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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 39-A Lafayette Square

39-A Lafayette Square

Narrative by - David M. Rote
(Narratives are copyrighted)

Lafayette Square is one of the most important and impressive squares originally laid out for the growing village of Buffalo by Joseph Ellicott. The original county court house and jail were located here on land now occupied by the Buffalo and Erie County Public library. The present marble-clad and glass library building replaced a grand old Romanesque brick, stone and terra cotta structure, which dominated the square for many years.

In the center of the square stands the impressive 85 foot Soldiers and Sailors monument designed by architect George Keller. The granite shaft is surmounted by a 10 ½ foot female figure denoting the city’s genius. Four heroic bronze statues sculpted by Caspar Buberl stand near the base representing the infantry, artillery, cavalry and navy. Bronze bas-reliefs encircled the column above the statues. Grover Cleveland, as mayor of Buffalo, laid the cornerstone on July 4th 1882 and he returned as governor of New York to dedicate the monument exactly two years later.

The ornate Lafayette Hotel opened June 1, 1904 on the site of the old French R.C. Church of St. Peters. Designed by Buffalo architects Bethune, Bethune and Fuchs in the French Renaissance style, this 300 room hotel is a red brick building with white terra cotta trim and window balconies of ornamental wrought iron. The lobby was elaborately encased with Numidian marble and Fronterra mahogany. Famed Buffalo restauranteur Peter Gust Economou, best known for his long association with the Park Lane Restaurant, began his career in the Hotel Lafayette in 1909 and later served as maitre d’hotel of Ellsworth Statler’s first hotel at Washington and Swan Streets.

The current Brisbane building was erected in 1894-95 by James Mooney and James Brisbane and designed by architect Milton E. Beebe in a classic Renaissance style with cornices and pilasters in intervals over the entire seven-story building. The nearly 32,000 square foot first floor was long occupied by the clothier - The Kleinhans Company and the remarkable second floor was a grand "bon marche" consisting of 16 bazaars fronting onto a grand court covered by a colored glass dome which formed the skylighted lobby facing onto Clinton Street. The Brisbane family had first built an "Arcade" on this site in the early 1850’s following a disastrous fire, which leveled the block. The Arcade, which housed Shea’s Music Hall, Robinson’s Musee Theatre, T.C. Tanke Jewelers and other businesses, also succumbed to a fire on December 14, 1893.