Ellicott Square Building - Courtyard
295 Main St., Buffalo, New York

Ellicott Square Building - Table of Contents

In 1895, the Ellicott Company commissioned architect Daniel H. Burnham of Chicago to design what they referred to as an "office block" in downtown Buffalo. Its 10 stories, 60 offices, and 40 stores, along with its central court, made it the world's largest office structure of its time, at a cost of 3.5 million dollars. It was on May 30, 1896, only one year following its inception, that the Ellicott Square Building -- the largest, finest, and most complete office building in America -- took its place as a finished structure in the front rank of the notable features of the city of Buffalo.


Click on photos to enlarge

Grand staircase



Mosaic floor
William Winthrop Kent of New York City and James Johnson

Mosaic floor
William Winthrop Kent of New York City and James Johnson

Mosaic floor

Mosaic floor

Steel and glass pressed glass skylight

Central court
Note decorated steel skylight support

Skylight roof in courtyard

Looking out to skylight roof

Terra cotta decoration in courtyard (skylight roof below)

Terra cotta decoration in courtyard (skylight roof below)

Like Burnham and Root's Rookery in Chicago, it is constructed around a large interior court.

The most extravagant feature of Ellicott Square which distinguishes it from all lesser office structures is the great rectangular Central Court, which is finished in Italian marble, with a Mosaic floor and glass roof.

The gorgeous floor of the interior court is crafted of many colored sun symbols used by various ancient civilizations. In the center of the floor, a central disc showing points of the compass is surrounded by a chain symbolizing the strength of business organizations in the whole United States. From the main floor, two grand staircases, one at either end, rise to the balcony which encircles the banking floor. The "Grand Court" gives abundant light and air to all the interior offices and provides on the Ground Floor a public, social and business exchange large enough for mass meetings.

The entire rentable space on the ground floor of Ellicott Square was given to various shops, while the second story, or "Banking Floor," with its 14-foot ceiling, was devoted to banks and other lines of business requiring spacious and imposing apartments. Seven floors above were arranged for business offices, studios, etc., either singly or in suites, while nearly one-half of the top floor was occupied by the Ellicott Club -- the new businessmen's Club.

Business Features

Each office contained a marble wash bowl, a permanent wardrobe or coat closet, messenger call boxes, incandescent electric lights, steam radiators, and a telephone communicating with every other office in the building. The interior woodwork was red oak, quarter-sawed, natural finish; the floors maple, the walls hard-finished, and the sashes and transoms over the doors so disposed as to secure perfect light and ventilation.

In the basement, one could find safety storage vaults and a bicycle room for the use of the tenants. In view of the fact that the legal professional outnumber any other class of office tenants, the Ellicott Square Company also provided and maintained a first-class Law Library covering every field of legal practice to be kept continuously up to date (still true in 2001).

The tenant could settle down to the day's work complacent in the knowledge of many conveniences and necessities obtainable under the same roof. These include such services as banking, legal advice, medical aid, dental service, and life, accident, and fire insurance, as well as Turkish, Russian, and plain baths and barber shop accommodations. The tenant could dictate letters to a public stenographer and typewriter, send telegrams, obtain messengers, mail letters on any floor by means of the mail chutes, or communicate with anyone in or out of town at the public telephone station. One could also obtain cigars, newspapers, periodicals, stationery, postage stamps, fruit, flowers, refreshments, and even attire.

The Ellicott Square Building was destined to become the very head center of business because of its convenient location, its enormous size, its splendid appointments, and the manifold advantages which would be enjoyed by its great army of tenants. The person who established himself in Ellicott Square would become one of a community of 4,000 to 5,000 men and women of diversified callings in a superb building which would be visited daily by no less than 50,000 persons.


Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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