Slide show images courtesy of the Library of Congress
The task of bringing together the number artisans, professionals and planners to essentially build a microcosm of a city that was practical, yet magical within a tight timeframe was a challenge to the Movers & Shakers of Buffalo in 1900 to be sure. To that end, add that the city of Buffalo was slow to respond to the task of adopting the enthusiasm and energy needed to build the Pan American Exposition, and it would seem that best laid plans must have been exasperating at best and disastrous at worst. The weather also proved challenging.
But visionaries consider the details of this nature minutia, and rather predictable. Plans moved forward.
Now enter the architects. Here is information in part from “Doing the Pan” website which is a great resource for details on the scope of the project:
“… The Method Employed in Buffalo
The designing of the Pan-American Exposition was entrusted to a Board of eight architects, who, after examining the site and studying the problem in all of its bearings, decided on the general features of the block plan in joint conference, and determined, in a general way, the character of the Exposition and the underlying principles which should influence its development. The subdivision of the work and the allotment to the individual architects was reserved until all matters of general interest had been determined and agreed upon. The main points decided by the Board, as already stated, were that the Exposition should be formal in plan and picturesque in development, and that the style of the buildings should be of the Free Renaissance; that apparent roofs with overhanging eaves should be used in preference to flat roofs with cornices and balustrades; that color and decorative sculpture should be introduced freely into the treatment of the buildings, and that the character of the Exposition should be as gay and festive as possible, so that it would be a holiday affair.
The work was then subdivided into eight parcels and allotted to the different architects constituting the Board, as follows:
R. S. Peabody, Peabody & Steams, Boston, Mass, Horticultural Building Forestry Building and Graphic Arts Building
James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect United States, ex-officio member of Board, United States Government Building.
George Cary, Buffalo, N. Y., Ethnological Building.
August Esenwein , Esenwein & Johnson, Buffalo, N. Y., Temple of Music.
Edward B. Green, Green & Wicks, Buffalo, N. Y., Electricity Building and Machinery Building.
George F. Shepley, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, Boston, Mass., Liberal Arts Building and Agricultural Building
John G. Howard, New York, Electric Tower
Walter Cook, Babb, Cook & Willard, New York, Treatment of Plaza and the entrance to the Midway, the Propylaea, entrance to the Stadium, and the Stadium. …”
The following photos and descriptions are courtesy of buffalohistoryworks.com:
Green & Wicks . Electricity Building . Pan American Expo . 1901
Northwest of the Court of Fountains, with its eastern end facing the Electric Tower, is the Electricity Building. It was design by architects Green and Wicks of Buffalo, who also designed the Machinery and Transportation Building. In the northwest corner of the building is the Niagara Falls transformer plant, with a capacity of five thousand horse-power, the purpose of which is to transform the power delivered from Niagara Falls to a lower voltage so that it can be used for distribution about the grounds, to operate lights and other electrical appliances. The development of electrical power is illustrated in a very comprehensive manner; working models of many of the great plants are on
Green & Wicks . Machinery and Transportation Building . Pan American Expo . 1901
This building, in the style of Spanish Renaissance, houses an interesting collection of modern agricultural machinery of the last few years. American invention and ingenuity are demonstrated in displays of bicycles, carriages,
boats, automobile manufacturing, heavy machinery, pumps, and steam engines. The Transportation exhibit is no less interesting and includes all of the very latest specimens of road vehicles, locomotives, cars and railroad appliances.
Here are some additional points of interest from this site:
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the Pan-American was the color scheme of its buildings. In previous expositions, the main feature had always been architecture but not color. The Pan-American attempted to appease both. Imagine seeing colossal buildings colored in hues of red, blue, green and gold! The Electric Tower alone was colored deep green, with details of cream white, blue and gold! Now you can see where the name “Rainbow City” came from.
Since the Pan-American Exposition was also a celebration of electricity, it was only fitting that the promoters of the Exposition would attempt to outdo themselves when it came time to see the fair at night. Drawing its power from Niagara Falls, at dusk 240,000 eight watt bulbs came on at once, not in a brilliant flash of light, but in a gradual increase in brightness until every building was adorned in a bath of light. Since the Electric Tower was the focal point of the Exposition, it was studded with 44,000 lights. A powerful searchlight was mounted at the highest point of the tower that allowed it to be seen from Niagara Falls and Canada.
The architecture of the Pan-American was a free treatment of the Spanish Renaissance style as a compliment to the Latin-American countries represented at the fair. Columns were used as decorative rather than architectural effects, and each building is rich with the use of balconies, loggias, towers, and minarets.
One very important architectural note needs to be made clear; none of the buildings at the Pan-American, with the exception of the New York State building, were built to be a permanent structure. Looking closely at the many photographs reveals buildings falling apart at the seams. In order to construct world’s fairs at a quick pace, 95% of the buildings were constructed of wooden frames and chicken wire with a base coat of plaster! Each rainfall caused the buildings to decay more and more so you can imagine the dilemma the directors of the Pan-American faced with the summer of 1901 being one of the wettest in Buffalo’s history.
I have found an intense amount of information on the Pan Am Expo which has been like finding hidden treasure. The logistics of the event were formidable, until now I had not thought about the orchestration necessary to accommodate the thousands of people who attended … rest rooms, refrigeration, electricity and food preparation had to be an impossible task by todays standards. Normal on a grand scale for the time and place, but something that gives pause.
The Midway, sideshows, hawkers and runaways are quite sensational stories in and of themselves …. oh and Calamity Jane – what a mess!
My Grandmother, Ruth, Wicks daughter was 17 years old at the time of the Expo. Oh, to have been able to talk to her about this would have been magical. But, I was only 8 years old when she died. No souvenirs, trinkets or memorabilia that she might have collected have surfaced …. but, it brings a new perspective on what she must have seen, when electricity was a new amazing element of life lighting the night sky and changing life forever.
Ruth, Age 6, at the Green & Wicks Firm
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