Jennifer Walkowski, Architectural Historian, will share her insight and research about the history of Niagara Square and Buffalo City Hall in an illustrated lecture, “‘The Keystone of the Arch of the Plan’: Edward H. Bennett’s ‘Buffalo of Tomorrow’ and John J. Wade’s Buffalo City Hall,” at 7 PM on Wednesday, October 13 at the History Museum. Ms. Walkowski, Acting President and founding member of the Louise Bethune Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (website), is the leading authority on the history and architecture of Buffalo City Hall.
While architect and designer John J. Wade’s involvement in the Buffalo City Hall project dates to 1925, many people do not realize that the plans for the new civic building originate even earlier in the 1920s. Nationally acclaimed city planner, Edward H. Bennett, notable for his collaboration with Daniel H. Burnham on the landmark Chicago Plan of 1909, was hired to create a sweeping new modern vision for the City of Buffalo. The largely unknown story of Bennett’s plan and its influence on Wade’s design for City Hall will be the topic of Walkowski’s presentation.
Bennett worked on the famous Chicago Plan of 1909 as an associate of Daniel Burnham. He also designed a sweeping, late City Beautiful plan for the city of Buffalo at a later time in his own practice. The Buffalo plan was intended to mitigate traffic congestion downtown as well as highlight several new key civic and cultural buildings. It shows grand boulevards and squares overlaid onto the existing Buffalo plan. While most of the plan was never realized, it did lay the foundation for John J. Wade’s new Buffalo City Hall and the development of the Niagara Square civic center. Architect John J. Wade’s involvement in the Buffalo City Hall project dates to 1925, but the design foundation for the new civic building date even farther back to Bennett’s plan. This can be clearly seen in the illustration of the plan included below. The plan shows a dramatic tower in the same position as Wade’s magnificent art deco city hall. It forms the dramatic anchor for the civic square we have today.
A Western New York-native, Jennifer Walkowski earned a Master of Architectural History degree with High Honors from the University of Virginia with her thesis “Americanesque: Exploring Modern Civic Identity at Buffalo City Hall.” She currently works as Architectural Historian for Clinton Brown Company Architecture in Buffalo where she leads the firm’s state-wide work in Historic Resource Surveys, State and National Registers of Historic Places nominations, and Historic Preservation Tax Credit projects.
Admission is $7.00 to the public, free to members of the Historical Society and to members of the local Louise Bethune Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians.
The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, located at 25 Nottingham Court near Elmwood Avenue, has a corresponding exhibition, “Niagara Square,” on display until January 8, 2011. The exhibit is included in admission. The History Museum building is wheelchair accessible; free, lighted parking is adjacent to the museum.