Buffalo’s history is chock full of celebrated architects. But every once in a while a new name surfaces that makes us stop and think. Take, for example, Buffalo’s First African American Architect – John E. Brent (1889–1962). Aside from breaking down racial barriers via his time served as first President of the Buffalo Branch of the NAACP, Brent also managed to design a very impressive building – the Michigan Avenue branch of the Y.M.C.A. (1928), which was unfortunately demolished (1977), along with numerous other significant structures along Michigan Avenue.
While many Buffalonians are aware of The Zoo’s iconic cast iron gates (located at the Entrance Court) and landscape architecture, most do not know that it was Brent who was the creator. It was in 1935 that these gates first became a focal feature of the grounds. Then, in 2013 the gates officially made it into the annals of National Register of Historic Places. Today they are a tangible testament for all to see and appreciate.
In order to acknowledge the life and work of Brent, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is working with Buffalo-based artist James Cooper III to create a new mural at The Zoo that will shine a light on the esteemed architect. In researched the life of Brent, Cooper came across Christine Parker who is a historian and authority on the life and legacy of John Brent. The two collaborated on the scope of the mural, which will ultimately be positioned next to Brent’s beloved iron gates.
You can read more about Brent and his work in this article by Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, PhD, Co-founder of the Uncrowned Queens Institute.
Lead image courtesy Brenda Bieger