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Expansion of 500 Block of Main Street Historic District Proposed

The 500 Block of Main Street Historic District could be spreading its wings. The Preservation Board will be considering a plan to expand the district to the east and west bringing serveral prime conversion candidates into the historic fold. In all, the expansion will add eight buildings on nine parcels to the sixteen buildings already contributing to the district. The Board will review the proposal on January 25.

From the application prepared by kta preservation specialists:

The 500 Block of Main Street in Buffalo, Erie County, New York was certified as a Local Historic Preservation District in 2009. In 2013, the Preservation Ready Survey of Buildings Downtown identified the potential to expand the district to the north and east, indicating properties on Main Street, Washington Street and East Huron Street as significant architectural resources. The expanded district has been determined National Register Eligible as the 500 Block Main Street Expansion.

The district expansion would include nine parcels, eight buildings and one vacant/parking lot. All of the buildings proposed for the expansion have already been individually determined to be National Register Eligible. The building at 500 Main Street was determined eligible in 1999, 501 Washington Street and 23 E. Huron Street in 2002. The remaining buildings were recommended for eligibility upon the completion of the Preservation Ready Survey of Buildings Downtown in 2013.

The buildings within the expanded district are significant under National Register Criterion A in the areas of Commerce and Social History and C in the area of Architecture. They also meet the local designation requirements for Criterion 1, 3, and 5. The commercial function of each of these buildings, typically as storefronts or offices, directly relates to the significance of the preexisting district as a primary commercial corridor during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The architecture of each of these buildings is in keeping with the preexisting district, as all convey the typical forms of late nineteenth and twentieth century commercial architecture.


This commercial district began to emerge during the 1850s and 1860s, when small retail businesses occupied the ground floor storefronts of buildings such as those at 5-9 East Genesee (c. 1845), 535 Main Street (c. 1851), 496 Main Street (c.1855) and 517 Washington Street (c.1860), some of the oldest remaining in the district. By the 1880s, the area began to assume a truly metropolitan character, enhanced by the introduction of the electric streetcar, and Main Street and Washington Streets assumed the status of the premier commercial arteries in the city.4 The commercial vibrancy of this era is reflected in the expanded historic district by the buildings at 472 Main Street (c.1872) and 500 Main Street (c.1890).

Another phase of development occurred from 1900-1920s, as new commercial buildings were constructed in the district, or older ones were updated with new fixtures such as at 472 Main Street (c.1872; 1914), to accommodate an increasing population of consumers. During these years, retail businesses continued to flourish as the district saw pedestrian and streetcar traffic joined by a growing number of automobiles. Buildings such as 519 Washington Street (c.1900) exemplify early twentieth century architectural styles, and those at 501 Washington Street (1920), 23 East Huron Street (1919) and 478 Main Street (1922) demonstrate the emergence of increasingly tall buildings with larger storefronts and department stores into the 1920s.


On the west side of Main Street near Mohawk Street, the district expansion includes buildings on four parcels. The commercial building at 472-474 Main Street (above) is closely aligned with the aesthetic character of the existing 500 Block of Main Street Historic District. The main rectangular block of the four-story building was constructed in ca. 1872, however the classically detailed terra cotta façade was added to the east by 1912, and the narrow, five-story block to the northwest was constructed in ca. 1928. Exterior ornamental details such as on the ground floor storefront, classically detailed terra cotta masonry and pilasters exemplify the building’s commercial function within this commercial district.

The five-story commercial building at 478 Main Street was designed by architects Bley and Lyman and constructed in 1922. Also known as the Hens and Kelly Building, 478 Main Street contained a large department store that exemplified commercial activity in the district during the 1920s.

The three-story brick commercial building at 496 Main Street was built ca. 1855, with an additional building period in 1914. The building features a first story storefront with office space on the upper floors, in keeping with the commercial character of the district. Details on the cornice include dentils, egg and dart molding and consoles. The five-story building at 500 Main Street, once known as the L.L. Berger department store was built ca. 1892 with alterations/additions in 1917 and 1947. The brick building is a good example of late nineteenth-century commercial architecture in the district.

Three buildings on Washington Street are included in the expansion of the district, all located just south of E. Huron Street. The parcel at 515 Washington Street is also within the district expansion boundaries, but as it is currently a parking lot it contains no contributing building.

The building directly to the south at 501 Washington Street, known as the Holling Place Apartments, was built in 1920 by Hudson and Hudson architects. The ten-story apartment building has elegant ornamental details such as a pediment with round window in tympanum, squared columns and scroll brackets. The building is an excellent example of a reinforced concrete frame loft building from the early twentieth century.

The building at 517 Washington Street is a brick commercial building constructed in the 1860s. The detached row building features arched windows on the upper floors, including a centrally placed pair of arched windows and two brick arches on the ground floor, one over the entrance. The building is a relatively rare remaining example of commercial architecture from the 1860s in the city of Buffalo. The ground floor space is currently occupied by a bar, the Angelica Tea Room.

The building at 519 Washington Street contains the Catholic Charities of Buffalo offices, and was first constructed ca. 1900 with an expansion in 1926. The Neoclassical Revival building occupies the southeast corner of Washington Street at E. Huron Street, and features two-story square support columns with ionic capitals and an entrance on each street.

The district expansion also includes one building on E. Huron Street, at 23 E. Huron Street. Known also as the Lande Building (original), the Morrisson Building and the Burns Building, the six-story building is a good example of the type of office building that was being built in the city during the early twentieth century. Constructed in 1919, the steel-framed brick building features a set of four-part ribbon windows on the upper floors and square flanking brick piers. A storefront with central entrance is located at the ground level in keeping with the commercial character of the district.

All of the building’s in the proposed district expansion are directly related in history, function and design to the overwhelmingly commercial character of the 500 Block of Main Street Historic District.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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