65 Niagara Square
Hours: VIP Access: 9:00 am/General Public: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Last Admittance: 2:30 pm
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Public Restrooms: Yes
Note: We anticipate City Hall to be a highly visited destination. Please allow extra time to see this building.
Offering: Self-guided tours; birds-eye views
Visitor Experience: Visitors may tour the main lobby, the Common Council Chambers and the observation deck with spectacular views of the city and Lake Erie. Please note, the Mayor’s Office will no longer be open for this tour.
Building Description: An art-deco masterpiece, the City Hall building serves as a reminder of Buffalo’s past. Its decorative art illustrates significant elements in the area’s history: the Iroquois Nation, the development of the Erie Canal, the United States in relation to Canada and the pioneering and industrial spirit of Buffalo’s citizens.
From the Buffalo as an Architectural Museum website:
In the centennial year of the United States, 1876, Buffalo dedicated a new City Hall (the gray granite building now called Old County Hall). Between that time and the dedication of the present City Hall in 1932, the centennial year of the City of Buffalo, the population of the city had quadrupled. The need for a new building was recognized in 1920, when a citywide referendum authorized the Buffalo Common Council to select a site and develop a new “city center.”
The site chosen was Niagara Square, the most important of the several squares of the Joseph Ellicott Plan of 1804. Niagara Square is considered the center and cultural heart of Buffalo as well as its official location. The City hall tower overlooks the renowned waterways of Lake Erie and the friendly shores of Canada.
Groundbreaking for City Hall was held on September 16, 1929. The building was completed November 10, 1931. The building was dedicated July 1, 1932, to commemorate the City Centennial.
The 32-story-high structure was built on two triangular lots on the west side of Niagara Square, spanning Court Street. The construction of City Hall in 1929 closed off Court Street from the square. This was the first interruption of Ellicott’s street plan. The completion of the similarly-styled Art Deco State and Federal Buildings in 1935 on the east side of Niagara Square realized the concept of a city center group of governmental buildings, first suggested in 1920.
Walls are faced with tawny Ohio sandstone and gray Minnesota limestone, above a base of gray granite.
John J. Wade, a young architect who had experience in the design of city halls, had written an article in 1925 in The Buffalo Arts Journal called “Choosing a City Hall Architect,” which brought him to the attention of the Common Council. They hired him as a consultant architect for the design of City Hall, January, 1927. He formed a partnership with Buffalo architect George J. Dietel (1876-1974) to provide these services.
Wade produced, in 1927, a design for a twenty-five-story square tower, supporting a colonnaded octagon, surmounted by a hemispherical dome of colored tiles. Wade’s design was rejected as too expensive and lacking in sufficient floor space; however, it was not disliked.
The Council hired the firm of Dietel, Wade, and Sullivan W. Jones to produce the final design, which was adopted. Wade had been an apprentice of Jones before and after attending the Beaux Arts Institute in New York City. Jones, formerly the the New York State Architect, was designer of the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building in Albany, a building massed similarly to the Buffalo City hall.