Preservation Horror Story #2

I’m impressed you’ve come back for another Preservation Horror story! Door number 2 is a thrilling tale fraught with drama and suspense, even before this building was completed! Any guesses, if the tension is too much, I suggest you don’t stay a moment longer!

This is the story of the… Guaranty Building!

Prudential Building (Guaranty Building), Buffalo New York

This story begins in 1890 when Hascal L. Taylor, who made his money in oil and carriages during the Civil War, purchased an entire city block of dilapidated homes with the vision of building “the largest and best office building in the city”. In 1893 Taylor decided to go with Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan to design the future “Taylor Building”, not only did his vision include an office building but also a hotel and an opera house enveloping the whole block, a structure to rival Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Building in Chicago!

However, this story is not a fairy tale, and the wave of misfortune takes place in November of 1894, as the building plans are completed, financing is just about in place, a general contractor by the name of Guaranty Construction Co. is selected, on November 8th the Buffalo Evening News publishes a Judge has found Taylor “insane” and “mentally unbalanced” and passed away only 4 days later.

In February of the following year, the Guaranty Construction Co. acquired the property from Taylor’s estate, with plans to complete the office building and rename it the “Guaranty Building”, sadly, the plans for the opera house and hotel were abandoned and lost to time. As building is underway in July, with a personal spat Adler decides to leave the partnership with Sullivan.

Even with the rocky start the Guaranty Building officially opened in March of 1896, however, the tumultuous waters are far from over! With the cutting-edge design and layout that was to create the best office space, by the time the building opened, it was already out of date.

Guaranty Building

Through financial turmoil, the Guaranty Building Company took out a loan through the Prudential Insurance Company, which had always admired the building and saw this as a chance to make its claim! In the loan paperwork, it was stipulated to rename it the Prudential Building, and they buried the Guaranty sign, only the monogram on the capitals of the columns remained to show the past! In 1900 the Prudential Building Company had officially snuffed out the Guaranty, the building was fully theirs!

Over the course of the next 50 years, the building continually passed from owner to owner, the age began to show on this terracotta forest. From 1955 – 1970 Buffalo Holding Corporation decided to “modernize” the building. This abhorrent act stripped the original storefront windows, buried alive the detail work inside behind dropped ceilings and tacky tile walls, and the most egregious act of all, sandblasted the beautiful original tile, stripping it of not only the soot and dirt but also the stability and detail of the material. In the name of modernity, it pushed the building closer to destruction!

Spotlight: Louis Sullivan | ArchDaily

In 1974, a fire broke out during modernizing construction, damaging the 10th-13th floors. Luckily, the terracotta structure, and supports that Louise Sullivan designed for the building did save the structural integrity. With tenants leaving left and right, by 1977 the United Founders Life Insurance Company had bought the building through foreclosure and put forward to demolish this out-of-date and damaged building, the imaginative light seemed to be extinguished.

A glimmer of light emerged, as a group of local preservations, with the help of Senator Moynihan stepped up and fought off the devil of demolition and saved the building! With the first wave of restoration in the 1980s, and another in the early 2000s, the buried treasures were removed from their tomb, and the failing abused terra cotta was replaced and protected. Once again called the Guaranty Building, it was finally stable for the first time since Louise Sullivan had imagined it growing out of the ground over 100 years ago!

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