Architecture Around Buffalo: Cyclorama Building
By Lucas Watson, Features Contributor
On the edge of the Theater District downtown lies a peculiar sight, a hexadecagon-shaped building built in 1888 that has held various roles in its long history. At this point, the City of Buffalo was an industrial powerhouse and a “millionaire’s playground.” It was constructed to showcase a cyclorama, or 360° view; the first of these exhibits shown was a piece called “The Crucifixion of Christ” by a German artist. The building was built for a particular purpose, but it proved to be well-constructed. The Buffalo Morning Express stated on Sept. 9, 1888 — the date of its opening, that “The building is as unique as it is imposing and looks as if it has been erected to stay.” Its architectural features are limited as the building was primarily purpose-built and is nondescript with details. It still retains the unique hexadecanoic shape.
After “The Battle of Gettysburg” exhibition, the cyclorama began to lose popularity. The City of Buffalo acquired the building in 1910. After that, it served a variety of different purposes, including a roller rink, a livery and a taxi garage at one point. The building gradually fell into disrepair, and it was in such bad shape by 1937 that it was condemned. However, the year it was taken on by the Work Progress Administration, extensive additions were made to the building, and improvements were made overall. Thankfully, this period of disrepair and disuse did not last long. The adjacent Grosvenor Library took the building from the government and in February of 1942, they opened their circular reading room and lecture halls. It was used for 21 years afterward. In 1963, the Grosvenor Library closed and was combined with other libraries, and the reading room was shut down. For the next 25 years, the building stood vacant, a symbol of times past. In 1989, after a few years of negotiations with the local government, it was finally occupied again by the Ciminelli Construction Company using the second-floor space, and the building is occupied by Lumsden and Associates and McCormick CPA as well.
This building is one of the many windows into the past of the City of Buffalo, showing what can be achieved and how we can revitalize a relatively unknown building on the edge of the Theater District. This cyclorama building is one of many throughout the nation, but yet, the uniqueness of its original purpose in its history gives it character today and the new occupants of the building give it purpose today.