.... Buffalo's Best - Table of Contents


By Francis R. Kowsky










Market Arcade - Table of Contents

Loved for generations for both its grand and festive exterior and its intimately scaled, humane interior, the Market Arcade is a happy reminder of the good taste and optimism of the "Gay Nineties"

Illustration by Julie Lewitzky

No two blocks in Buffalo preserve as many fine turn-of-the century Neo-Classical commercial buildings as the 600 and 700 blocks of Main Street. The gem of this locally designated historic district, the Market Arcade (also known as the Palace Arcade), possesses one of the best interior pedestrian spaces in the city. Three levels of shops and offices ranged on either side of the covered "street" created a splendid urban environment that is comfortable all year round.

The building's twin monumental facades of arches, columns, pretty ornament, and sculptured bisons proclaim civic pride to be more important than commercialism. The building anticipated the national fascination with ancient Roman architecture that was stirred by the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. This movement received strong local impetus from the 1901 Pan American Exposition. As other buildings in the area attest, the style remained popular until the 1920s

Designed in 1892 by Buffalo architects Edward B. Green and William S. Wicks, the Market Arcade is the city's only historic covered shopping arcade. This nineteenth century building type, which first achieved popularity during the 1820's, is generally regarded as the forerunner of the contemporary suburban mall.

The Market Arcade recalls more famous arcades, such as the Gallery Umberto I (1887-90) in Naples and London's Burlington Arcade (1818-19), which G.B. Marshall, the builder of the Buffalo Arcade, suggested to the architects as a model for his structure. Like European arcades, the Market Arcade maintained close ties to the street life around it. When constructed, the building connected this bustling stretch of Main Street with the flourishing public market that formerly existed at Washington and Chippewa streets. It was the market — the "belly of Buffalo" - that gave the arcade its name.

The pleasantly scaled interior of the Market Arcade presented visitors with a series of sparkling plate glass shop fronts lining either side of a long corridor Such large expanses of glass were relatively new to commercial architecture in the 1890s and represented an attractive new form of merchandising. The frosted glass skylight afforded protection from the elements and admitted a soft, even light that created an interior atmosphere of restfulness that must have been welcome in the midst of downtown congestion. In its heyday, the arcade stood for the tradition of urban life at its most civilized.

Once its name sake was gone and pedestrian traffic on Main Street dwindled to a trickle, the Market Arcade steadily lost tenants. The decline eventually brought about its closure in the 1970s.

Although the interior of the Arcade is inaccessible, one can still appreciate the building's exterior. Matching elevations on Main and Washington streets retain most of their original architectural elements. These handsome, symmetrical facades are made of Roman bricks (thin, tan-colored bricks that recall the tiles that archaeologists discovered embedded in the walls of ancient Roman architecture), and bear classical (see glossary) inspired ornamentation. Most of the ornamentation is executed in terra cotta, a ceramic building material that was a great favorite of late-nineteenth-and-early-twentieth century architects. Tall Corinthian columns flank the round-arched main portals that mark either end of the interior street, and egg and dart moldings frame upper story windows. Acroteria like those found on ancient Greek and Etruscan temples crown the roofline. The date of the building appears in Roman numerals in the center o each facade. Bison heads provide the symbolic reference that seek to make this graceful piece of nostalgia for antiquity feel at home or Buffalo's Main Street.

Current plans for the renovation of the Market Arcade aim to return this charming structure to commercial use and to restore it to a vital place in the life of downtown Buffalo.

NOTE: The arcade re-opened in 1995 after extensive renovation and, as of June 2001, there is a mix of 15 tenants.

ACROTERIA. Loosely, both the plinths and statues or ornaments that stand on them. Usually at the peak and ends of a pediment or gable.
CLASSICAL. Pertaining to the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome

CORINTHIAN COLUMN. Most ornate classical column, slender and fluted. The capital is usually bell shaped, with stylized acanthus leaves.
EGG AND DART. A molding consisting of egg-shaped figures alternating with arrow heads, or darts.

Buffalo's Best is produced by The Preservation Coalition of Erie County.

The Coalition sponsors educational tours, lectures and special events and actively seeks to preserve the architectural heritage of Erie County. Write for information and newsletter.

This card is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. Series editor: Timothy Tielman.

1986 Preservation Coalition of Erie County

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

web site consulting by ingenious, inc.