Kleinhans Music Hall - Table of Contents ...................  Eliel and Eero Saarinen - Table of Contents

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Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans - One of the Many Love Stories of Forest Lawn  

Among the many love stories of Forest Lawn is that of Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans. 

Edward Kleinhans was what people might have called a "go-getter."  From the moment he was born on June 3, 1864 in Pontiac, Michigan, Edward showed signs that he was going to be a success both in business and in love.

The country had just survived the Civil War, and although the wounds were deep, the United States would overcome the social and economic changes in the aftermath of war, and would eventually enter an era of growth and opportunity by the end of the century, especially in the North.

By the age of 16, Edward was already working and soon joined his brother, Horace, at his clothing store in Louisville, Kentucky.  He learned the business rapidly and was offered a manager's position at a clothing store in Chicago, Illinois.  Edward realized that there was money to be made in the northern industrial cities, which were benefitting from a southern migration, providing workers and new customers for a growing fashion industry.  The north was energized by these changes in population and new business. Eventually, Edward and his brother, Horace decided to open a small store together.  In 1893, they came to Buffalo, New York. Their small clothing business became so successful they were forced to expand into the recently erected Brisbane Building on Main Street.  Soon their store was attracting national attention.
In the meantime, Edward had met a beautiful and very young Southern belle in Louisville by the name of Mary Seaton.  Although Edward was 12 years her senior, they found they had a great deal in common.  They both had an appreciation for elegance and trending styles. They both had an affinity for business, social interaction, and an optimistic outlook for the future.   And most of all, they both loved music, whether it be classical or popular. Mary was an accomplished pianist and vocalist, and no doubt, Edward fell under her spell the moment he heard her play and sing.

They were married and moved to their new home in Buffalo in 1901.

After his brother died, Edward became the President and principal owner of The Kleinhans Company, which by now had become one of the largest men's clothing stores in the nation.

Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans were among Buffalo's most important citizens during the city's high point. They had helped Buffalo's development. They had been good for Buffalo and Buffalo had been good for them. They had become wealthy and wanted to give back to their adopted city in a manner that would provide the joy they always derived from their mutual love of music in a permanent way.  Edward said: "I made my money in Buffalo and I want to leave it in Buffalo."

And so, Edward stated in his will that the residue of his estate, upon Mary's death, was to be used for the building of a music hall as a memorial for his wife and mother.  In the event that such a hall would have already been built before his wife's death, the money was to be used for a public park for the people of Buffalo.

Edward died on February 2, 1934 and less than 3 months later, on April 29, his loving wife, Mary, joined him in death. Her will disclosed that she desired that the terms of his will would be carried out entirely.

The Kleinhans Music Hall was completed between 1938-1940 with added funds from the Public Works Administration (WPA), and immediately became the home of the world-renowned Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, now considered one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world.
Inside Kleinhans Music Hall.

The famous Architects, Elio and Eero Saarinen, created a modern, neo-expressionist building which is, itself, a stunning piece of art. Aesthetically and acoustically, it is unmatched. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1989, and is still a source of pride today for the city of Buffalo almost 80 years after its inception.

Edward and Mary Kleinhans left a legacy of art and culture for generations to come that grew from an honest hard-working man's desire to succeed in a business that would serve his community, and their mutual love of music and each other. The gratitude of this city for their gift echoes in the music, and the applause heard at every concert.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2018
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