D. H. Burnham in Buffalo, NY

Daniel H. Burnham, Joseph Ellicott, and The Ellicott Square Building
By Dana Brooks

Printed with permission.
Quotes and Footnotes are not included because plagiarism is a problem.

Daniel Hudson Burnham was born September 4, 1846, in Henderson, N.Y., and died June 1, 1912, in Heidelberg, Germany. Burnham's faith led him to "strive to be of service to others" and his mantra was "make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood; think big."    

Burnham's early experience came from the "father of the skyscraper, William Le Baron Jenney. 

He later aligned his talents with John Wellborn Root, and created such accomplishments as Chicago's Rookery (1886) offices; the Reliance Building (1890), the first important skeleton skyscraper; Monadnock Building (1891); and the 20-story Masonic Temple Building (1892). 

They were very involved in the planning of Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition (1893), and were involved with C. F. McKim, F.L. Olmsted, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, on the Senate Park Committee in planning for the future beautification of Washington, D.C. 

Burnham and E. H. Bennett created a civic improvement plan of great importance for Chicago (1907), which included a ring of forest preserves in outlying areas and along the city's lakefront to ensure a future green belt against an anticipated population explosion.

Burnham and Root, created San Francisco's Merchant's Exchange Building and Pittsburgh's Union Station and Frick Building.  They also collaborated on the Flatiron Building and the Wanamaker store in New York City. 

Burnham continued on his own, following the death of his friend John Root in 1891.  Burnham's talents led him to create a department store called Marshall Field's, and Buffalo's own Ellicott Square Building.

The Ellicott Square Building, located at 295 Main Street, in downtown Buffalo, was finished on May 30, 1896, after only one year following its inception and it became the largest, finest, and most complete office building in America. 

Joseph Ellicott

This prestigious building, along with Ellicott Creek and Ellicottville, are named after Joseph Ellicott.  Ellicott was an agent of the Holland Land Company, and was in charge of laying out the village of New Amsterdam, now called the city of Buffalo.  Ellicott spent many years accurately detailing land surveys of the area west of the Genesee and in 1800, became a permanent resident of New Amsterdam.  He continued to refer to the name as New Amsterdam, but the current residents called it Buffalo Creek, and later shortened it to Buffalo. 

Ellicott kept for himself the most desirable location in the city which was between Swan Street and South Division Street and extended from Main Street to Washington Street. Ellicott and his future generations held onto that special piece of property for about a century and it is now known as "Ellicott Square." 

Ellicott Square Building

Burnham received the call from the Ellicott Company to build what they referred to as an office block, in downtown Buffalo. The Ellicott Square Building is 10 stories tall, includes 60 offices, 40 stores and contains a central court.  The price tag to build it was a mere 3.5 million dollars.

A lot like the Rookery, in Chicago, the Ellicott Square Building, contains a very elaborate terra-cotta exterior, Italian Renaissance Revival architecture, with refined and classic ornamental features.

The height of the building is 144 feet, has an area of 500,000 square feet, with a steel and concrete foundation.  When built, it contained 6,000 barrels of Giant Portland cement, four electric dynamos, and 7,000 lights.  The exterior construction is granite, iron and terra-cotta.  It contained a terra-cotta cornice, projecting out by 5 feet, which was removed in 1971.  After the removal of the cornice, the remaining terra cotta was painted grey.  The frame consists of steel and weighs 5,500 tons. 

The flooring is clear maple imbedded in concrete and its decorations include Italian marble, marble mosaic, and ornamental iron.    There are 15 hydraulic passenger elevators within the building.

The Central Court contains Italian marble, a mosaic floor and a glass roof.  The interior court floor by William Winthrop Kent, of New York City, contains 23 million pieces of imported Italian marble on the mosaic which depicts sun symbols from civilizations around the world.   The center of the floor contains a central disc showing points of the compass and is surrounded by a chain symbolizing the strength of business organizations in the whole United States.  At each end of the main floor are two grand staircases rising to the balcony that encircles the banking floor. 

The first floor was for shops, the second floor was for banking and other businesses requiring larger office space, the next seven floors were for business offices, and the top floor was for the new businessmen's club called The Ellicott Club.

The uniqueness of this building continues with each office containing a marble wash bowl, individual coat closets, incandescent electric lights, steam radiators, and a telephone system that could communicate with any other office in the building.  Red oak was used for the interior woodwork and the floors were maple. 

Other offerings to tenants included safety storage, a bicycle room, and an up to date Law Library, all found in the basement.  This building offered many services including banking, insurance, medical and dental care, baths and barber shops.  The 4,000 to 5,000 tenants could use the mail chutes inside the building and could buy a newspaper, cigar, flowers, clothes, and food all without leaving the building.  Even today, a newsstand and "Charlie the Butcher's," remain in the first floor courtyard.

The vestibule in the Ellicott Square building contains mosaic and rare marbles in its floor and sidewalks.  It contains eight elevators and an ornamental iron staircase with marble treads and gift decorations.

At one time there were lion heads on the exterior of the building.  Around the 1970's they were nearly falling off and were taken down.  Of the 40 lion heads that were on the building only about 10 have survived and the location of most of them are unknown. 


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2005 Dana Brooks

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