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Erie County Savings.

Do you ever wish you could get up close and touch some of Buffalo’s long gone architectural gems?  Well, you can see and touch the grand old Erie County Savings Bank; sort of.

The bank was a glorious castle like building sitting prominently on Shelton Square at Main and Niagara Streets until it was demolished to make way for the Main Place Mall and a new Erie County Savings Bank office tower.   It is one of Buffalo’s most lamented losses.  It was demolished at a time of vigorous “urban renewal” in which the goal was to seemingly remove every trace of the historic city of Buffalo.  The old bank building in pictures was dark and hulking.  It was rendered in the Richardson Romanesque style, with heavily rusticated blocks of pinkish granite trimmed by delicate carvings.  Its years of accumulated soot cast a quite dramatic contrast to the gleaming white One M&T Plaza, just across the street, which was completed just before demolition of the Erie Savings was started.

So how can you see this beauty from the past in person?

Unfortunately, you can’t see the full building in all its glory.  It is gone forever. Thankfully however, someone with forethought had a few bits of the building’s wonderful carved fragments saved from the wrecker.  You can see these fragments on the Buffalo State College campus.  I believe there are about a dozen or so pieces there.  The stone carvings shown here are outside the north side of Moot Hall.  I believe there are a few others scattered around campus as well, including the bronze lions which once stood guard over the entry.  I also recall a fanciful bronze drinking fountain from the old building had been installed inside the new Erie County Savings banking lobby.  That space has undergone many alterations over the years so I don’t know if the fountain is still there.

If you go to see the stones, be sure to touch them. Run your fingers over the edges and feel the life of the stone carver who put his love into these pieces of the earth more than 120 years ago.  These fragments connect us directly to our ancestors. The are precious even in this disembodied state.

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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