Located miles upstate from such Manhattan architectural landmarks as the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center, the former power company headquarters known as the Niagara Mohawk Building makes all of those more well known Art Deco exemplars look a bit like amateurs.
Completed in 1932, as the Niagara Hudson Building, the structure was created to serve as the headquarters of the Niagara Hudson Electric Company, a newly merged utility that was the largest electricity provider in the country at the time. The structure was meant to be a “cathedral of light,” and very much achieves this loft goal. Every surface of the building is accented by angular geometric flourishes, while each consecutive level thins to a central tower. The main spire, visually balanced in the dead center of the structure features a gleaming metal figure known as the “Spirit of Energy” who lords over the main entrance to the chapel of power. All of the exterior features are made of shining aluminum and steel, surrounding glass and scalloped stonework. Unlike its skyscraping Manhattan counterparts, the squat three-level building is actually helped by its short stature that allows visitors to take in the opulence of the building in its entirety. Quite simply it is stunning.
Of course, as the headquarters of a power company, light features were built into the various nooks and niches of the exterior so that the facade would illuminate gloriously at night. Today this includes colored lights that can be altered at the will of the building’s owners.
While the building is now owned by the National Grid company, the structure itself is a protected historic landmark, which ensures that the metal remains shining and the Niagara Mohawk Building continues to symbolize the optimistic future public electricity can provide, as strongly as it did when it was built.
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