The Watch

Buffalo Central Terminal

Buffalo, New York, United States

2018 World Monuments Watch

The Art-Deco-style Buffalo Central Terminal opened in 1929, a time when Buffalo was one of the largest and most economically vibrant cities in North America. Prior to the construction of the new terminal, Buffalo’s downtown was crisscrossed by fourteen railroad lines served by five terminals, leading to congestion, delays, and air pollution. The new terminal, built in East Buffalo, away from the central business district, consolidated all passenger traffic in a single facility. The brick and limestone building complex was designed by the firm of Fellheimer and Wagner, specialists in railroad architecture who were responsible for many successful designs throughout North America. At Buffalo, Fellheimer and Wagner designed dazzling interior spaces with Art Deco decoration, from stylized floral details to crystalline light fixtures and geometrically patterned terrazzo floors.

Even though it served Buffalo for many decades, the terminal never reached its full capacity. Instead, beginning in the 1950s, construction of the interstate highway system and the growth of the airline industry led to a decrease in passenger traffic that was impossible to reverse. The result was a slow decline for the terminal, as more and more spaces fell into disuse. The last train left the station in 1979, and the building remained shuttered for almost two decades until it was purchased by its current not-for-profit owner, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation. The volunteer-led group envisions the redevelopment of the complex for the benefit of its immediate neighborhood and the city of Buffalo, a project that could require an investment as high as $200 million. Developer interest materialized in 2017, but an agreement failed to be reached. Meanwhile, in April 2017, a committee charged with selecting a location for a new train station in Buffalo decided against reusing the Buffalo Central Terminal for this purpose. More recently, a June 2017 reuse study by the Urban Land Institute pointed again to the potential of the terminal building to spearhead the revitalization of its Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. The 2018 World Monuments Watch calls for investment in the redevelopment of the Buffalo Central Terminal in order to give new life to this architectural landmark.

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