northwest corner “Mechanical Arts”; southeast corner “Agriculture”; and southwest corner “Commerce.” The building was dedicated March 13, 1876 and the office of Buffalo’s mayor as well as the common council chambers were located here from that time until 1932. Granite quarried at Clark’s Island, Maine was shipped to Buffalo by train. Harold J. Cooke, Buffalo architect, was commissioned to prepare documents necessary for alterations executed from 1925 to 1931. The work was a major reconstruction project and included replacement of all floors, fireproofing of the entire structure, reconstruction and rebuilding of walls, replastering of the entire interior, acoustic treatment of court rooms, installation of marble tile and terrazzo…all heating, ventilating, plumbing, electrical work and air conditioning has been installed new, the high pressure boiler abolished, the generators eliminated and the current changed. Only the registry of deed room, with its tall, cast-iron columns decorated with incised ornament, survives unchanged from Warner’s time.

It was on this site on December 10, 1813 that Colonel Cyrenius Chapin surrendered the village of Buffalo to the British However, the British then rejected his authority and proceeded to burn the village in retaliation for the American forces under General McClure having previously burned the British settlement of Niagara-on-the-Lake. also it would become the site of Franklin Square Cemetery, Buffalo’s second burial ground from 1804 to 1836, especially for soldiers of the War of 1812. In October, 1836, a brick wall was built around Franklin Square on three sides, at a cost of $2,000, paid for by popular subscription. At that time, all the graves not marked by stones or monuments were leveled and graded even with the general surface. Many a resting-place of early residents, and of soldiers of 1812, was thus lost for identification.

Andrew Jackson Warner (1833-1910) was born in Connecticut in 1833 and came to Rochester circa 1847 as an apprentice to one of his uncles, Merwin Austin. Andrew, and later his son John F. Warner (1859-1937) were the Rochester’s leading architects, with their careers spanning between the 1840s and the 1930s. Both men executed designs for many buildings including homes, government buildings, churches, schools, banks and offices. Some of the most prominent include the powers building, Old Rochester city hall, and the original East and West High schools. The fact that so many Warner buildings are still standing testifies to the structural strength and aesthetic appeal of their designs. for a complete list of their works see

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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