City Hall

Buffalo's City Hall inspires a mixed bag of emotions. Visually, it's a delight... magnificent, stately, imposing; a masterpiece of civic architecture done in an unusual art deco style. The second largest city hall in the United States (only New York City's municipal building is bigger), Buffalo's City Hall is filled with tributes to the Queen City and her people rendered in paint, sculpture, mosaic and stained glass. It's not what you'd expect from a struggling rust belt city that has seen better days. Then again, it was built 70 years ago, when Buffalo was among the largest and most prosperous American cities, and I suppose in that other world building a 32-story cathedral consecrated to municipal government seemed like a wise investment in a bright future. I doubt anyone imagined the city's fortunes would change, but change they did, as Buffalo - along with most other Northeastern cities - began the long, slow descent that would last for decades. Today City Hall's majesty can come off as a bit ridiculous, especially on the inside where concessions to economy must be made. The lobby is dimly lit, and the bathrooms may or may not be stocked with soap and paper towels on any given day. Everywhere you look is a reminder of another era when citizens actually took their business to City Hall rather than using mail, telephones or the internet. Still, credit where credit is due. Buffalo isn't a wealthy city, and the City of Buffalo isn't wealthy either, but City Hall is maintained in as near-pristine condition as one can reasonably expect of a building that's the better part of a century old.

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