Adam, J.N.--AM&A Historic District - Buffalo, NY
Posted by: Rayman
N 42° 53.050 W 078° 52.435
17T E 673621 N 4750144
Quick Description: The J.N. Adam/AM&A Historic District is comprised of eight different buildings in downtown Buffalo. These buildings were once home to one of the area's most popular shopping destinations for many years.
Location: New York, United States
Date Posted: 8/25/2009 8:10:33 PM
Waymark Code: WM736H
Located in Buffalo's downtown central business district, the J.N. Adams/AM&A Historic District is significant in the area of commerce and architecture. This district of retail and warehouse buildings are a rare collection of structures from Buffalo's once thriving downtown retail district.
The district consists of eight buildings. The main store building fronts on Main Street and is actually an expansion of the buildings that fronted on Washington Street. It is seven stories tall and was built in 1935, with an expansion made in 1946-48. Architect was Starrett & Van Vleck of New York City. There were originally three separate buildings along Washington Street, but the interiors have been connected and unified to allow for larger sales floors. These three buildings date from 1891-92, 1895-96, and 1909 and were designed by either Esenwein & Johnson or Green & Wicks, both prominent Buffalo architectural firms.
Across the street on the east side of Washington Street are three more separate buildings. These buildings were also combined internally to form a larger space, which was used as a warehouse. Dates on these buildings are from 1886, 1906-07, and 1911-12 and were also designed by Esenwein & Johnson.
The last building in the district is a 7-story building fronting on Ellicott Street. It was built in 1912-13 and was designed by Colson & Hudson of Buffalo. This building was also used as a warehouse and probably was the place where deliveries occurred since there are loading docks present.
The origins of J.N. Adam & Co. start in New Haven, CT. In the late 1870s, Adam and his friend William Hotchkiss, formed a partnership to open a dry good store. Their business prospered and they laid plans for a bigger future in the west. The two men took turns traveling to look for locations as far west as Omaha, but eventually decided on Buffalo as the best opportunity. Their first store was a few blocks away at Main & Swan Streets on the first floor of the now demolished White Building. The store was so successful that 10 years later, they moved into the first of several buildings that is part of the historic district. Business continued to do very well, and four more buildings were built just for their use. By World War I, J.N. Adam & Co. had developed a notable group of buildings devoted to department store retailing in the heart of Buffalo. Clearly it was one of the largest businesses in the city. The three buildings from Main to Washington primarily housed general merchandise, home furnishings, and apparel. The buildings on the east side of Washington contained a butcher, grocery and music departments, as well as warehouse space. By 1935, the store built a new 6-story building along Main Street in front of the facades of the existing three buildings in order to give a unified front and the appearance of a much larger store.
J.N. Adam continued to be profitable through the 1950s, but in 1959 the parent company, Associated Dry Goods Corporation of New York no longer wanted subsidiaries in the same city competing against each other. Associated also owned Hengerer's a couple blocks down Main Street. The entire complex was sold to the Adam, Meldrum & Anderson (AM&A) department store, whose founder, Robert B. Adam, was the brother of J.N. Adam. In August 1960, AM&A moved their entire store across the street into their newly acquired buildings. AM&A was the last locally owned department store in Buffalo.
In 1994, AM&A was sold to The Bon Ton, which then closed the downtown store the following year. This pretty much ended the department store era in downtown Buffalo. In 1996, Richard Taylor of Toronto purchased the vacant buildings of the complex. He opened an upscale women's apparel store on the ground floor of the Main Street buildings, but it closed within a year. The buildings began to fall into disrepair and were eventually sold to local developers with plans to demolish the complex to provide a "shovel ready" site. These plans never came to fruition.
Currently, work is underway to renovate the warehouse buildings into loft apartments. The separate building on Ellicott Street has already undergone renovations. Completed in 2008, the building now contains loft apartments, office space, and retail space. No plans are currently in place for the main retail buildings on Main Street.
Main St, E. Eagle St, Washington St, Ellicott St
Buffalo, NY United States
County / Borough / Parish: Erie
Year listed: 2009
Historic (Areas of) Significance: Architecture, Commerce
Periods of significance: 1886-1960
Historic function: Commercial/Trade: Department Store, Warehouse
Current function: Vacant/Not In Use
Privately owned?: yes
Primary Web Site: [Web Link]
Season start / Season finish: Not listed
Hours of operation: Not listed
Secondary Website 1: Not listed
Secondary Website 2: Not listed
National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed
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