Richard A. Waite in Buffalo - Table of Contents
Buffalo Architect: Richard A. Waite, 1848-1911
Text by Joseph R. Galvin
TEXT Beneath Illustrations
Pierce's Palace Hotel
Mayor Philip Becker's house at 534 Delaware Ave.
White Brothers Livery
& Boarding Stable
Photo - Frank Hamlin House at 420 Franklin St.
Detail - 1877 Frank Hamlin House
Williams House at 249 North St.
Detail - Williams House
Detail - Walden-Myer Mausoleum
Photos - Three homes on Pennsylvania St.
Photo - Richard A. Waite House
Photo - Detail - Richard A. Waite House
Photo - 357 Pennsylvania St.
Photo - Detail - 357 Pennsylvania St.
Photo - 355 Pennsylvania St.
Photo - Detail - 355 Pennsylvania St.
Waite and wife tombstones at Forest Lawn Cemetery
Photo - Richard A. Waite
Photo - Buffalo German Insurance Co. Building
Canadian buildings by Waite:
- Ontario Legislature, Toronto, Ontario
- Birks Building, Hamilton, Ontario
- Canada Life Assurance Company, Hamilton, Ontario
- Grand Trunk Railway Co. Ltd station, Montreal
- Canada Life Assurance Company building, Montreal
See also: 1888 newspaper article about Waite
In the news recently, there is talk of a new museum coming to the Allentown Community. It will house the local Mark Twain collection, at 249 North Street (photo above), and is expected to have a limited opening by June of 2003. This is good news for those who are interested in Mark Twain and wonderful news if you are interested in architecture. [The museum closed after a short period of time.]
The structure was originally planned as a home for George Williams, and he hired Richard A. Waite to design it for him.
Richard A. Waite was an architect who practiced in Buffalo during the last quarter of the 19th century. He lived in a house that he built in 1875, at 361 Pennsylvania Avenue (photo above), in Allentown. Most of his remaining structures in Buffalo are in the Allentown District, but his impressive accomplishments can be found on the main streets of some very famous cities.
Richard was born in England in 1848. He was the son of Charles Henry Waite and his wife Harriet Humphries Holland. The Waites emigrated to the U. S. in 1856 from England, with seven children in the family at the time. Charles was involved in the Buffalo printing company of Clapp, Matthews, and Waite, in the early 1860's. Charles also had an association with the Buffalo Express. (How's that for a Mark Twain connection?) Both of Richard's parents died by the time he reached 17.
Richard received his training in an apprenticeship, rather than formal schooling. After first obtaining Mechanical (Engineering) training under John Ericsson, the inventor of the ironclad Civil War ship, the Monitor, he worked with architect John Kellum in NYC.
Career in Buffalo
Buffalo gave him his start. He began his career in 1871 after more than eight years of learning in NYC.
In 1872, many people disliked the present A.J. Warner exterior design for the City and County Hall on Franklin Street, in Buffalo. A newspaper commissioned Waite to redesign the exterior based on existing foundations. Although his design was not chosen, it received rave reviews and left a good impression of the city on the young architect.
In 1874 he settled in Buffalo and opened an architectural office.
In his office he employed many people who went on to their own success and in his career and he achieved an international status from work in Canada and Scotland.
Richard A. Waite worked side by side with the first generation of trained architects in America. Some of his contemporaries were Louis Sullivan, H.H. Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, John Wellborn Root, Daniel Burnham, William Le Baron Jenney, Frank Lloyd Wright and Stanford White to name a few. These are all national figures that worked in Buffalo (except for Jenney) and might have come into contact with Richard socially or professionally (as well as Mark Twain perhaps?).
During his lifetime, 1848-1911, America went through tremendous change architecturally, specifically the period 1870-1890's with the introduction of high rise buildings, structural steel framing, elevators, telephone and telegraph communications, running water, heat systems, plate glass/display windows, etc. This was a big revolution in architecture and it happened right here in America. Our man Waite was right in the thick of it!
Consider these facts:
- Louise Blanchard Bethune was the first woman member of the American Institute of Architecture and was named a fellow in 1889. She trained and worked as a draftsman for Waite from 1876-1881. To have a woman working in his office during Victorian times says a great deal about him! How many men would take a chance like that back then? Today women are employed at most architectural firms in Buffalo. To her credit Bethune built many large commercial and institutional buildings, including eighteen schoolhouses, the Frontier Theater and the Lafayette Hotel,, one of the top Hotels built in the USA.
- Richard A. Waite was the first American architect to be commissioned by the Canadian Government. His several notable large commissions include:
- The Grand Trunk Office in Montreal
- The Canadian Life Insurance Building in Toronto and Hamilton
- The Ontario Parliament Building of Canada in Toronto -- one of the largest public buildings on the North American continent in 1886.
No other American architect had more large scale commissions from her Majesty's people than Waite.
- His short-lived Pierce's Palace Hotel (photo above) on Prospect Avenue, 1878-1881, was a grand confection reminiscent of the Chautauqua Institution's Athenaeum. It burned to the ground after only three years use. This tragedy coming early in his career was a turning point for him, and he made fireproofing of banks and large Commercial structures his specialty.
In closing, let me give you some more Buffalo examples of his work:
- The German Insurance Building in Lafayette Square (photo above)
- Whites' Livery Stable on Jersey Street (photo above)
- The Grosvenors Library DRAWING (not pictured above)
- The Women's Union Music Hall
- The New Music Hall of the German Young Men's Association (not pictured above)- chosen over designs submitted by M. E. Beebe, Edward A. Kent and Cyrus Porter
- Waite designed many schools and public buildings in Buffalo including School #32 at 342 Clinton Street (no photo available)
- The Walden-Myer Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery is also a Waite design. (photo above)
- Glenny/Dennis/Stanton Building (not pictured above)
Homes to his credit include