AK Historypin of the Week
Buffalo Public Library, Washington Street
The city of Buffalo, New York, possesses a remarkable number of architectural masterpieces from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Recognizing the rich architectural and planning heritage, the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) held an exhibition of photography in January 1940, which commemorated these vast architectural triumphs. More than 120 photographs were displayed in the exhibition, which was organized by Henry-Russell Hitchcock, the dean of American architectural historians, with the assistance of Gordon Bailey Washburn, former director of the Albright Art Gallery.
Participants using the Historypin website and mobile app on supported devices can explore photographs and related content about numerous historic buildings featured in the AAG’s 1940 exhibition. Every week, we will feature a pinned location from the Albright-Knox’s Historypin channel and provide detailed information and archival photographs about the site. This week’s pin is the Buffalo Public Library, located on Washington Street.
The origins of the Buffalo Public Library date back to 1835, when it was founded as the Young Men’s Association. The YMA (not to be confused with the Young Men’s Christian Association) was a private subscription library for paid members. In 1883, the Association’s members began raising funds for a new building and held an architectural competition. After competing with many notable architects, including Henry Hobson Richardson, Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz (1853–1921) won with his design.
The building was constructed between 1884 and 1887. In 1886, the Association changed its name to “The Buffalo Library” and remained a private library for the next decade. In 1897, The Buffalo Library gave its collection to the citizens of Buffalo. The doors of the Buffalo Public Library were open and it was free for use by the public. The building housed the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy from 1887 to 1905, until the construction on the Albright Art Gallery building was completed. During this time, the BFAA opened an art school which was merged with the Students’ Art Club to form the Art Students’ League in 1891.
In 1963, construction began on the current location of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s Central Library building and its doors opened to the public in October 1964. The Second Court House, or the Old Erie County Court House, preceded the building on the Washington Street site opposite Court House Park or Courthouse Square, now known as Lafayette Square.
The Central Library is home not only to great literature, but also hosts great art. From August 17 to August 22, 2014, Tape Art, a collective of artists based in Providence, Rhode Island, created a mural titled Buffalo Caverns on the north wall of the Central Library branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. This project is part of the Public Art Initiative, an innovative partnership between the Albright-Knox, Erie County, and the City of Buffalo. The mural is on view through August 29, 2014.
TOP: Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Photograph by Jay W. Baxstresser, Albright Art Gallery Staff.
BOTTOM: Screenshot of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s channel on Historypin.