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Architecture Around Buffalo: The Pierce-Arrow Showroom

By Lucas R. Watson, Features Contributor

We recently discussed the Packard Showroom and the Packard brand’s impact on the city of Buffalo. Now, we look at the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company. Born in Buffalo as a bicycle manufacturer, this company became one of the greats. Peerless, Pierce-Arrow and Packard were the three Ps of luxury automobiles in the United States. They produced valuable and sought-after cars — some of the most luxurious in the United States. The Arrow automobile continued to be made in the same bicycle plant on Hanover Street until 1907, even after the company split in two.

The production of automobiles was moved to a new plant built next to the New York Central Belt Line Railroad, which circles the city of Buffalo on Elmwood Avenue, according to Buffalo Architecture and History. It provided easy transportation for goods across and out of the city to other markets. The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company served the pleasure of being the first official car of the White House; President William Howard Taft ordered the vehicles himself.

The building was created in the Art Deco style for the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car company. Construction began after it was affiliated with the Studebaker Corporation. Construction began in 1929, and it was completed in 1933. The completion of the building happened right at the start of the Great Depression; some sources do claim it was completed in 1930.

The building has had several occupants. It is most known for the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Corporation, which occupied the building until 1938. During the long time it has served as a car showroom, it was under three names, all of which sold Cadillacs in the Fillmore-Leroy area and to the rest of the city of Buffalo. The first occupier after Pierce-Arrow was the Maxson Cadillac dealership, which occupied the building until 1957. Most people may remember the building as the Tinny Cadillac dealership, the sole occupant until 1981.

Lastly was the Braun Cadillac-Buick dealership, which served as the last dealership in the building. In 1999, the building was acquired by the former Greater Buffalo Savings Bank and turned into the headquarters for the bank. The building changed hands once again to the First Niagara Bank and served as a branch. Now, its current occupant is Key Bank. We may recognize the building from having a large Pierce-Arrow logo still gracing the showroom floor.

Looking back on the automobile history of Buffalo is a star-studded view with Packard and Pierce-Arrow being prominent residents. We can reminisce fondly on the history of Buffalo through the occupancies. With the positives that automobiles have brought to Buffalo, there have been some vast drawbacks, such as the demolition of the Humboldt Parkway and its transformation into the Kensington Expressway, which divided the city in a very literal sense after its completion in 1967.

The effects can still be seen today. Even when flying into Buffalo, you can see the clear divide the expressway has caused. It split the East Side in such a violent sense that the area has yet to recover completely. The Scajaquada Expressway, another one of these highways, divides up the largest park in Buffalo. Its creation serves as a barrier for Delaware Park. The 198 removed water access from the West Side and the Black Rock neighborhood. Regardless, the impact of automobiles on the city of Buffalo has been insurmountable, from highways to vibrant industries to the growth of suburbs.

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