The Statler: Then

Original Statler in Buffalo, corner of Washington and Swan

Because I wrote about the Hotel Lafayette in my previous two posts, I thought this would be a good time to talk about one of its most significant rivals – The Statler. What many people do not know is that the Statler Towers on Delaware was not the first hotel built under Ellsworth M. Statler’s ownership. In 1907, the first Statler Hotel was constructed at Washington and Swan, at the site of former St. John’s Episcopal Church, and future ballpark.This original hotel consisted of 300 rooms (later expanded to 450), and was also the first to include a bathroom in every guest room. This was made possible by Statler’s Plumbing Shaft, allowing for both cold and hot water to run to each room. Here is an excerpt from The Buffalo News on the design of the first Hotel Statler: Its artistic exterior of terra cotta…(gives) but a faint idea of its magnificent interior of sumptuous furnishings and pleasing decorative work…The main lobby is built of Italian marble, its stately columns and walls being strikingly handsome while the new kind of chandeliers, of dull iron wrought in fantastic shapes, give the effect of a grand salon…The success of this hotel prompted business leaders in other major cities to entice Statler to build one of his hotels in their towns. By 1919, Statler had built hotels in Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis, and was operating the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City. It wasn’t until 1923, following the success of the first hotel, that The Statler as we know it, at Niagara Square, was constructed and the previous Statler was renamed “Hotel Buffalo.” Below you can see McKinley Square (later renamed Niagara Square) prior to the construction of the Hotel Statler.

McKinley Square

George Post & Sons, a NYC design firm, was hired by E.M. Statler to construct the new hotel, with interior designs completed by Louis Rorimer. Both Italian and Renaissance influences were incorporated, noted by the main lobby’s 28-foot ceiling adorned with Botticino marble, and an Adamesque edifice. In all, the project cost $8 million, and had 1,100 hotel rooms (more rooms than all of Buffalo’s hotels combined). Characteristics of the hotel included a ballroom, four dining rooms, a lounge, tea room, cafeteria, swimming pool, Turkish bath and a barber shop.

Buffalo’s new Statler Hotel, built at McKinley (Niagara) Square

To ensure success in Buffalo, E.M. Statler bought out its main rival, the Iroquois Hotel at Main and Eagle, and closed them down on opening day of the new Statler. He then offered that hotel’s manager the same position at the Statler, which he gladly accepted. The Statler quickly became the focal point of Buffalo’s social life. It has hosted multiple presidential visits, and enabled business and commerce, exemplified by its facilitation of an international organization (Zonta International).

Main dining room

E.M. Statler passed away only five years after the new Statler Hotel opened in Buffalo. Despite this, his company was able to carry on, led by his widow, Alice Seidler, and the George Post & Sons organization. The business was run successfully for decades to come, despite the economic downfall of the Great Depression and hotel boom that left many competitors bankrupt.

Terrace room

In all, the Statler hotel company produced and operated hotels in the following locations:

1907 Buffalo Hotel Statler (later known as Hotel Buffalo)

1912 Cleveland

1915 Detroit

1917 St. Louis

1919 NYC Hotel Pennsylvania (acquisition)

1923 Buffalo

1927  Boston

1928 E.M. Statler passes, George Post & Sons carries on the business

1943 DC

1952 LA

1954 Harford

1956 Dallas

1986 Ithaca

For more information on the current condition of The Statler in Buffalo, stay tuned for my upcoming post, The Statler: Now.


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