Old County Hall - Table of Contents

Old County Hall
92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, NY




Andrew J. Warner


Giovanni F. Sala, central tower figures

Exterior building material

Clark Island (Maine) granite
The Maine Granite Industry Historical Society)


1925, Harold Jewett Cook
1963-1980, Milstein, Wittek and Davis


High Victorian Romanesque / Norman Romanesque


Original function

City and County Hall.
In 1931, the present
Buffalo City Hall was completed

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

2008 Photos

Three stories centered with 209' tall landmark clock and bell tower with
steeple and four allegorical statues   ...    Details below, starting at ground level:

Landscaping designed by Olmsted & Vaux (Vaux dissolved the partnership in 1872)

Romanesque double arch main entrance    ...   George Washington statue by J. Turkalj, 1976    ...    Click HERE for more photos of the George Washington statue

The first story is of uncut Clark Island (Maine) granite with chiseled edges

Main entrance    ...    Corbel  at bottom of hood molding  ...   Traceried  came  transom windows    ...   Engaged, smooth shaft column with voluted  capital

Second story    ...   Bush hammered Clark Island (Maine) granite

Second story    ...   Billets

The third story rounded windows are a characteristic of
Romanesque architecture   ...   Cf., similar, but pointed instead of rounded,  Old Post Office architecture

Third story in center flanked by 
vertical pier buttresses   ...    Tower features both rounded and pointed hoodmolds - a Victorian characteristic

Hipped slate roof on top of building   ...    Attic center pyramidal roof with final above and modified dentils below    ...    Gable attic roofs    ...     Arcade windows  below on third story

Five tower details below:

Tower detail #1 -
Louvered belfry    ...   Attic at right of photo

Tower detail #2 -
In 1938, the slate roofing of the steeple was removed and replaced with copper    ...    Two finials

Tower detail #3 -
The tower clock was manufactured by the E. Howard Co. of Boston, Massachusetts.     ...    The 9' 3" diameter dials were backlit with reflected gas light. The size of the flame was controlled by the clock mechanism, possible the first use of an automatic pilot.     ...    The clock had numerals 15' high, a 4' 3" minute hand, 3' hour hand, 4,700 lb. bell, 190 lb. trip hammer and a 14' 3" pendulum.     ...    A half ton weight used to drive the mechanism had to be raised by two men every 8 days.    

Tower detail #4 -
Click HERE for more photos and explanations of the four allegorical goddesses

Tower detail #5 -
Finial at top of

Center: Flat-roof City Court Building    ...    Right: City Hall    ...    Photo taken 2007

Guaranty Building in left background    ...    Telephone Building in center and right

The site

This building stands on the site of the Franklin Square Cemetery, Buffalo's second burial ground from 1804 to 1836, especially for soldiers of the War of 1812. (The first burial ground was east of Washington Street, above present Exchange.)

In October, 1836, a brick wall was built around Franklin Square on the Eagle, Delaware and Church street sides, at a cost of $2,000, paid for by popular subscription. At that time, all the graves not marked by stones or monuments were leveled and graded even with the general surface. Many a resting-place of early residents, and of soldiers of 1812, was thus lost for identification.

It was on this site on December 10, 1813 that Colonel Cyrenius Chapin surrendered the village of Buffalo to the British However, the British then rejected his authority and proceeded to burn the village in retaliation for the American forces under General McClure having previously burned the British settlement of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake). (
See The Burning of Buffalo, by R. Arthur Bowler)

In 1851, the city bought the property of H. E. Howard, 95 by 115 1/2 feet, at the northwest corner of Church and Franklin streets. It was used for Mayor's office and other city offices (PHOTO) until shortly before the completion of the present building in 1876.

In 1857, when Seth Grosvenor bequeathed $40,000 to the city of Buffalo for a library, $10,000 of which was to be used for a lot and building, old Franklin Square was strongly, but unsuccessfully, advocated for its site.


Designed by perhaps Rochester's greatest architect, Andrew Jackson Warner, it is an outstanding example of High Victorian Romanesque. Warner was the supervising architect for Richardson's Buffalo Psychiatric Center (formerly Buffalo State Hospital), but his Romanesque style is quite different from Richardson's, although the buildings were constructed about the same time. Richardson has pointed turrets at the corners of his towers, for example, instead of the colossal female figures of Justice, Mechanical Arts, Agriculture, and Commerce that Warner uses.

Rochester's City Hall, also designed by Warner, is quite similar to Old County Hall.

Warner's Academy Building in Rochester, with its contrasting colors, is more typically Victorian.

According to Richard o. Reisem in Classic Buffalo, Warner described the style as "Norman", the term referring to Romanesque architecture in England. Regardless of the subtype, the tall tower and rounded windows and entrance mark this as Romanesque.


On the inside, only the registry of deed room, with its tall, cast-iron columns decorated with incised ornament, survives unchanged from Warner's time. The rest of the interior was thoroughly remodeled in 1925 by Harold Jewett Cook, a local architect well known for his many bank designs, into a rather typical example of "Bureaucratic classical."

McKinley lay in state here after his assassination at the 1901 Pan American Exposition. For photos, see The True Story of the Assassination of President McKinley at Buffalo



  • "A History of the Old County Hall," by Alison Kimberly (unpublished)

  • Severance, Frank H., ed. Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo, Buffalo Historical Society, 1912

  • Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, by Francis R. Kowsky, et. al. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981

  • Designated Landmarks of the Niagara Frontier, by Austin M. Fox. Buffalo: Meyer Enterprises, P.O. Box 733, Ellicott Station, Buffalo, New York 14205. 1986.
Warner buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
  • c. 1855: Elmwood, Nunda, New York
  • 1860: Brick Presbyterian Church Complex, Rochester, New York
  • 1867: Richardson-Bates House, Oswego, New York
  • 1868: Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church, Rochester, New York
  • 1869: Powers Building, Rochester, New York
  • 1871: Erie County and Buffalo City Hall, Buffalo, New York
  • 1871: First Presbyterian Church (Rochester, New York)
  • 1883: First Presbyterian Church of Mumford, Mumford, New York
  • 1887-1888: Wilder Building, Rochester, New York
  • 1891: Saint Bernard's Seminary, Rochester, New York, Rochester, New York
  • 1892: Willard Memorial Chapel-Welch Memorial Hall, Auburn, New York in 1989, designated National Historic Landmark
Source: Wikipedia (online March @019)

Photos and their arrangement 2008 Chuck LaChiusa
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