Buffalo and its German Community - Pages 40 - 42

Caption under picture reads Historical Building

Chapter 8

The Pan-American Exposition

When telling the story of Buffalo, in both wartime and in peace, one must mention the Pan-American Exposition of 1901. This event was Buffalo's crowning glory. The exposition, open from May 1 to November 1, could only have been made possible by the great generousity of the entire citizenry. The idea to organize an industrial exposition first came into being after the International American Conference, held in Washington in 1889. A committee was named at the conference. It toured the country looking for places in which to hold the exposition. The committee rendered an unfavorable report and the idea was dropped. Some time later there was an article in the Buffalo Daily about the Cotton States International Exposition, held in Atlanta in 1895. A lot of Buffalo businessmen went to that exposition. The article resparked the idea of an exposition to be held in Buffalo. The idea appealed to many. In late 1898 the Mayor, Dr. Conrad Diehl, used some well-chosen words to convince the citizens of Buffalo of the advantages to having the exposition. A committee was appointed. The necessary steps were taken in the Federal and State Legislatures. A subscription list was opened. 11,000 citizens subscribed, pledging a total of $1.5 Million. Delaware Park was chosen for the site of the exposition. The most beautiful section of the park was freely donated by the Parks Commissioner to the Exposition Board. In the Spring of 1900 the idea of an exposition became a reality. $2.5 million in authorized capital and another $2.5 million in bonds were secured. The Federal Goverment donated $500,000 and the State Legislature gave $200,000, bringing the total amount of resources to $5,800,000 excluding the various donations made by the respective states for their exposition buildings, the money which the concessionaires paid for the privilege of selling on the midway, and other sources of income. The enthusiasm of the inhabitants of Buffalo was not to be diminished. In the course of a year the project stood before them, larger and more beautiful than they had ever imagined.

The exposition was unique. It could not be compared with any other. Most European expositions resembled one another with regard to architecture and garden layouts. Even the Columbia and St. Louis Expositions hadn't deviated much from the pattern. The Pan-American Exposition introduced something new. Most buildings were designed with a mixture of Spanish Renaissance and free styles. Of these imposing buildings and places are listed the Art Gallery, a gift of the generous Mr. J. J. Albright, the new Boathouse next to the Park Restaurant, the New York State Building, now the property of the Historical Society of Buffalo, the 375 foot high Electrical Tower, the buildings of the various states, as well as our own state's, the Rose Garden in full bloom, the Hall for Graphic Arts, and the two symmetrical performance buildings known as the Ethnology Building and the Temple of Music.

The Fountain courtyard, with its numerous water sculptures and cascades, extended from the Esplanade to the Electrical Tower. Four large buildings stood here - the Industrial and Technical Arts Building, the Agricultural Building, the Hall of Machines and Transport, and the Electricity Building. We must also mention the amphitheater for all sports, the Midway, the Propylean, the entrance to the north side where of the exposition buildings are located. Taking all these into account it's clear to see that the Pan-American Exposition was a glorious affair.

It took careful planning to produce six months of festivities for the exposition. Each State of the Union had a separate day, on which the governors and their staff along with thousands of their state visitors were honored guests of the city and the exposition. Visits to the exposition in the first two months were not as great as what the city and the exposition committee expected. Once the railroad companies started offering liberal enticements with their adjusted fare prices, the crowds of visitors swarmed in such masses that the city and the railroads could scarcely accommodate them all. The crowds continued until the fateful day on which President McKinley was shot at a gathering in the Temple of Music. The tears and mourning experienced by the entire nation overshadowed the thought of the exposition. Thousands of grieving visitors left our city to return home. Others, who had intended to visit the exposition, decided not to go. They had no wish to be reminded of this national tragedy.

After this dreadful event the revenues from the Exposition naturally declined. The attractions, intended by the presenters to render a profit, were closed. The advantages, which our city had hoped to gain through the exposition, were not attained. It was the opinion of the entire civilized world, that the public spirit of Buffalo was a sham.

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Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised June 18, 2005