The historic images presented here, courtesy of a Facebook friend, show the east side of the block of Main Street between Genesee Street and Chippewa. All of these buildings but one have been demolished. The one remaining building, of course, is the former Buffalo Savings bank with its glorious classical style granite clad walls topped by a magnificent gold dome.
During the early 80's the Buffalo Savings Bank went through a massive growth spurt which meant they would need more space, along with a building that would represent their new status as one of the nation's largest savings banks. At the same time the City was also looking for a way to develop the decayed northern section of Downtown. The resulting project was part of a massive redevelopment project for both sides of the block. Buffalo Savings took over the entire east side and leveled all but the gold domed original bank building with plans to erect a shinny new headquarters tower. See this story here
for before and after on the west side of the block which was also completely leveled. The bank was renamed Goldome Bank for Savings in 1983 (later Goldome FSB) to fit its new national stature. Much of the bank's growth was being fueled by mergers facilitated by the FDIC as the savings and loan crisis grew. If my memory is accurate the bank was weakened and eventually liquidated in 1991 due to being overburdened by the weight of the many failing banks that it had absorbed. Wikipedia lists Goldome as the 21st largest bank failure in the US with assets of $9.9B at the time of liquidation (but admits the list may not be complete). The gold domed building and the still new tower were acquired by M&T Band which soon gave the complex its current name, M&T Center.
As you can see from the 'before' pictures Buffalo was a very gray city 30 years ago. This part of downtown was a real wreck. Many younger people might complain that Buffalo's downtown still is pretty grim. Perhaps, but not in the same way. This 1980s Donwtown still had quite a bit of retail life left and there were still stores on this part of Main. But downtown was quickly dying and the buildings on this block were severely neglected. Sure Buffalo is still stuck in an economic rut but the Buffalo shown here in the late seventies was a very different place. The city had little to no culture of urbanism, and the development community had pretty much abandoned the city unless they were led by the nose from City Hall with huge incentives. Today there is much more hope for an improved downtown and a real culture of improvement with little likelihood of wholesale destruction of history like this.
As a young man in the late 70's I loved exploring the city and loved its old buildings but I also craved new buildings in a city that built none of any substance. Even back then I did not cherish the destruction of the city's older buildings but I also did not have a very deep or sophisticated appreciation for the true value and importance of historic buildings. I did not really understand what was being lost as buildings rotted... and that they could never be brought back once torn down. I don't have one picture of my own from this block even though I took hundreds of pictures around the city. Back then you walked around with just 36 pictures on a roll or film in your camera and maybe another in your pocket. So, you used the film sparingly. Apparently this old rotting block was not deemed film worthy by my young brain. Even by today's standards new development in Buffalo was very rare back then. To say I was excited by the prospect of a shinny new tower on this block is an understatement. Finally! Finally! Finally something new - a big new shiny building! Needless to say I didn't care that much about what was being lost.
Seeing these images today makes me feel very sad because obviously much was lost and although the Goldome tower is not a horrible building it is far from great. Its pointless arcade, dull plaza, and simplistic detail don't add up to what was lost on this once complex and layered block. The Goldome tower was a flashy building in its day. It was the city's first Post Modern style building. This was the type of architecture which supposedly played on historic forms but with a modern interpretation. Often this meant that classical architectural elements were used in a cartoonish way. This is not meant as insult to the style. It was often actually the goal with many post modernist architects who were reaching for humor and irony in their work.
While the building was being built I used to sneak inside. Not really sneak, since no one cared back then if a teenager wandered around a construction site. I loved seeing a large new building going up. As part of my explorations I often ended up at Jack Randal's little Louis Sullivan museum which was in a pair of offices in the then decrepit Guaranty Building. Randal
had moved from Chicago to Buffalo in order to save that building from demolition. I used to talk to him about Buffalo Architecture as well as the Goldome project. He would just shake his head in disgust at that building and the loss of Buffalo history and would say Buffalo was getting short changed. He knew the loss. I didn't understand what he was talking about at the time. I do now.