Dun Building - LINKS

Dun Building
110 Pearl Street, Buffalo, NY

Erected:

1894-95
Restored 1988

Architects:

Green & Wicks

Style:

High rise (not a skyscraper) with Classical ornamentation

Status:


Text Beneath Illustrations


Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

Photo taken about 1975, before the cornice was removed. Photo by Larry Johnson,
Holland, NY

Photo taken about 1975, before the cornice was removed. Photo by Larry Johnson,
Holland, NY

At 10 stories, it was the first Buffalo highrise

Green and Wicks used giant arches to organize the elevations

Applying the Neoclassical style of horizontal buildings to a vertical tower, the facade is divided into a series of multiple-story bands stacked one on top of the other

The protruding cornice originally had supporting modillions similar to the ones above the entrances

Although the building has a supporting steel skeleton, the walls also had to be made load-bearing to give the very narrow structure more bracing against the strong winds off Lake Erie.

Bull's-eye window

Bull's eye window

Bull's eye window

 

Bull's eye window



The Business District of Downtown Buffalo
Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, by Francis R. Kowsky, et. al. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981, pp. 44-45, 71

It was not until the post-Civil War era that Buffalo developed a specialized central business district, or downtown, as we know it today. Many forces, including a rapidly expanding and increasingly complex economy, contributed to this development,

The city's population grew from 155,000 in 1880 to 256,000 in 1890. This growth, combined with the introduction of the electric streetcar system in the late 1880s, enabled downtown to emerge as the focal point of a metropolitan region, by encouraging residential decentralization while allowing people from all over the city to travel downtown for the price of a nickel. Thousands did, and the changes in land use which which followed were unprecedented.

One result was that the office tower replaced the church steeple as the symbol of downtown by the early twentieth century. The Dun Building (1894-1895) and the D. S. Morgan Building (1895-1896) towered over their mid-nineteenth-century neighbors on Pearl Street.

Nearby, the Shelton Square area became the center for business headquarters as the Erie County Savings Bank (1890-1893), the Prudential (Guaranty) Building (1895-1896), and the Ellicott Square Building (1895-1896) were constructed. In the process, the remnants of an earlier era, including homes, churches, and small office blocks, were demolished.

Structural steel and elevators were among the major advances in building technology which made the large-scale structures possible. Escalating real estate values in the downtown area also encouraged more intensive land use.

The Dun Building, clad in yellow Roman brick, represents an attempt to apply the principles of neoclassicism, an inherently horizontal style of architecture, to the design of the new tall office building. With questionable results, Green and Wicks emulated the example of George B. Post's New York Produce Exchange (1882) and used giant arches to organize the elevations. The aesthetic problem was matched by a serious structural one. The building's narrow width demanded that special attention be paid to wind bracing. This was achieved by supporting the internal steel frame with exterior load-bearing masonry walls.

The Business of R. G. Dun and Company
Second Looks: A Pictorial History of Buffalo and Erie County, by Scott Eberle and Joseph A. Grande. Donning Co., 1993, p. 166

The Dun Building, at Pearl and Swan streets (now also called the flatiron building) still contributes its distinctive shape to the downtown skyline. It originally housed R. G. Dun and Company, a pioneer in the business of rating the credit of prospective borrowers.

Founded in 1841 by the abolitionist Lewis Tappan to serve the New York City area, R. G. Dun and Company also played a vital role on the Niagara Frontier in greasing the bearings of the economic locomotive. In the boom times, lending and borrowing were mostly transactions between strangers. R. G. Dun and Company recruited reliable local reporters to assess the solvency of the peddlers, grocers, and other traders who wished to borrow money.

This essential tool sometimes worked to the disadvantage of ethnic groups. Tightly knit Buffalo communities like the Irish or the Jews would sometimes refuse to talk to Dun and Company agents. And the agents themselves carried prejudice into their work.

By the early twentieth century the company had a hundred thousand credit reporters. The Buffalo office was one of the most active.

History of the R. G. Dun Co.
Nomination for Landmark Status

The Dun Building was originally planned for the Union Central Life Insurance Company. The Insurance firm abandoned the project and turned over the plans to the Dun firm.

The local office of R. G. Dun Co. was opened by John H. Smith in 1866. When the Dun Building was opened, Smith and R. G. Dun owned the building jointly.During the 46 years as head of the local office, Smith became sole owner. For 40 years R.G. Dun Co. maintained offices in the Dun building. R. G. Dun died in 1900, six years after the completion of the Dun Building.

R. G. Dun

Robert Graham Dun was born in Chillucothe, Ohio, in 1826. Educated in the Academy of his home town, Mr. Dun gained his initial experience while in his teens. At 21, he was proprietor of a small business.

It was Benjamin Douglas, his brother-in-law, who drew Dun's interest in the direction of credit information services. Douglas was a partner in Tappan and Douglas, the Mercantile Agency of New York City, and offered his brother-in-law a post in that firm. The firm, organized shortly after the business panic of 1837 compiled data relative to rural storekeepers and made it available to wholesalers in New York.

Dun joined the firm in 1850 and four years later became a partner. The firm was renamed B. Douglas & Co. In 1859 Dun headed the corporation and became sole owner except for minor stockholders. Within two years, he established branch offices in most U.S. cities.

The demand for Mr. Dun's publications concerning credit ratings was so great that in 1893 he acquired his own printing plant, staffed by several hundred employees. For decades, he issued a weekly report on business conditions, read and respected by merchants and other businessmen of many countries.

His credit data included Europe as well as the U.S. He established branch offices of his company in Paris and Berlin. Since 1933, the Mercantile Co. headed by Mr. Dun for a quarter of a century has been included in the firm of Dun and Bradstreet, Inc.

The Dun building is a fine local example of 1890's Beaux-Arts and Renaissance Styling.

Green and Wicks was its local champion and used the style for many of its Buffalo commissions.

The Architecture of the Dun Building
Classic Buffalo: A Heritage of Distinguished Architecture, by Richard O. Reisem and Andy Olenick

Dun Building (1894 -1895), 110 Pearl Street, was designed by E. B. Green and William S. Wicks who applied the Neoclassical style of horizontal buildings to a vertical tower, so the facade is divided into a series of multiple-story bands stacked one on top of the other.

Although the building has a supporting steel skeleton, the walls also had to be made load-bearing to give the very narrow structure more bracing against the strong winds off Lake Erie.

The building was named for the R. G. Dun Company, which later became Dun and Bradstreet.

At 10 stories, it was the first Buffalo highrise.


Photos and their arrangement 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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