Looking at the image above (circa 1907-1915), the monument and 96 foot obelisk are recognizable but not much else is if using surrounding architecture as a point of reference. In addition to being a Presidential monument for McKinley, Niagara Square was also designed to as a public space with its grand walkways, spacious benches, exquisitely carved Vermont marble and fountains. The sleeping lions, symbols of strength, and the turtles, emblematic of eternal life, have become subdued with erosion over the years and have a resemblance to melted wax in some areas. The erosion has contributed a sense of fortitude with the depth and variation of the striations that have become more pronounced and colorful over time. Caused by impurities such as iron or carbon trapped during formation, marble exposed to the climate remains in a perpetual state of transformation from biochemical changes.
The landscaping surrounding the monument was young back then and looks bare compared to the thriving urban garden it has become. The foliage is captivating if you can catch a glimpse from driving past or dodging the feverish traffic circling the monument, but it not as accessible as it was originally intended. Transportation was changing but it would have been hard to predict how much the automobile would consume American life a few decades later and how the park would become severed from pedestrian traffic.
Carrere and Hastings, designers of the monument, were the architects in charge of the Pan-American Exposition. As one of the preeminent Beaux-Arts architecture firms in the United States located in New York City, they were also responsible for the New York Public Library. Architect Daniel H. Burnham (Ellicott Square Building) was consulted on the project. He suggested the appropriateness of an obelisk with fountains at the base and decided where it should be placed.
^ Niagara Square, McKinley Monument. Niagara Street on far left, Delaware Avenue in center Library of Congress. Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado, 1949
The City of Buffalo issued an RFP over the summer for restoration of the monument in conjunction with its stewardship of public art around the city. A highly respected local architecture firm experienced in restoration (Flynn Battaligia Architects) was selected for the project which is good news for Buffalo. Slowing traffic around this spectacular monument and its thriving garden would be ideal for a city interested in preservation, walkability, sustainability and improved urban health would be even better news.
^ Sanborn Map: Buffalo, New York. Before McKinley Monument existed. Source; New York Public Library; Atlases of the Unites States; New York; Buffalo NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b13693801 [north is to the right of this map]
Lead image: Niagara Square, McKinley Monument, circa 1907-1915 | Delaware Avenue on far left. The building at the corner with fabric awnings is current site of Statler Towers. Source: Library of Congress. Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado, 1949 [use permitted and unrestricted]
Images: Library of Congress, Accessed March 8, 2016. Use allowed and unrestricted.
Sanborn map: New York Public Library; Atlases of the Unites State; New York; Buffalo (circa 1872)
Buffalo Architecture and History: Retrieved from buffaloah.com/a/niagSq/mck/ Accessed March 9, 2016
Sanborn Map: Buffalo, New York. Before McKinley Monument existed Source; New York Public Library; Atlases of the Unites States; New York; Buffalo NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b13693801