The purposes of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society are: “To collect, preserve and research the written, spoken, pictorial and artifactual record of the history of Western New York and the Great Lakes in general, and of Buffalo and Erie County in particular, from prehistoric times to the present; to promote a better understanding of the present by using exhibits, educational programs, publications, media presentations, and other appropriate means to interpret the process of change over time in the community; to make the best of current historical research and insight accessible to general audiences by serving as a meeting ground for professional historians and non-professional enthusiasts; to enrich the Western New York community by encouraging the participation of a broad spectrum of the community in lively programs and exhibits that reflect the diversity of the community’s population.”
The Pan-American Building, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, is the only permanent building erected for the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo’s international fair attended by 8,000,000 from May to November 1901. The Exposition is best known for being the largest showcase to that time of the uses of electrical illumination. It celebrated the technological innovations that had recently harnessed the generating power of nearby Niagara Falls. During the Exposition, the building served as the New York State Pavilion and was the scene of an intensive schedule of receptions welcoming distinguished guests from around the world.
Awarded the design commission by a State-sponsored competition, young Buffalo architect George Cary (1859-1945), who had been classically trained in Paris, designed the building, faced and corniced with Vermont marble, in Doric style. The beautiful south portico, overlooking Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, is a scaled-down version of the east front of the Parthenon, in Athens. Cary was able to complete his original design in 1927 when the building was enlarged to accommodate the present-day Library and Auditorium. Eleven relief sculptures, designed by Edmund Amateis, surround the building, each depicting a significant event in local history. The bronze entry doors, designed by J. Woodley Gosling and sculpted by R. Hinton Perry, show allegorical figures depicting “History” and “Ethnology.”
After the Exposition closed, the building became the headquarters of the Buffalo Historical Society in 1902. The Society, founded in 1862, had previously displayed its growing collections in a series of rented spaces in downtown Buffalo. Since that time, the building has played many roles: exhibit pavilion, repository of the stories of Western New York, resource for genealogical and historical research by students and scholars, and community gathering place. Today the building hosts the Historical Society’s Research Library (collections include 20,000 books, 200,000 photographs and 2,000 manuscript collections), its Auditorium, long term exhibits BFLO Made! and Neighbors, galleries for temporary exhibits, and the Museum Shop. The Society’s soon-to-be-announced Strategic Plan will outline ongoing restoration of this treasured structure as it continues its second century.
Your donations help:
Funds will be used to promote the mission of the historical society, and to present exhibits and educational programs, special events and collections care. Thank you for supporting us.
There are many ways you can get involved.
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