Theatre Historic District - Table of Contents

Otto Store Building / Theater Place
A.K.A. the Otto-Kent Building
640 Main Street, Buffalo, NY

Theater Place - Official Web Site   (July 2012)
Visitor Information: 716/204-3571

Erected: 1896
Architect: Edward Kent
Style: Beaux Arts
First owner:
"The Otto Building at 636-644 Main (also known as the Otto-Kent Building) was erected in 1896 by William Otto, the descendant of Jacob Otto who had been a primary agent of the Holland Land Company in Western New York." - Theater Historic Preservation District Nomination
See also: Building historic photo:
1897 photo

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

Architect: Edward Kent

Architect's drawing.
"In the case of the Otto store, perhaps Kent had a client who could not make up his mind about the style, because the Otto store looks like three distinctly buildings stacked on top of one another." - Illustration and quote from Victorian Buffalo, ed. by Cynthia Van Ness

Otto Building/Theater Place and  Neighbors

Otto Building/Theater Place

2002 photo. Contrast to the 2012 photo below.
Otto Building features white, glazed terra cotta; Shea's
features cream, glazed terra cotta.

2012 photo

Station and electrical lines are of the  light rail rapid transit system on Main Street (free on above ground dedicated outdoors transit mall)

Otto Building/Theater Place - Architectural Details

Beaux Arts style.
Classical entablature above lion heads and cartouches

Top: Terra cotta ... Modillions decorated with acanthus leaves between panels with foliage ... Bead-and-reel molding ... Dentil molding ... Round window  with egg molding flanked by cornucopia ... Bellflower(?) molding

Bead molding ... Ionic column ... Fluted shaft

Egg-and-dart molding  above  bead-and-reel molding


Broken pediment

Edward Austin Kent was a son of one of the founders of the Flint and Kent Department store in downtown Buffalo.

A graduate of the former Briggs School in Buffalo and Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, he studied architecture at L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and continued his studies in England. He later practiced in Chicago as a partner of
Joseph Lyman Silsbee before coming to Buffalo in the late 1880s.

One of the best architects to grow up and practice in Buffalo, Kent designed a variety of intriguing buildings in Western New York. Carleton Sprague Home (not pictured above) on the American lake shore in West Hamburg is the best
Shingle style residences in the area.

Not surprisingly, Kent designed his family's department store, the Flint & Kent Department Store on Main St.

He was 58 years old when he was returning from a two-month holiday that had taken him to France and Egypt, and was reputedly looking forward to a comfortable retirement Tragically, he was aboard the SS Titanic -- the only Buffalonian -- which on April 15, 1912, rammed into an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland and sank. Just days after the disaster, a letter to Kent's sister from the daughter of one of the women he assisted recorded his bravery. Moreover, Kent's friend and fellow first class passenger Archibald Gracie survived to corroborate the story.

A true hero of the catastrophe, Kent went below several times to alert people to the danger and assist them to the chilly, dark deck. He was last seen by a woman friend in a lifeboat as he waved from the railing of the listing vessel.

Incredibly, Kent's body was afterwards recovered from the sea by a ship out of Halifax and brought there and then to Buffalo, where he lies in the Kent family plot in
Forest Lawn Cemetery where the inscription on his tombstone reads, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

See also: Highlights of Buffalo's History, 1896


See also:
Theatre Place (UB School of Arch & Planning)

Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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