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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 41-A Kleinhans Music Hall

41-A Kleinhans Music Hall

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

Kleinhans Music Hall is the extraordinary gift of clothier Edward L. Kleinhans and his wife Mary Seaton Kleinhans to the city of Buffalo as provided for in their respective wills. Mr. Kleinhans, a native of Michigan, joined his brother Horace in establishing a gentlemen’s clothing firm in the newly-built Mooney-Brisbane building at Main and Clinton Streets in the 1890s. By the time of his death in 1934 (followed shortly by the death of his wife), over $710,000 was designated by Mr. Kleinhans to construct a new music hall for Buffalo to bear the family name and was soon supplemented by another $587,000 in PWA funds. This was fortuitous as the old Elmwood Music Hall on Elmwood at Virginia Street was in serious need of costly repairs and even declared unsafe. Its grandest treasure was the great pipe organ, given by J.N. Adam, which once graced the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901.

Twenty six sites were studied for the new music hall most encompassing existing Buffalo parkland, but it was the westside homestead of Truman Avery at The Circle which was chosen and purchased from Mr. Avery’s daughter for $50,000. Buffalo architects F.J. and W.A. Kidd were chosen as architects of record by a newly-formed corporation headed Edward Letchworth and soil was turned on October 17, 1938. Eliel Saarinen, in collaboration with his son Eero, was named a consulting architect in December of 1938 and was responsible for the gracefully curved contours of the exterior while the Kidds adapted the interior designs to the Saarinen plan. The cornerstone of this acoustical marvel was laid September 12, 1939.

The complex consists of two main parts: the semi-elliptical auditorium seating over 2800 and the elongated hemispherical chamber music hall with a parquet floor and zebra flexwood walls which seats 900. The auditorium ceiling was built in a series of ridges, the stage area with ¾" resonating honeytone plywood and the grand balcony was "open throat" with the front tilted slightly upward while the underside sloped down toward the rear - a plan which captures and funnels sound to even the furthest reaches of the auditorium. East Indian rosewood was featured in the foyer and the entrance vestibules had floors of mankato stone. Downstairs was dominated by a 52 foot upholstered bar with comfortable lounges at each end. The music hall’s exterior was faced with Ohio Wyandotte brick and enhanced with panels of veined sandstone.

The dedicatory concert was held on October 12, 1940, led by maestro Franco Autori conducting the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in Brahms Symphony No. 1 and also featured was nationally-known Buffalo violinist Eudice Shapiro in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major.