Statler Hotel / Statler Towers - Table of Contents

Significance of the Statler Towers
107 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY

Excerpts from the 2010 Nomination to
America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Nomination Submitted by
Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Reprinted with permission by Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Introduction

Completed in 1923 to designs by George B. Post & Sons, the Hotel Statler was the successor to Ellsworth Statler's first hotel, which opened in Buffalo in 1908. The new hotel's interiors exemplified the elegant "Statler style" that blended Italian and English Renaissance influences. It also featured the modern innovations, notably a bath in every room, that made Statler hotels the new standard of lodging in America. Located in the heart of downtown overlooking historic Niagara Square, the grand hotel was a jewel of the national Statler chain. It also served as a social center for generations of Buffalonians.

Significance

The Hotel Statler is an outstanding example of the early 20th century hotel by one of the foremost hotel innovators in American history. Completed in 1923, it was a gift from "America's Extraordinary Hotelman" to his adopted city of Buffalo, NY. Ellsworth M. Statler came from humble beginnings in Ohio and West Virginia, and through hard work, shrewd business decisions, creative use of advertising, and adherence to high standards for his employees and their treatment of his customers, built one of the most successful hotel chains in the United States.

The company he founded built ten hotels and managed the colossal Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City; five of these properties are still functioning hotels, one is an apartment complex, three have been demolished, and one was on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2008 list of 11 Most Endangered (Dallas Statler).

E.M. Statler's innovations in the hotel industry - providing extraordinary conveniences for middle-class travelers in buildings designed by top American architects - earned him the title of "Hotel Man of the Half Century" in the 1950s, a quarter century after his death in 1928.

The 1923 Statler Hotel was the second hotel E.M. Statler built in Buffalo. In 1907, he built the first Hotel Statler, which revolutionized hotel design and set the standard for major hotels for decades to come. Devising the "Statler Plumbing Shaft," he was the first to provide a bath for every guest room while maintaining reasonable rental rates. Each room was also provided with piped ice water, a closet with a light, a towel hook next to each sink, free stationery, newspaper, and later, telephones and radios. Staff were thoroughly trained to provide excellent service.

The success of this hotel prompted business leaders in other major American cities to entice Statler to build one of his hotels in their towns; by 1919, Statler had built hotels in Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis, and was operating the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City.

Despite requests from Boston and Chicago, Statler decided to build his biggest hotel to date in his adopted city. The location of the Hotel Statler in Buffalo is a key aspect of its significance. By 1920, Buffalo was booming and Statler thought that the civic and political heart of the city would shift from Main Street to Niagara Square. Anticipating this, he bought an entire block on the square and began construction on his $8-million, 1,100-room hotel in 1921. To ensure its success, he bought and closed his main rival, the Iroquois Hotel, thus guaranteeing that the elite of Buffalo would frequent his establishment and make it the social center for the city. His building anticipated Buffalo's magnificent [1931] City Hall by just a few years, and today is a major part of the streetscape that surrounds Niagara Square.

The new 10-story federal courthouse being built on the corner opposite the hotel has been designed specifically to pay homage to this local landmark.

For his second Buffalo hotel, Statler engaged the prominent New York City firm of George B. Post and Sons [Post also designed the demolished Erie County Savings Bank], with Louis Rorimer designing its interior. They created a stately Adamesque edifice with elaborate, revival style interiors. The hotel boasted a ballroom, four dining rooms, a lounge, tea room, cafeteria, swimming pool, Turkish bath and a 24-chair barber shop. Its massive lobby with a 28-foot ceiling was adorned with Botticino marble in the style of the Italian Renaissance.

It immediately became the city's most luxurious hotel, and for decades remained the social center for Buffalonians. The building is unique in the region. It has hosted multiple presidential visits, enabled business and commerce, even facilitated birth of an international organization (Zonta International) and Grammy-nominated recordings. There are other major hotels from earlier and later periods, but none that so fully express Buffalo's exuberance, ambition, and graceful accommodations of the 1920s.

Photograph above is not part of the Nomination.


Photograph 2008 Chuck LaChiusa
Page by
Chuck LaChiusa in 2010
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