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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 15-A Buffalo's Three Towers of Power (1990)

15-A Buffalo's Three Towers of Power (1990)


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

The three towers are St. Michael's Church representing spiritual power, the Electric Building representing electric power and the Rand Building representing financial power.

St. Michael's was founded by the Jesuit Fathers in 1851 and moved to this site in 1867. In 1870, Canisius College was opened by the Jesuits on Ellicott Street but soon moved to a new "campus complex" on Washington Street which stretched from the corner of E. Tupper (where PCI is located) to the north side of the church. Canisius High School was also located here for many years. Immediately to the south of the church was the great Washington Street Market which extended to Chippewa Street. The Market Arcade Building, designed by E.B. Green in 1892 and linking Main Street with Washington Street, is the only reminder of this once bustling retail market.

The Electric Building, now called the Niagara Mohawk Building, was opened in 1912 on the site of Gruener's Hotel and Gardens and is one of the most outstanding sights on the Buffalo skyline. Designed by Esenwein and Johnson who also produced the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition, this terra cotta building took its inspiration from John G. Howard's Electric Tower which was the centerpiece of the 1901 exposition. The name of Buffalo's Jacob F. Schoellkopf shines above all others in the successful endeavor to harness the great power of Niagara Falls. Schoellkopf originally operated one of the country's largest tanneries as well as a flour mill and later became the president of the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power Company.

The Rank Building on Lafayette Square was Buffalo's tallest building (29 floors) when it was opened in 1929. It was named in honor of George F. Rand, Sr., long-time president and chairman of the board of Marine Bank. It was largely his vision and efforts which led to New York State's first consolidated banking system called Marine Midland Corporation. Marine takes its name from the fact that originally its main customers were largely from the grain and marine trade on the lakes and along the Buffalo River.

The Lafayette Hotel, with its white-faced corner facing the Rand Building, was designed by Buffalo architects Bethune, Bethune & Fuchs. The firm's Louise Bethune was the first professional female architect in the United States.