Old Post Office - Table of Contents

Old Post Office / Erie Community College
121 Ellicott Street at South Division, Buffalo, New York
TEXT Beneath Illustrations

2003 photos
Click on photos for larger size


Five pavilions. 4 1/2-story structure

Three deeply recessed arched openings.

Center gable, capping the center entrance



 Corbel supporting niche

Hand carved gargoyle on tower


Copper cresting on pyramidal roof

Finial on top of dormer gable



Twin lancet window under pointed arch, crowned by a quatrefoil

Old Post Office -
Table of Contents

Quatrefoil ornamentation

Covered loading dock.



Victorian Gothic / Richardsonian Romanesque
See H.H. Richardson, Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, Pittsburgh, Pa.


  • Jeremiah O'Rourke 1894-1897
  • William Akin (1897-1901)
  • James Knox Taylor (1897-1901)
  • Cannon Design 1979-1981 Renovation for reuse as Erie Community College city campus

Superintendent of Construction

George Metzger


Foundation: Granite-faced

Exterior - Maine Granite. See information supplied by the Maine Granite Museum. (Also, see The Maine Granite Industry Historical Society)

Roofs: covered with Spanish green tile laid in concrete

Interior - brick wainscoting; terra cotta walls; marble; mosaic tile finishes; principal office rooms and court rooms finished in Mexican mahogany; all other rooms finished in quartered, polished oak. The interior framing system is composed of steel beams.


Pink granite quarried at Spruce Kent and Jonesboro, Maine.
The walls of granite
ashlar masonry have a slightly rusticated treatment on the first floor and elevated basement. All other surfaces are finished with highly dressed granite

Brick supplier

Columbus, Ohio, Buff Brick and terra Cotta Co.

Cost of construction

To December, 1900, $1,522,000.


400. Most of them have one-over-one, double-hung sash


March 1901, officially opened with mailing of its first letter to Pres. William McKinley, who would be assassinated in Buffalo at the Pan-Am Exposition several months later.


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
See  National Register of Historic Places and scroll to New York State and Erie County. This is the official site.


The three deeply recessed entrances are contained within projecting porches. Stone stairs extend beyond the enclosure of the porches.

Architectural Feature

By relieving the mass of the block-square building by slightly projecting corner pavilions, the architects have reduced the Gothic revival decorative treatment to a surface exercise.

Notable Features

  • 244 foot tower
  • Sky lit 6-story atrium
  • Hand carved gargoyles, pinnacles, finials, animal heads and eagles on each of the facades


  • 225,000 sq. feet on 6 levels
  • 400-seat auditorium


Approximately 39 sheets of blueprints of the original plans are on file at the National Archives.


The Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society has a minimum of 30 photographs contained within the Iconographic File

The Old Post Office was the subject of controversy before it was even built. The 1893 Tarnsey Act required architectural competitions for major federal buildings. The Buffalo post office was the first major government building to occur after the act became law. But the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry G. Carlisle, who was responsible for the erection of government facilities, asserted that a design by the federal government's supervising architect, Jeremiad O'Rourke, had already been submitted and approved when he act was passed. The brouhaha must have inspired O'Rourke to extraordinary effort, because he designed a monumental building incorporating Romanesque Revival, Chateauesque, and French Gothic features executed in expensive pink Vermont granite. O'Rourke's plan received added design improvements by his successors, William M. Aiken and James Knox Taylor.

With its tall square tower with its many-crocketed spire, fierce gargoyles and glowering eagles, is one of the most visible and familiar sights of downtown Buffalo.

Regarded as having been inspired by H.H. Richardson's great Allegheny Country Courthouse in Pittsburgh, this building possesses a similar dominating tower and clearly defined pavilions on the exterior and a central light court surrounded by galleries on the inside.

The Venetian palazzo-like interior space is one of the most impressive in the city. Exterior ornamentation includes an appropriate bison head, as well as an eagle up above the entrance door.

The building is largely credited to architect James Knox Taylor, who designed a sister post office (now bustling with boutiques and ethnic food counters) in Washington, D.C.

The Old Post Office has been magnificently restored and is now thriving as the Downtown Branch of the Erie County Community College.

Buffalo Post Office History

Buffalo's post office was established in 1804 when Erastus Granger received the appointment as Buffalo's first postmaster from Thomas Jefferson. He set up the first post office at a desk in Crow's Tavern on Exchange Street. The nearest post offices were at Fort Niagara and at Batavia. Mail to Fort Niagara went on horseback via the ferry and up the Canadian side to the Niagara River because the roads were better. In those days the the post office moved with the postmaster. It wasn't until 1837 that the first permanent building, a former Baptist church at the corner of Washington and Seneca Streets, was purchased.

Old Post Office - Table of Contents


Photos and their arrangement 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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