Buffalo History Museum - Table of Contents

- Buffalo History Museum
Formerly Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society Museum
1 Museum Court, Buffalo, NY

Buffalo History Museum - Official Home Page



1901 (the only permanent building of the Pan-American Exposition)
Addition - east and west wings: 1929

Former President Millard Fillmore and his associates founded the Historical Society in 1862. Fillmore was elected the first president of the Society.


Neoclassical Revival (with Greek Doric details)


George Cary (40-year old Buffalo architect who was one of eight members of the Pan American Exposition's Board of Architects). Cary also designed the addition in 1929


The sculpture in the south facade pediment represents the forces of civilization and was carved by Edmund Amateis. Left to right: Philosophy, Industry, Art, Husbandry, History, Science, Mars, Religion, Law.

On the portico steps, the statue of "Lincoln, the Emancipator," carved by Charles N. Niehaus, was dedicated in 1902. It is a replica of the statue Niehaus sculpted for Muskegon, Michigan. For thirty years this statue was located in the Grand Court inside the Historical Building before being placed on the south portico steps.

Edmund R. Amateis carved the eleven relief sculptures around the building depicting scenes from Western New York history: the trial of Red Jacket, Commodore Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie, the burning of Buffalo in 1813, Gen. Daniel D. Bidwell at Spotsylvania, the Underground Railway, the reception of Marquis de Lafayette in Buffalo in 1825, Grover Cleveland, the formation of the Buffalo historical Society.

The statue of "The Centaur" was created by Charles Cary Rumsey, the architect's nephew.


Charles Berrick and Sons


The masterwork of architect George Cary (1859 - 1945), the Historical Society building was originally erected as the New York State pavilion for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 at a cost of $375,000.

Built of Vermont marble (quarries located at Isle la Motte and Danby) in the style of a Grecian Temple, the building was the only permanent exposition structure (the others were constructed of plaster).

After the Exposition the building became the permanent home of the Buffalo Historical Society, whose large collection of pioneer relics it contains.

The north facade of the building is faced with three-quarter columns and the public entrance is through 2-ton bronze doors - the gift of Society president Andrew Langdon.

The Parthenon

A textbook example of the neoclassicism popular after the Chicago Fair of 1893, George Cary designed the building in the Neoclassical style with the eight-columned south portico representing a 3/4 scale version of the great Doric Parthenon in Athens, Greece overlooking "Gala Waters" (Olmsted's name for the lake in Delaware Park).

In 1925-1929 the building was enlarged by the addition of identical wings on the east and west sides, work that was also entrusted to Cary.

See: Parallels: Parthenon and Buffalo History Museum

Detail below


Neoclassical Revival (with Greek Doric details)   ...   Not the original entrance

Copper anthemia   ...   Terra cotta tile roof

Main entrance in 2019   ...   Vermont marble   ...   
Anthemion  supported by ancones in the entrance surround (detailed below:)

Anthemion  supported by ancones

"Woodley Gosling (who designed the doors in Trinity Church in New York City) was recruited to design an entranceway; Ralph Hinton Perry, the famous young sculptor of the "Fountain of Neptune" at the Library of Congress, executed his design. Henry Bonnard Bronze Co. cast the twelve-foot high, two ton doors. Clio, the muse of History/ holds a lamp, stands on the left door and pulls back a veil from her eyes."  - National Register of Historic Places Landmark, Item 7, Page 1 (online December 2019)               Detail below:

History - Detail                  2022 photo

"The curious figure on the right representing Ethnology, holds a skull."  -- National Register of Historic Places Landmark, Item 7, Page 1 (online December 2019)                     Detail below:

Ethnology - Detail                 2022 photo

Leaf-and-dart molding

"In 1929 sculptural plaques were added to the exterior of the building. Executed by Edmond Amateis these groups commemorate significant episodes in the history of the Niagara Frontier: e.g. the surveying of Western New York, the sorcery trial of the Seneca sachem Red Jacket, the opening of the Erie Canal, the underground railroad, Commodore Perry's victory on Lake Erie, Millard Fillmore addressing the Buffalo Historical Society." - National Historic Landmark - Nomination   (online Jan. 2019)

Frieze panels to the left of the entrance 
 Three panel details:

"Charles Rumsey Cary sculpting The Centaur"

Two frieze panels to the right of the entrance...   Note the blank panel awaiting some future significant historical event depiction   ...   Two panel details below:

"Commodore Perry's Victory on Lake Erie"         Oliver Hazard Perry - Table of Contents                  War of 1812  

Frieze                  "Underground Railway"         By
Edmund R. Amateis                Plaster cast

Left front memorial marker, detailed below:

Dedicated to the heroes of Vicksburg and San Juan (13th Regiment) the 40-ton egg-shaped boulder measuring almost nine feet from tip to tip. The stone itself was taken from the lower Niagara Gorge near Lewiston, but not until Niagara County Indians had been persuaded to allow its removal.

Elevation to the left of the current entrance on Nottingham Terrace   ...   Note blank
frieze  panels

Continuing left elevation   ...   Three panels detailed below:

"Millard Fillmore addressing the Buffalo Historical Society"

"Marquis de Lafayette(?) receiving the symbolic key to the city"

South elevation facing the Scajaquada Creek  ...   Elevation details below:

South Portico
Original Pan-American Expo New York State Pavilion Entrance


Detail from historic signage in front of the north elevation (2019 building entrance)

Note Abraham Lincoln statue   ...   Two ceiling details:

Ceiling detail #1

Ceiling detail #12   ....    Egg-and-dart surrounding modillion with acanthus leaves

Original 1901 Pan-Am Expo entrance   ...   Roman lattice design on guard rail and window   ...   A different angle:

Octastyle temple-front style       ...       Three acroteria on roof    ...    Pediment with Classical figures:  Philosophy, Industry, Art, Husbandry, History, Science, Mars the god of War, Religion, and Law      ...    Entablature   ...   Octastyle Greek Doric columns cut to the same proportion (length to width) as the columns at the Parthenon     ...  "Lincoln, the Emancipator" statue   ...   Five pediment details:

  Pediment detail #1 -   Classical figures: Philosophy, Industry, and Art    ...    Mutules underneath  pediment    ...    Triglyphs and metopes  in Doric  frieze    ...    Guttae

Pediment detail #2 - Art and Husbandry

Pediment detail #3- Husbandry, History, and Science

Pediment detail #4 - Science, Mars the god of war, and Religion

Pediment detail #5 - Religion and Law

Mutules underneath  pediment    ...    Triglyphs and metopes  in Doric  frieze    ...    Guttae   ...    Greek Doric columns

East elevation

Elevation to the left of the portico   ...   Panels detailed below:

"Sorcery trial of the Seneca sachem Red Jacket"

"Governor DeWitt Clinton Opening the Erie Canal"

"Surveying of Western New York"   ...   Joseph Ellicott

Photos and their arrangement 2019 Chuck LaChiusa
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