The law firm of Hodgson Russ LLP kicked off its 200th anniversary last week by announcing the opening of the Guaranty Interpretive Center. The oldest continuous business in Buffalo, the firm was founded in 1817 by attorney Asa Rice, who established the City of Buffalo’s Charter and was an integral part of the completion of the Erie Canal.
Also as part of its history, the firm can claim two former attorneys who went on to be U.S. Presidents, the first female partner in the U.S for a firm of its size and stature, and the U.S. Supreme Court argument by gay-rights pioneer Attorney William Gardner.
But Hodgson Russ didn’t call us together to celebrate the past. Rather, to celebrate its continued investment in Buffalo’s future. In 2002, the firm purchased Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building at the corner of Church and Pearl. Considered to be an architectural masterpiece, Sullivan’s building was one of the world’s first steel framed skyscrapers and at the time it was built, was the tallest in the world with 13 floors (clearly Louis was not a superstitious man).
Terry Gilbride, the partner at Hodgson Russ who oversaw the development of the Interpretive Center, said that the firm realized the experience for visitors was lacking so they agreed to turn almost a quarter of the first floor from meeting space to a welcoming interpretive center with museum quality exhibits. Hodgson Russ employed architects Flynn Battaglia and Hadley Exhibits to assist on the design and construction of the interpretive center.
One of the exhibits is a 4’ replica of the Guaranty building, recreated in stunning detail. Professor of Architecture at Alfred State College, David I. Carli, along with twelve architecture students, worked countless hours over the last several months to produce the 1896 version of the Guaranty Building. The model was formed using drones, historic photographs, 3D printers and laser cutting and was crafted out of thousands of individual pieces constructed from cardboard, wood, and paper.
We were also told that the firm is not finished with its work on the building; they still have plans to restore the lights on the outside, and the interior of the elevator shaft, which originally had windows that look out on the Buffalo River. They can still be seen from the first floor.
The attorneys of Hodgson Russ have entered into a collaboration with Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN). Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of PBN, called the Interpretive Center a “thoughtful and workable place.” Fisher said, “This space will be seen by people all over the country and in fact all over the world. We know from our tour work of downtown Buffalo, people come to Buffalo in droves. Cultural and architectural tourism is a rapidly growing and important part of our local economy.”
Local officials also complimented the firm on their ongoing commitment to Buffalo. Senator Tim Kennedy stated that Hodgson Russ is “a law firm older than the city, in the heart of the city” and Mayor Byron Brown acknowledged that Hodgson Russ has “played a significant role in the ongoing rebirth of Buffalo. ”We are grateful that Hodgson Russ’ partners chose to invest in our City’s history, to innovate, and protect this world class landmark.” The Hodgson Russ investment in the Guaranty Building illustrates its commitment to the City of Buffalo, as well as our community.
I encourage all of you to go visit the Interpretive Center, located on the first floor of the Guaranty Building, 140 Pearl Street. The Center is open during regular business hours, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment with Preservation Buffalo Niagara.
Photos: Jessica, Rachacha, Queenseyes