Buffalo Savings / M&T - Table of Contents  ..........................  Fountain Plaza - Table of Contents

History - Buffalo Savings Bank / Goldome / M& T Bank Center
545 Main Street, Buffalo, NY

Buffalo Savings Bank

Buffalo Place: Fountain Plaza
(online June 2016)

Source: Detroit Publishing Co.,1904, Library of Congress

With new railroad connections to the east coast in the 1840s, Buffalo’s population surged.  Industrious workers needed a secure storage place for their savings.  News stories cautioned tales of sneak thieves making off in the night with hidden cash.  Buffalo Savings Bank was created in 1846 for the common man, the twelfth savings bank in the state and the first in Buffalo.  The state charter specified its purpose was to receive deposits “from tradesmen, clerks, mechanics, laborers, minors, servants and others.”

The Bank’s original building at Washington and Broadway burned in 1865, with only the vault remaining. The Bank used a temporary location for 40 years. Buffalo Savings Bank needed to expand and modernize by the 1890s.  After initially determining to stay near Lafayette Square, the trustees agreed to relocate to Main at Genesee in 1897.  10 architects were invited to a building design completion, and Green & Wicks, the company of Buffalo architect E.B Green, was selected to build a new structure for “not over $300,000.  Construction began in 1899.

Green & Wicks design was meant to project stability, security, and aspiration.  Buffalo Savings Bank would be a technological marvel of engineering fitting the theme of the times it symbolized.  It contains 400 tons of steel, which was extravagant for the time period when many buildings were constructed with wood.  The Bank contained more stone than any other building at the time in the country. Each column took 3 months to complete.  A smaller interior dome was encased inside the exterior domed roof, and a law office was hidden between the two structures. The bank was finished without its iconic gilded roof, added in 1953.  This impressive monument was a testament to banking and the wealth of Buffalo.

The murals that adorn the ceilings today were completed in 1926, painted by Frances, Davidson & Savage Painting Company.  At the top of the dome is a quote from ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, which reads, “Virtue is the root, and wealth is the flower.” This quote was chosen to represent the principles that Buffalo Savings Bank found important, that virtue and growth would instill security within its customers.  The additional murals covering the inner dome depict the twelve zodiac signs, and demonstrate the passage of time. The golden age of Buffalo is represented with four panels: Commerce, Industry, the Arts, and Power; displaying images of the Buffalo harbor, steel mills, Albright Gallery and Niagara Falls to depict these categories.

Buffalo Savings Bank continued to expand over the years with additions in 1931, 1941, 1955 and 1967.  The Bank was a major tenant in the Genesee Building.  Buffalo Savings Bank had grown out of space and was considering a new building in the late 1970s, considering a lower cost suburban option vs. expansion adjacent to their iconic gold domed building.  Downtown was selected because of the promise of adjacent downtown redevelopment resulting from the light rail rapid transit project, and importantly, because of support from a $7 million Urban Development Action Grant.  The grant brought higher downtown development costs closer to market rates.  Buffalo Savings bank agreed to build a $55,000,000 twelve story headquarters building between the original bank building and Chippewa Street.  Relocation and demolition was planned for the buildings between Buffalo Savings Bank and Chippewa Street in 1981, the Liberty Shoe Store, Buffalo Optical, Tanke’s Jewelers, and Brownie’s Army and Navy Store.  All of these businesses found nearby locations downtown. Ground was broken May 5, 1981.

Employees moved into the new tower in 1983.  The 1967 building adjacent to the domed building was demolished and the elevated plaza was built in 1984, completing the Goldome Bank project.

While the headquarters building was under construction, Goldome expanded into new markets, acquiring nine banks and becoming the second largest saving bank in the country, doing business in 40 states.  As the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980’s deepened, Goldome eventually became a casualty and was dissolved by the Federal deposit Insurance Corporation 1991.  Goldome’s assets were split between Key Bank and First Empire (now known as M&T Bank Corp.)  M&T Bank purchased the buildings later that year, renaming the complex M&T Center.  In 1998 M&T invested $500,000 to refurbish the gold leafed dome. The building’s 15 feet high finial was loaded into a truck and recoated with gold leaf at Robert Marshall Studios in Wexford, PA.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2016
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