The 1901 Pan-American Exposition’s Electric Tower In Buffalo Inspired The General Electric Building In That City’s Downtown
The 1901 Pan-American Exposition’s showcase, the Electric Tower, would be the inspiration ten years later for the General Electric building downtown. Only a year after its debut at the Exposition, the tower, not meant to be a permanent structure, was demolished along with much of the other structures built specifically for the event.
The original Electric Tower would also inspire a smaller version at Coney Island’s Luna Park in 1903, but it would be the General Electric Building, constructed in 1911 and opening in 1912, that would stand tallest of them all. As reported by the Buffalo News on February 6, 1911—
Twenty-Story Building For General Electric Co.
Illuminated Tower Will Be Feature of New Building at Genesee and Huron Streets.
It will rise a total of 20 stories in the air. First will come three or four stories covering the entire site. From the Washington STreet face of the building and covering less ground space, probably about as much or a little more than the Dun building, will rise the main structure, 13 stories high. This will contain offices. Above the 13-story main building will rise a tower seven stories high in which will be a lunch room and ball room or assembly room for meetings.
The company’s plan is to illuminate the tower and deck with upper part of the building with lights so as to mark it as essentially an electric building. In this respect, it will be different from anything in the country. It is advantageously situated to be seen from many parts of the city and will serve to advertise the use of electricity.
It was estimated the cost of construction would total $500,000. Once building permits were obtained, records showed $570,825 had been invested into the project.
The tower of the General Electric Building would be named the Huntley Tower. Upon the building’s opening in May of 1912, the Buffalo News would make comparisons to the Washington Monument and it’s being the “finest shaft of its kid in the world,” while also referencing the tower of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building being famous for its great height. When it came to the Huntley Tower, however, they noted—
But the handsomest structure in beauty of line, quality of color, marvel of proportion and in artistic perfection of architecture is the new Huntley Tower at Genesee, Huron and Washington Streets.
Such a structure is a thing of glory in any city.It is destined to acquire a certain fame and to gain a distinction that belongs to itself beyond that of most other buildings, for few are so placed as to make it possible to be a harmonious development of the plant of the entire building such as the Huntley tower illustrates in connection with the General Electric Building of which it is a part.
Additions to the General Electric Building would be constructed in 1923 and again in 1928. Today, the building is considered a landmark amongst Buffalo’s downtown where it ranks as the 7th tallest standing at 294 feet. The building and its tower remain of cultural relevance to the city, the top lighted different colors for holidays and sports playoffs, while also hosting the annual Buffalo Ball drop on New Year’s Eve, one of the largest such events outside of New York City’s Times Square.
The General Electric building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.