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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 31-A Erie County Hall (1994)

31-A Erie County Hall (1994)

Narrative by - David M. Rote
(Narratives are copyrighted)

The site upon which this grey granite structure stands, known as Franklin Square, was chosen in 1871 for the construction of a new civic center and court house complex for the city of Buffalo and county of Erie, replacing widely-scattered government buildings and the old court house on Lafayette Square (where the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library stands today). Franklin Square was originally set aside by the Holland Land Company as the village of Buffalo's first burial grounds but all interments there were removed to Forest Lawn Cemetery by 1852. Andrew Jackson Warner of Rochester, New York was engaged as architect and the cornerstone of the building was laid on June 24, 1872. Granite quarried at Clark's Island, Maine was shipped to Buffalo by train.

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 (not seen) "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, when the current Art Deco city hall was opened on Niagara Square (see #9-A). Grover Cleveland's road to the White House began in the old County Hall building.

In September 1901, Buffalo was literally the "capital" of the nation when President Theodore Roosevelt and his cabinet, as well as members of Congress, gathered to pay homage to the recently assassinated President William McKinley whose body lay in state in this building. The exact spot was permanently memorialized in the marble floor with a brass intaglio which today is roped off to protect the area.

Many representatives of foreign governments, commissioned to attend the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, paid their respects and, in a little known fact, nearly fifty chiefs from the Pan-American Indian Congress, including Apache chieftain Geronimo, were also in attendance. Following services, the slain president's body was removed to a horse-drawn hearse which then moved slowly through adjacent Shelton Square past the tolling bells of St. Paul's Cathedral (see #30-A) and down Main Street to the Exchange Street rail station for the trip to Washington, D.C.