Architecture Around Buffalo: Market Arcade
By Lucas Watson, Features Contributor
Arcades became popular “mini-malls” in the 19th Century in Europe. America’s first arcade was built in Providence, Rhode Island in 1828. Architect E.B.Green traveled abroad by recommendation from the original building owner, G.B. Marshall, who made his fortune in oil. He suggested London’s Burlington Arcade as a model for architect E. B. Green and his
adaptation of London’s Burlington Arcade included the requisite clerestory windows and iron
canopy, which provided a brightly lit concourse with three floors of businesses.
Although it was once known as the Palace Arcade, it’s most commonly known today as the Market Arcade. It sits on the 600 block of Main Street downtown and is one of the more established buildings there. The gem of this locally designated historic district, the Market Arcade possesses one of the best interior pedestrian spaces in the city. Three levels of shops and offices on either side of the covered “street” create a splendid urban environment that is comfortable all year round and it fulfills the purpose of an arcade in the truest sense. The Market Arcade is the city’s only historic covered shopping arcade. This 19th century building type, which first achieved popularity during the 1820s, is generally regarded as the forerunner of the contemporary suburban mall.
The Market Arcade recalls another famous arcade, the Gallery Umberto I (1887-90) in Naples. It also maintains close ties to the street life around it being in the heart of the theater district. When constructed, the building connected this bustling stretch of Main Street with the flourishing public market that formerly existed at Washington and Chippewa streets. It was the market – the “belly of Buffalo”– that gave the arcade its name. Bison heads on the facade provide the symbolic reference that seeks to make this graceful piece of nostalgia feel at home on Buffalo’s Main Street.
The history of the Market Arcade has had its ups and downs over the years. Once its namesake was gone, the Market Arcade steadily lost tenants due to the pedestrian traffic on Main Street dwindling and an increase in the migration of people to the suburbs. The decline eventually brought about its closure in the 1970s. However, after extensive renovation, it reopened back in 1995. Today, it hosts a variety of tenants, from galleries, a barber and even a stationary store. Its life has been a rollercoaster ride, but it’s a small gem of the downtown area that remains today.