Original Richmond Hotel / New Richmond Hotel / Iroquois Hotel
Main & Eagle Streets, southeast corner, Buffalo, New York

Original Richmond Hotel

Click on illustration for larger size

The original Richmond Hotel burned down on March 18, 1887, one of the most horrific fires in Buffalo history. It killed 15 employees and guests and severely burned two dozen others. There were heroic rescues of trapped women and children. Nearby taverns and hotels threw open their doors to become makeshift hospitals, Nevertheless, guests plunged from windows, and a survivor testified that the screams of the victims "were something I hope to never hear again. "

In the subsequent investigation, much blame fell up on Victorian high technology. The new telegraph and telephone companies had erected a dense network of overhead wires and cables that impeded rescuers' access to upper floors of the burning building. The City ordered these wires put in underground conduits, and the Richmond was rebuilt, renaming itself the Iroquois Hotel in 1890.

- Illustration and text source: Victorian Buffalo by Cynthia Van Ness

National Police Gazette: New York
April 2, 1887
"Roast Man: The Awful Revel of the Fire Fiend at the Ill-Fated Richmond House in Buffalo, N.Y.
(online March 2015)
The New Richmond Hotel, 1887-1888
Architect: Cyrus Eidlitz

Click on illustration for larger size

- Illustration source: Victorian Buffalo by Cynthia Van Ness

Iroquois Hotel ad

Iroquois Hotel postcard

Iroquois Hotel

Iroquois Hotel

Iroquois Hotel

The Iroquois Hotel was first opened for business in the city. August 3rd, 1889, though it was for the greater part rebuilt in 1901 (Architects: Esenwein & Johnson), to meet the new and greater demands of Pan-America year.

Erected:  1889
Demolished:  1940 (known as the Gerrans Building)
Replacement building:  Bond Clothing Co. Buildingq

The Iroquois Hotel

The grandest architectural Hotel ever constructed in Buffalo! It was like having our own Waldorf Astoria.

Prior to its construction The Richmond Hotel stood on the site at Main street and Eagle street. But in 1887 that Hotel burned to the ground tragically killing fifteen employees and guests and severely burning two dozen others. True to the "Buffalo Way" people rushed to rescue trapped women and children and bars and other nearby hotels opened their doors as makeshift hospitals during the disaster.

1889 The Richmond was rebuilt and renamed The Iroquois Hotel using fireproof materials. It was billed as the first totally fireproof Hotel in existence. Due to fire being the culprit of tens of thousands of fires every year all over the country back then people flocked to the Hotel not only for its grandeur but for the safety.

The hotel became so popular old world architects added three stories to the eight floor structure in 1900. This just in time for the rush of hundreds of thousands of tourists for the Pan American Exposition the following year in 1901.

Ellsworth Statler (Statler Hotel) purchased the Iroquois Hotel due to it being the main competition to his new hotel being constructed in Niagara Square. The day the new Statler Hotel opened he closed the Iroquois Hotel for good. It was demolished in 1940. After that Bond's Clothing store was constructed on the site.

In 1965 the entire block in which Bond's was located was demolished to make way for the construction of One M&T Plaza.

Iroquois Hotel

The building, from its granite substructure to roof of fireproof tiles, is unsurpassed for solidity and strength of construction.

The site of the building is most central and the structure covers an area of 20,000 square feet, having a frontage of 200 feet on Eagle Street and 100 feet on Main and Washington Streets, respectively.

It consists of eight floors and a basement, the roof rising to a height of 112 feet above the level of the street. The elevation is in the style of the French renaissance, and the monotony of a long facade is relieved by a central and two smaller projections over each of the side entrances. The two lower stories have been treated in quarry-faced
Medina brown stone and the superstructure is surmounted by a cornice of terra cotta in handsome designs.

The main entrance is by way of a handsomely designed portico, the roof is which arranged as a balcony, with lofty standard electro-gasoliers mounted upon brownstone pedestals at the corners of the balcony.

All the latest devices known to the building art have been used to make this building absolutely The cast-iron girders and columns and other iron work are thoroughly encased in fireproof materials, hollow, porous clay tile being used for this purpose, as well as for the walls, partitions, and floor arches.

The lobby, which has a flooring of encaustic tiles, the walls wainscoted in quartered oak , and the recessed ceiling divided in courses by huge structural beams, is elaborately decorated in oil colors. Massive brown columns, encircling which are polished bands of brass holding brackets for gas and electric lights, lend support to the ceiling.

The office, facing the entrance, is elegantly furnished and appointed, the desk and other fixtures being constructed of finely grained, quartered white oak in most tasteful designs.

The reading and writing rooms, barber shop, elevator, the Main Street corridor, used as the ladies' entrance, the artistically decorated and furnished ladies' waiting room and the main stairway adjoin the office, as is also the hallway leading leading to the lavatories and closets. The news stand, carriage desk, ticket, telephone and telegraph offices are conveniently located

- Source: "Buffalo Illustrated: Commerce, Trade and Industries of Buffalo." Buffalo: The Courier Printing Company, 1890.

Final curtain: Iroquois Hotel

[E. M.] Statler realized that his planned elegant hotel could not succeed with Buffalo's elite so long as that class preferred to frequent the venerable Iroquois Hotel at Main & Eagle Street. He attempted to hire away the Iroquois' popular hotel manager, Elmore Green, but the latter remained loyal to his hotel. So, for the first and last time, Statler eliminated the competition by buying the Iroquois hotel for $1,825,412 ($20,714,225 in 2006 dollars) and closing it the day the new [1923] Statler opened. He had no difficulty hiring Mr.Green to manage his new hotel.

The elite followed and the Statler Hotel would become the place in Buffalo to be seen, to meet, to make deals, to have lunch in the Terrace Room overlooking Niagara Square for the next fifty years.

- Susan Eck, Ellsworth Statler in Buffalo: Part 5 - Statler's Most Elegant Hotel

Piano rolls

The Iroquois Hotel was famous in 1908 as the site of the Buffalo Convention that established the standards for 88-note piano rolls. The convention, attended by representatives of the roll-making industry and by player piano manufacturers, was held December 10, 1908, in Buffalo at the Iroquois Hotel.

It was there that, after a day-long debate, the 9-holes-to-the-inch hole spacing won out over 8-holes-to-the-inch by a twelve to six vote, which was later made unanimous. Page 31 of the December 12, 1908, Music Trade Review issue (v. 47, no. 24) contains a full-page report on the debate.

- Matthew Caulfield

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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