Lafayette Square - Table of Contents

Old County Court House
Washington Street opposite Court House Park / Lafayette Square

Buffalo served as the county seat of Niagara County, and after 1821, the new Erie County. A county courthouse was built in 1816 off Main Street, on Washington Street, after the War of 1812.

A crude jail was added behind it in 1833. The jail yard was used for a few hangings, and even thought officials tied to deter gawkers by stretching canvas sheets around the yard, crowds would gather nonetheless to listen to the dreadful proceedings.

The court house was constructed of light-colored brick. It featured a shiny cupola on top and six fluted columns along the front. This Greek Revival structure stood there until 1876. Today, this is the site for the Central Buffalo and Erie County Public library.

Across the street from the court house, a pleasant park, dubbed Court House Park, ran down toward Main Street. It was renamed Lafayette Square in 1873 to commemorate the General's visit and speech in Buffalo in 1825.

It was in this park that 23 years later the Free Soil Party, predecessor of the Republican party, held its national convention and nominated former New York governor and ex-president Martin Van Burn for president on a platform opposed to the extension of slavery into the territories.

Text sources:

  • "Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land,"by Richard C. Brown and Bob Watson. USA: Windsor Publications, 1981
  • "Second Looks: A Pictorial History of Buffalo and Erie County," by Scott Eberle and Joseph A. Grande. Donning Co., 199
  • Victorian Buffalo, by Cynthia Van Ness

1810 - The First Courthouse in Buffalo

The Early Buffalo Drawings of LeGrand St. John

Drawing #1: Courthouse
The Buffalo Courthouse in Lafayette Square was the original 1810 Niagara County Courthouse in the Village of Buffalo. It was built by Oziel Smith at the direction of Joseph Ellicott and stood in the center of a circular plot at the intersection of Broadway and Washington Street. The square two-story timber-frame wooden building was destroyed in the burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812.

The 1816 Courthouse

Photo source: "A History of the City of Buffalo," published by the The Buffalo Evening News, 1908

Building to the left of the court house is Buffalo Savings Bank.
"On May 1, 1867, Buffalo Savings Bank moved into a new 2-story brownstone on the northeast corner of Washington Street and Batavia (now known as Broadway." - Brown & Watson,
Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land: Buffalo Savings Bank

Photo source: "The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo," Severance, Frank H., ed. Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 16, 1912, p. 174

Photo source: "The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo," Severance, Frank H., ed. Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 16, 1912, p. 174

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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