Western New York Heritage

Buffalo City Block Demolished: 1895

The year is 1895. The scene of the crime is the city block bordered by Swan, Main, South Division and Washington Streets. The entire block, four streets of businesses and factories, are about to be demolished entirely.

And, when they were finished demolishing an entire city block, 240 feet (Main & Washington Streets sides) by 200 feet (Swan & South Division), this is the hole that remained on May 31, 1895.

Why did no civic-minded preservationists complain about the wholesale demolition of an entire block so that this "mammoth" 10-story structure of steel, concrete, brick and terra cotta could be constructed, casting its enormous shadow over the human-scaled streetscape?

The answer is simple. There were no preservationists in 1895, at least none interested in saving vernacular brick structures. And the Ellicott Company, continuously owned by descendents and successors of Joseph Ellicott, owned the entire city block in question, which was commonly called the 'Ellicott Square Block."

And so, in 1 year's time, they constructed the first office building in the U.S. to cover an entire block, opening on May 1, 1896. Tenants were already secured and eagerly awaiting their move into the 'modern' structure. Buffalo's building boom was well under way!