Genesee Building/Hyatt Regency-Buffalo - Table of Contents ............................ Fountain Plaza - Table of Contents
History - Genesee Building/Hyatt Regency-Buffalo
2 Fountain Plaza, Buffalo, NY
Hyatt Regency-Buffalo Official Home Page
James Chapin purchased Inner lot 58, the parcel that would become Genesee House (now the Hyatt Hotel) in 1811. Originally, the site was home to the Genesee House, a way station for farmers and their livestock on their way to market. In the 1830s it was the only structure on the block, constructed as a wood frame farmhouse. The plot even included space for grazing animals and fit in with the contemporary market atmosphere of the city. As Buffalo filled with west-bound travelers,
Buffalo Place: Genesee Building/Hyatt Regency-Buffalo
Buffalo Place: Fountain Plaza
(online June 2016)
Genesee House was rebuilt in 1842 as a five story brick hotel. It was rebuilt larger in 1881 and became The Genesee Hotel.
1881 Genesee Hotel is featured in Main & Genesee panoramic photo, by W. H. Brandel, 1911. Library of Congress (Detail below:)
Detail from above illustration:1881 Genesee Hotel ... Demolished 1922
The Genesee Hotel was torn down for the construction of the new Genesee Building in 1922. Opened in 1923 at a cost of $2 million (over $27 million in 2015 dollars), the Genesee Building was designed by Buffalo-based architecture firm Green & Wicks as a steel framed, Renaissance-Revival office building . At the time of its opening, it was the 4th tallest office building in the city. At the time of its opening, it was the 4th tallest office building in the city.
The building anticipated Buffalo’s downtown banking center shifting north during the building boom that swept through downtown in the early 1920’s. Despite the banking core never moving north of Court Street, the building filled to capacity quite quickly, making the corner of Main and Genesee one of the most desirable locations in the city, a centerpiece of the burgeoning north end of downtown. The area was home to many upscale shops and theatres, and was recalled as a “hot spot” by one former tenant of the Genesee Building.
The Genesee Building was financed by Norman Clement, a local publisher, and Sheldon Weed, the owner of Weed and Co., a hardware store which occupied a large space on the building’s first floor, and stayed under their ownership until 1948. In postwar years the building changed hands between out-of-town ownership groups. It returned to local ownership in 1962, when Buffalo native Leon Lawrence Sidell was convinced that redevelopment of the north Retail and Theatre Districts was imminent. Sidell’s hopes were not quickly realized. Vacancy north of Huron increased as businesses grew in the suburbs. The Genesee Building went into bankruptcy in 1976.
Main Genesee area, November 19, 1973. SUNY Buffalo State Archives & Special Collections, Courier Express Collection [Building labels added]
Hyatt Hotel Development
The City of Buffalo launched a plan to construct a new neighborhood between Chippewa and Genesee Streets by securing the interest of the Hyatt Regency Company to develop a hotel near the theater, business and Convention Center districts. Original plans called for demolition of the Genesee Building and construction of a Hyatt Hotel glass tower. This created some angst in the community, which was desperate for redevelopment, but conflicted about losing the iconic green-copper roofed landmark.
Early Main- Genesee project model showing proposed Hyatt Hotel with a traditional glass tower, straddling Huron Street. Image from City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning
Local businessman Paul Snyder agreed in December 1980 to be the Hyatt Hotel developer. By October, architects Gruzen & Partners determined that the Genesee Building could be saved and be made part of the hotel project. The use of Genesee Street, already blocked by the Convention Center, for the hotel atrium and banquet center was seen as a compromise worth making to retain the historic Genesee Building.
Using all the tools available to them for project financing including Federal grants, commitments from current and future property owners, the City was able to put together an interdependent project including two bank headquarters (Buffalo Savings and Liberty), a new parking garage (Augspurger), public recreation space to be anchored in the by two future buildings, all linked by a 2nd floor pedestrian bridge network.
[Note cleared space for the planned Hyatt atrium and restaurant .]
Hyatt Hotel atrium construction, 1983. Image from City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning
The Hyatt Regency Buffalo opened to the public on February 12th, 1984 and immediately became a cornerstone of the Fountain Plaza section of Main Street. Today the Hyatt Regency operates in the building alongside other tenants including Spa Alexis and E.B. Green’s Steak House, consistently voted as one of the nation’s best. Its 396 rooms make the Hyatt one of the city’s largest hotels. The building has been continually updated including a $13.3 million update in 2007 and another $3 million in 2015. As Main Street again takes on a new shape with return of automobile traffic to Main Street, the Genesee Building has remained a constant.