Buffalo City Hall – Buffalo, New York - Atlas Obscura

Buffalo City Hall

The seat of Buffalo government is a gorgeous Art Deco palace.  


This Art Deco gem from 1931 features an almost 360-degree view of the Queen City.

In 1801, the city of Buffalo was just a small village. By 1901, it was the host of the infamous Pan-American Exposition, where President McKinley was shot. Shipping, railroads, and the discovery of electricity pumped prosperity into the area. By 1931, it was a center for tourism (on account of the nearby Niagara Falls) and industry. To accommodate this growth, a new city hall was commissioned to be built at the foot of Niagara Square, the heart of downtown Buffalo.

Crowning the Queen City at a height of 378 feet, the new City Hall was designed by John Wade and George Dietel. City leaders considered it a gift to the many diverse groups who had helped Buffalo prosper. With a style that blends Iroquois Indian motifs and Art Deco ornamentation, the architects acknowledged the area’s rich Native-American history while simultaneously announcing Buffalo’s future as a bustling American city. A keen eye will spot chevrons, bundled reeds, and agricultural symbols among reliefs of stoic eagles, gruff laborers, and emerging technology. Inside, take the elevator to the 13th floor to see the dazzling Common Council Chamber and its exquisite stained-glass skylight.

From the free observation deck on the 28th floor, you can spot the water vapor rising from nearby Niagara Falls, Buffalo Central Terminal, and abandoned grain silos. Despite the spectacular and uplifting views, the observation deck has been the site of a handful of suicides, most notably that of Bobby Jackson in 1976. Propelled east by a freak gust of wind from Lake Erie, Jackson’s fatal jump became even more gruesome as his trajectory placed him directly over the City Hall flagpole, goring him at half-mast. The impressive vista overcomes this dark history, as many newlyweds get their photos taken here after they are married downstairs.

Free tours are offered every weekday at noon.

Know Before You Go

Open Mon-Fri 8:30AM-5:00PM. Free Tours at Noon.

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