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Then and Now: Buffalo’s Most Beautiful Storefront

This building, part of Buffalo’s Midway block of row houses on Delaware Avenue, was built in 1894 as the residence of Dr. Bernard Bartow.  Dr. Bartow was a highly respected citizen of the city and was one of the founders of Children’s Hospital.  His house, designed by Marling and Johnson Architects, was was originally a pleasant, though rather conservative and forgettable, Colonial Revival style townhouse.  It was a quiet contributer to the Midway, working well with its neighbors, but a bit lacking in something.  Let’s just say it was dull.
It would have been perfectly fine as originally constructed, but at some point – I am guessing the 1920s – the building was converted to commercial use.  As part of the conversion, a small but visually substantial modification was made to the front facade (and probably the interior as well).  
stillwater before.png
The first two floors of the facade were reworked with a very distinct and unusual storefront with a 2 story center window flanked by 2 shorter windows.  The windows are framed by delicate, low relief tracery, and sculpture in bronze.  The stye of the window is quite odd and a bit exotic.  You might describe it as Art Nouveau-ish.  I spent a short time looking for information on the original tenant of this storefront, but found absolutely nothing on it.   

stillwater relief.png

Was it a restaurant, a club, a salon?  Perhaps it was an artist’s or photographer’s studio?  Some or the details (left) hint at an artist studio. It was more recently the longtime home of the popular Lord Chumley’s restaurant, and now houses the upscale Stillwater restaurant.
The architect of  the storefront  modification was most certainly a master of the craft. The addition of this modernist storefront to a conservative revival style building was handled with great skill.  The result is a building much better than the original.  
I love how the new metalwork looks as if it is gently  placed upon the surface of the brick.  This gives the brick a modernist twist.  In this way, the new window takes over the entire facade, transforming it.  It is just extraordinary, and is one of Buffalo’s least heralded great works of architecture.
“Before” image is from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society website, a resource that just keeps getting better and better with each visit.

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

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