Commercial/Chicago Style ........... Styles of Architecture

Early Twentieth Century Commercial style

By Francis R. Kowsky

In the early 1900s a new commercial style developed as a reaction to the ornate Victorian architectural styles of the late nineteenth century.

This style became popular because of its adaptability to a variety of building types, especially the new one-story, flat roofed commercial building, which appeared in the City of Buffalo in the early 1900s.

The character of the Early Twentieth Century Commercial buildings is determined by the use of patterned masonry wall surfaces, shaped parapets at the roofline that were often uninterrupted by a project cornice and large rectangular windows arranged in groups.

The “Chicago window,” a three-part window with a wide, fixed central light flanked by two narrower double-hung sashes, is a common feature.

Identifying features of this style include a plain, flat appearance that is relieved by the use of panels of brick laid in patterns and sparingly used inset accents of tile, concrete, limestone or terra cotta.

The Early Twentieth Century Commercial style is well represented on Broadway, where buildings are typically two-part commercial blocks, ranging from two to five stories.

- Broadway-Fillmore, Buffalo, NY, Intensive Level Historic Resources Survey
Two-Part Block

The two-part block is the most common form for small and moderate-sized commercial buildings in the United States.

This type of building is generally limited to two to four stories, and is characterized by a horizontal division into two distinct zones. The two-part division of the exterior zones typically reflects differences in its interior use.

The large street level windows indicates public spaces for commercial enterprises, while the smaller windowing of the upper section suggests more private spaces reserved for offices, meeting halls or apartments.   

Most of these display decorative elements and materials characteristic of the Early Twentieth Century Commercial style, as discussed above.

- Grant-Ferry-Forest, Buffalo, NY, Intensive Level Historic Resources Survey
One-Part Block

The one-part block is a one-story, free-standing building that was a popular commercial design in small cities and towns during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was adapted from the lower part of the more numerous two-part commercial block during the Victorian period.

The one-part block is a simple rectangular building often with an ornate facade. It is most often utilized for retail or office space.

A subtype of the one-part commercial block in the neighborhood is the enframed window wall with glazed area for display and a simple surround. Contemporaneous commercial buildings display popular period revival style materials with textured tapestry brick facades and sections of Mediterranean pantile [a roofing tile with an S-shaped profile, laid so that the down curve of one tile overlaps the up curve of the next one.] roofing.

- Grant-Ferry-Forest, Buffalo, NY, Intensive Level Historic Resources Survey

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2011
| ...Home Page ...| ..Buffalo Architecture Index...| ..Buffalo History Index... .|....E-Mail ...| .

web site consulting by ingenious, inc.