Pan Am Expo 1901 and the Green & Wicks Connection


pan am logo



After the great success of the first two American World’s Fairs, the Pan-American Exposition opened in Buffalo in May 1901 with hopes of bringing the economic benefits of an exposition to northern New York state. The organizers hoped to show the benefits of electric light made possible by hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, a lack of local community enthusiasm led to weak financial support and the snowy Great Lakes weather led to building delays.

The Exposition opened to moderate success and continued to generally good reviews. The most unusual aspect of the Pan-American was the color scheme of its buildings. Unlike the pristine design of the “White City,” the architectural plan of the Pan-American was to build a “Rainbow City.” The buildings were done in a Spanish Renaissance style and were colored in hues of red, blue, green, and gold. The Electric Tower, the focal point of the fair, was colored deep green with details of cream white, blue, and gold. At night, thousands of electric lights outlined the buildings.

The theme of the Pan-American Exposition was the linkage between the United States and the other nations of the Western Hemisphere. Unfortunately, only a handful of Latin-American countries sponsored major displays. Regional and national displays were, however, much in evidence.

A major event of the Pan-American Exposition was to be the September visit of President William McKinley. On September 6, after sightseeing at Niagara Falls, McKinley attended a reception at the Exposition’s Temple of Music. Leon Czolgosz, identified as an anarchist, came through the receiving line with a revolver concealed in a handkerchief and shot the President twice. Eight days later, McKinley died of his wounds and Theodore Roosevelt became President.

The death of President McKinley overshadowed the rest of the Exposition. Buffalo, hoping to be seen as a prosperous, technologically-advanced city, would instead be seen as the city of the assassination.

This above entry is courtesy of  the University of Delaware Library

and the Special Collections Department

The Exposition was an extravaganza of spectacular proportion … history was unfolding. The brilliant effect of electricity illuminating the night sky created a magical vibration and euphoria that had never before been experienced.


But, the phenomena of electricity would never diminish the sad day we experienced when President McKinley was assassinated. That day was one of our darkest days and a place in history that will never be forgotten  … it is almost as if this assault on our innocence was beginning, the unraveling of civility becoming a new normal in young America.

The Green & Wicks firm was at a height of architectural renaissance with many projects underway in Buffalo, including the Albright Art Gallery, and beyond. EB Green was a member of the Pan Am Exposition Board of Architects representing the interests of the firm.

Wicks was a Fellow of The American Institute of Architects, a Charter member of the Adirondack League, President of the Otowega Club and Vice President of the Red Jacket Golf Club, (at one time he had been the amateur golf champion of Buffalo, but I do not know the year(s)).

And now an Exposition of epic proportion became a part of Buffalo’s landscape. Buffalo was the eighth largest city in the United States with a population of 350,000 …. millions of people would now experience the Buffalo effect … Green & Wicks, I presume in the thick of it.

pan am site

Images courtesy of the Wikipedia site.

(All rights of original material reserved)


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