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Latest National Register Landmark: The Meldrum-Edwards Building

Buffalo’s newest National Register property also has seven new apartments.  The Meldrum-Edwards Building, now dubbed The Antonio, at 265-67 Pearl Street was added to the Register on May 29.  In late-2011, Ellicott Development unveiled a dozen upscale loft apartments on the top four floors of the seven-story building.  The company recently added an additional seven units on the bottom three floors of the building.  All of the units are leased according to Ellicott Development.

Information on the building from the Registration Form prepared by Kerry Traynor of kta preservation specialists:

Constructed in ca. 1909, The Meldrum-Edwards Building is an excellent, intact example of an early use of reinforced-concrete frame construction.  The aesthetic of the eight story brick and terra cotta building references the classic, tall building tripartite form (base, shaft, capital), with Neoclassical detailing at the cornice as opposed to the industrial aesthetic, expressive of structure and form, that will come to characterize the daylight factory.

The building retains a high level of integrity and meets Criterion C of the National Register Eligibility requirements. The building is also significant under Criterion A for its association with Commerce, specifically department stores.

H.A. Meldrum and E.W. Edwards & Sons, who operated their emporiums in the ca. 1909 building, between 1909 – 1922 and 1922 – 1952 respectively, were both successful and highly regarded merchants in the city of Buffalo and region.

The Meldrum-Edwards Building, an eight story brick commercial building located at 265 – 267 Pearl Street, was constructed in ca. 1909, between W. Mohawk Street to the north and Court Street to the south.  The property includes a separate building to the east, at 456-458 Main Street, which was constructed ca. 1889-1908. The two buildings were not connected in 1925, however by 1951 they were.

The building at 456-458 Main Street was extensively altered in 1969-1970 and is not a “certified historic structure”.  Located directly across Pearl Street is the Buffalo Convention Center, constructed in ca. 1978.  The east side of Pearl Street between W. Mohawk Street and Court Street retains the commercial character evidenced on the historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

Historically Pearl Street, between W. Mohawk Street and Court Street, had a number of department stores including Hens & Kelly at the northeast corner of Pearl and W. Mohawk Streets; Neisner Bros. Inc. Department Store; F.W. Woolworth & Co.; H.A. Meldrum Co. and E.W. Edwards and Sons, who occupied most of the west side of Pearl Street by ca. 1926 until 1952 when they ceased all Buffalo operations.  To the southeast in the 300 block of Main Street is the J.N. Adams/A.M.&A’s Historic District.  The J.N. Adams Company Department Store and the Adam, Meldrum & Anderson Company (AM&A’s) were iconic in Buffalo’s retail history.

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EXTERIOR
The Meldrum-Edwards Building fronts Pearl Street. The building is an early example of a reinforced concrete frame structure with brick veneer walls. Unlike later reinforced concrete frame factories and warehouses, where the structure becomes part of the exterior aesthetic, 265-257 Pearl Street features classical detailing on the brick masonry façade.

The original windows on the Pearl Street elevation were one-over-one double-hung wooden sash units.  The second floor window featured with a transom light. The windows on the Main Street elevation were three-over-three metal sash units, while those on the north elevation were six-pane lights and those on the south elevation were three-over-three double hung metal sash units. The windows on the Pearl Street elevation have been replaced with aluminum clad wood windows, while the original steel windows have been replaced with aluminum units. All of the units match the original profiles and light division.

The eight story building is a classic, tall building tripartite form (base, shaft, capital), with Neoclassical detailing at the cornice.  The two bay elevation is asymmetrical through the shaft with four, one-over-one double hung sash windows in the north, and three in the south bay.

Although the building’s height and narrow width suggests verticality, a continuous sill running the width of the building beneath the windows and the progressive reduction in height of the windows between floors results in a horizontal sensibility. The “cornice” or attic is separated from the shaft by a broad sill that projects out from the plane of the wall. The attic features seven, one-over-one sash windows separated by terra cotta mullions.

The windows are set back within the depth of the wall resulting in strong shadow lines. A classically detailed pressed tin cornice completes the composition. Brackets above each pier carry the cornice, which features dentils and two pendants between each bracket. Slightly larger brackets emphasis the corners.

There is an entry at each bay of the storefront. There are three windows, with transom on the bay to the north and two windows, with transom flanking the entrance door to the south.

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Shopping in Buffalo: H.A. Meldrum Company 1897 – 1925
As head of the Great Meldrum Department Stores, Mr. Meldrum represents modern mercantile development in its broadest and most progressive sense.  Herbert Alexander Meldrum (1870-1960) was the son of Alexander Meldrum, a leading Buffalo merchant and one of the founders of the AM&As.  Meldrum himself would become a prominent merchant and member of the community. He was appointed by Governor Charles E. Hughes as a member of the board of managers of the Buffalo State Hospital, a position he held for seven years, and served as president of the Chamber of Commerce for three consecutive terms beginning in 1913. He was the first president of the American Savings Bank of Buffalo, established in 1907, after which he held position of chairman of the board.  He belonged to numerous social clubs including the Saturn Club, Automobile Club and Buffalo Club.

Meldrum was educated in Buffalo, attending Central High School before entering his father’s firm to learn the department store and dry goods business. He remained with the firm until 1897, when the H.A. Meldrum Company was incorporated “for the purpose of conducting a general business in dry goods, notions, millinery and cloaks”.

The firm opened their retail emporium in a five-story, iron frame building located at 460-466 Main Street (271 – 273 Pearl Street). The cast iron storefront facing Main Street was pictured in the 1908 publication A History of the City of Buffalo. H.A. Meldrum was progressive in his approach to business.  In 1898 he introduced “the first automobile delivery car in Buffalo. It was a Waverly electric and traversed the streets of Buffalo years before the large commercial houses of the country adopted automobiles for delivery purposes.”

Meldrum understood the importance of technology and advertising. In 1906 he brought A. Roy Knabenshue a pioneer aviator to the city, sponsoring the first power-propelled airship flight in the city’s history. The flight ended with the airship landing on the roof of the H.A. Meldrum and Company Building. The event created such a spectacular stir in the city that street traffic was blocked during the flight, and the phone system was out of commission because the operators had abandoned their post to watch the event.

In 1909, Herbert A. Meldrum expanded his existing retail operations into the adjacent lot where Mrs. Ehrnpforth’s residence had stood. A notice in the May 1909 edition of Men’s Wear indicates that the H.A. Meldrum Company planned to add an eight-story addition to their present building. It also noted that the top floor would be a resting room for woman employees and an emergency hospital. The company remained at this address until the store, stock, fixtures and assets of the H.A. Meldrum Company were acquired by the E.W. Edwards & Sons Co. after the company went into receivership in early 1922.

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E.W. Edwards & Sons Co.
The E.W. Edwards & Sons Co., an established merchant in Rochester and Syracuse, New York, purchased the assets of the H.A. Meldrum Company for $451,144 and then sold the entire stock at close-out prices. As reported in The Illustrated Milliner, the company was also in the market purchasing upwards of $500,000 worth of new merchandise for the Buffalo store.

The company also planned extensive renovations in what was considered an “outdated” store. Part of the reorganization plan included eliminating some departments while enlarging others. The women’s department was moved from the ground floor to the second story and men’s attire moved to the first floor. The children’s and growing girls departments were moved to upper floor levels, possibly in an attempt to have women move through the store as opposed simply visiting the women’s department on the first floor. In the basement bargain sales were conducted, with goods being put on counters and racks, in keeping with the adage “Bargain Basement.”

E.W. Edwards & Sons had department stores in Syracuse and Rochester before expanding their market to Buffalo in 1922. By 1925 the company occupied 149-155 Franklin Street/266-270 Pearl Street where they had their furniture and rugs department, cafeteria and warehouse space.

The buildings on either side of Pearl Street were connected by a tunnel under the street as noted on the 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. The company expanded further, purchasing the Lockwood Building at the corner of Genesee and Franklin Streets, the Star Theater and other properties in the block to the north of their Franklin Street address, with the intent to build one of the largest department stores in New York State. The theater was demolished, and by 1926 the company had completed construction of the expansion.

With the expansion that created almost 83,000 square feet of modern retail, the building at 265-267 Franklin Street became of less importance.  In May 1938 the Edwards store ceased operations at 460 Main Street and the Neisner Brothers, Inc. opened a department store in the space. E.W. Edwards & Sons retained the building at 267-269 Pearl Street. The company continued to expand in Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs opening a department store on Bailey Avenue in the Langfield Plaza in the 1947, and a branch in the L.B. Smith Plaza in Lackawanna in 1951. In December 1952 the company terminated its Buffalo operations to concentrate on their Syracuse and Rochester stores.

Get Connected: Ellicott Development, 716.854.0060

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Written by WCPerspective

WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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