William Hengerer - Table of Contents

Barnes & Hengerer Building

260-268 Main Street, Buffalo, NY




William W. Carlin

One-time (original?) owner:

C.J. Hamlin


Commercial Romanesque Revival


Brick and (Medina?) sandstone
1888 style:
Commercial Romanesque


Joseph Ellicott Historic Preservation District

Additional history:

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

William Hengerer
Source: Men of Buffalo, Chicago: A. N. Marquis & Co, 1902

Source: Cynthia Van Ness, Victorian Buffalo

1907 drawing   ...   Commercial Romanesque Revival style   ...
"Hengerer's incorporated in 1836. At the time this illustration was published, it boasted of being the largest department store between New York and Chicago."
Source: Cynthia Van Ness, Victorian Buffalo

1940s photo   ...   Note how the two bottom stories have been "modernized."

1965 photo at left:  Facade has been changed into popular International style design.
At right: 1990 rendering of the planned changes, similar to the original design.

2005 photos

details below, from the top, down:

(Medina?) sandstone ornamentation   ...   Brick ...   Bullnose brick

Detail below:

Brick voussoirs ... (Medina?) sandstone is decorated with cartouche and acanthus leaves

Carved (Medina?) sandstone spandrel panel

2014 photos

Outdoor murals - Table of Contents


2016 Photos

Postmodern style

More details below:

Rosettes / patterae molding  ...  Ancones   ...  Fanlight   ... Spandrel panel

Rosettes / patterae molding  ...  Ancones


William Hengerer Company

An excerpt from
Nine Nine Eight: The Glory Days of Buffalo Shopping, by Michael F. Rizzo. Pub. by Lulu Inc, 2007, p. 119

One of Buffalo's oldest retail establishments started way back in 1836 when Richard J. Sherman opened a dry goods store at 155 Main at Swan Street in Buffalo. By 1869 he partnered with J. C. Barnes to form Sherman & Barnes & Co.

William Hengerer came to the United States from Germany when he was 10 years old, and when he was 22 he moved to Buffalo from Pittsburgh, joining Sherman & Barnes as a clerk.

He enlisted in the Army and served two years during the Civil War, afterwards returning to his clerk position.

The firm later split. Barnes formed J. C. Barnes & Co. (Illustration) in early1867, followed by Barnes & Bancroft (James K.) in 1869 at 259 Main Street. Hengerer was admitted as a partner in 1873, the firm becoming Barnes, Bancroft & Co.

The Birth of Department Stores
An excerpt from
Second Looks: A Pictorial History of Buffalo and Erie County
, by Scott Eberle and Joseph A. Grande. Donning Co., 1993, p. 142

Although the American economy of the later nineteenth century yo-yoed between boom and bust, each plateau of prosperity tended to be higher than the last. Buffalo's economic miracle was part of this jerky upward growth in the American economy. One consequence of greater wealth was a larger and more leisured middle class. More people had more money to spend, and they had more time to spend it in. Middle-class women were especially affected.

The department store, which capitalized these trends, was an invention of the post-Civil War decade. Stores such as Macy's in New York, Marshall Field's in Chicago, and Wanamaker's in Philadelphia became the showcases of new technology and fashion.

In 1876 Buffalo's Adam and Meldrum formed their durable partnership. (The firm became Adam Meldrum and Anderson in 1892). Other Buffalo department stores, Flint and Kent, Hengerer, and the Sweeney Company were particularly successful in the 1880s and 1890s. These new retail ventures offered women an impressive array of goods and services. They offered cooking classes, restaurants, and beauty parlors. The department stores introduced and demonstrated labor-saving devices: washing and sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, and iceboxes.

If the department stores became a kind of social center for middle-class women, they also helped women move out into the wider world in another way. In these stores it was largely women who marketed goods to women. For the working-class woman the department store was a pleasant alternative to the factory. For the middle-class woman it permitted a time away from home between girlhood and motherhood. Although we are likely to notice that women were usually the clerks and never the managers, department-store work was sometimes cheered by nineteenth-century feminists who saw employment there as a stroke for women's equality and self-sufficiency.

Fierce Fire in Buffalo
Barnes, Hengerer & Co.'s Great Establishment Burned.
Adjoining Structures Damaged--Loss Over a Million Dollars--500 People in the Building--Four Lives Reported Lost.
Reprinted from The Daily News  (online Jan. 2013)

Wednesday Evening, February 1-1888

Buffalo --A terribly destructive fire is raging on Main street. Fire broke out at 11:45 this morning in Barnes, Hengerer & Co.'s

The fire spread to the adjoining buildings occupied by DICKINSON's jewelry store and PARTRIDGE's dry goods store and leaped across the street to GLENNY's china and glassware emporium and MORGAN's carpet store, and threatens the Academy of Music [at Main & Seneca].

The Bank of Buffalo, in the same block with Barnes, Hengerer & Co., have put all their books and papers in the vaults and vacated the premises. The Board of Trade building is in danger.

Barnes, Hengerer & Co.'s stock is valued at one million dollars and the building at $250,000.

The efforts of the firemen were at once directed towards preventing the spread of the fire and they were so far successful that the flames obtained no foothold anywhere. Beyond the damage to the adjoining buildings and to the front of those opposite on Main street, and also on Pearl, the loss is confined to Barnes, Hengerer & Co. and the building they occupied. At 1 o'clock the fire was under control.

The names of the girls said to have lost their lives are not known and will probably not be until a roll call is made of the employees One fireman had his leg crushed.
mammoth dry goods establishment, 256 to 265 Main street, and in a few minutes the whole interior was a mass of flames. At noon the walls on Pearl street fell in, burying in the ruins four girls employed in that part of the store. At 12:30 the front walls fell in, and the whole structure is in ruins.

The building occupied by Barnes, Hengerer & Co. was owned by C.J. HAMLIN, the great horseman, and was a handsome iron-front structure.

The fire originated in the basement about the center of the building and in an incredibly short space of time a great flame burst through the floor. The alarm spread from floor to floor of the great building and a rush was made for the street. There were about 500 people in the building, half of whom were clerks, mostly women and girls. The immense volume of flame swept through the building as though driven by a cyclone, and bursting from the windows and doors leaped far out into the street.

Although the fire department was quickly on the spot, no power could stay the flames, so fiercely were they spreading through the inflammable merchandise which the store contained. The flames made rapid headway on the Pearl street side of the building and it is there the four girls are said to have been seen to fall back into the fire, but the report is as yet unconfirmed.

The tongues of flames shooting out from front and rear stretched across the streets and threatened to communicate to the buildings opposite. The woodwork of several took fire, and the firemen, seeing that all hope of saving Barnes, Hengerer & Co.'s was past, confined themselves to saving the others. At one time it looked as though the block between Seneca and Swan would go, and the Board of Trade with it. This was happily prevented and though the stocks of the occupants suffered heavily by flooding, the buildings were but slightly damaged.

The losses outside of Barnes, Hengerer & Co. are at present unobtainable, but the insurance on this building and stock, is considerable over half a million. The other sufferers are FLINT & KENT, MORGAN & Son's, BARNUM's, JENNING's, interior decorations, DENTON & COTTIER, music store, DICKINSON's jewelry store and PARTRIDGE & Co. dry goods.

Barnes & Hengerer Building

The 268 Main Street building, designed by Cyrus K. Porter, was built in 1889 of brick with Medina sandstone trim.

A new William Hengerer Company store was constructed in 1903.

By 1907, Hengerer's boasted of being the largest department store between New York and Chicago.

Hengerer's merged with Sibley's of Rochester in 1981 and lost its name. Sibley's was then bought out by Kaufman's, which closed its downtown stores.

In 1965, the facade of the Barnes & Hengerer Building was re-faced to give the building a more "modern" look. In 1990, the facade was restored to its original grandeur featuring sandstone carvings. (See photos above.)

See also: History of Downtown Buffalo

Special thanks to Architectural Historian Martin Wachadlo for his assistance

Color photos and their arrangement 2005-2016 Chuck LaChiusa
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