Robert B. Adam


Robert Borthwick Adam

1911 Adam, Meldrum & Anderson department store on Main Street

448 Delaware Avenue was built in 1876 as a private home for Robert B. Adam

The Alexander Main Curtiss House, 780 West Ferry St., was later occupied by Robert B Adam II

Celtic cross: Robert Adam Memorial in Forest Lawn Cemetery

The endless knot in the Celtic cross is a symbol of reincarnation

James Noble Adam

Adam, Meldrum & Anderson department store on Main Street

Robert B. Adam emigrated from Scotland to Boston in 1857 as a merchandising apprentice. A decade later, when he was ready to strike out on his own, he chose Buffalo and established what would become the Adam, Meldrum & Anderson department store. Adam was so pleased with his choice that he urged his brother, James Noble Adam, to come over from Scotland.

James Adam responded by opening the competing J. N. Adam dry-goods store. J. N. Adam not only made his mark as a merchant but got himself elected mayor of Buffalo.

Birth of Department Stores

Although the American economy of the later nineteenth century yo-yoed between boom and bust, each plateau of prosperity tended to be higher than the last. Buffalo's economic miracle was part of this jerky upward growth in the American economy. One consequence of
greater wealth was a larger and more leisured middle class. More people had more money to spend, and they had more time to spend it in. Middle-class women were especially affected.

The department store, which capitalized these trends, was an invention of the post-Civil War decade. Stores such as Macy's in New York, Marshall Field's in Chicago, and Wanamaker's in Philadelphia became the showcase, of new technology and fashion.

In 1876 Buffalo's Adam and Meldrum formed their durable partnership. (The firm became Adam Meldrum and Anderson in 1892). Other Buffalo department stores, Flint and Kent, Hengerer, and the Sweeney Company were particularly successful in the 1880s and 1890s. These new retail ventures offered worn, an impressive array of goods and services. They offered cooking classes, restaurants, and beauty parlors. The department stores introduced and demonstrated labor-saving devices. washing and sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, and iceboxes.

448 Delaware Avenue (photo above)

This house was designed by well-known 19th century architect Cyrus K. Porter and built in 1876 as a private home for Robert B. Adam. The Buffalo City Directories list Adam living here from at least 1878-1906.

One directory lists Adam living at 337 Pearl St. in 1871.

780 West Ferry Street (photo above)

Alexander Main Curtiss House (1895), 780 West Ferry Street, was designed by James A. Johnson two years before he became a partner of August Esenwein to form the architectural firm of Esenwein and Johnson in 1897. Johnson selected Classical Revival as the style for this house with some very fine architectural touches The semicircular front portico supported by Ionic columns is one of them; the arched entrance door surrounded by a larger arch of leaded glass windows is another

The house was built by Dr. Alexander Curtiss who practiced medicine in Buffalo for many years Mrs. Curtiss required her three energetic young sons to use the back stairs rather than the magnificent staircase that is the dramatic central focus of the entrance hall

According to Richard O. Reisem in Classic Buffalo: A Heritage of Distinguished Architecture, the house was later occupied by Robert B Adam and his family. It is Buffalo's Ronald McDonald House today.


Color photos and their arrangement 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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