Considered one of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces, the Larkin Administration building is an imposing structure. Built in 1904 to house the internal operations of The Larkin Manufacturing Company, this majestic structure boasted the latest in technological advances for its time as well as the best in Wright design trademarks.
Located on a plot of land between Seneca and Swan Streets, this image shows the building's Seneca Street elevation. Each of the large columns you see on either side of the front of the building (two in the rear as well) contained the stairs, electrical, and plumbing fixtures which left the center interior space as a vast open area for the office workers. the building had central air conditioning and a air evacuation system that purged the interior of stale air at regular intervals and replenished it with fresh, filtered air.
The front entrance was situated to the left of the large fountain you see in the photograph, and only on each base of the globes pictured were any hint as to who the building belonged. The word "Larkin" was inscribed in the concrete which faced inward toward the pillars and outward toward the large columns. The inscription was difficult to see from the street.
The interior contained the newest and best Wright innovations which included what came to be known as "Suicide Chairs" -- three legged in design and not in the least bit safe if an unweary office worker sat the wrong way and accidently leaned to one side. When asked to please redesign his chairs because they were considered unsafe, Wright responded by saying that "the workers should sit up straight and stop being so foolish in his chairs." Needless to say the chairs were not redesigned. On a lighter note, President and CEO of the Larkin Company, John D. Larkin, wanted no part of Wright's fancy designs and had an old fashioned leather high-back chair with a oak roll-top desk in his office.
The entire Larkin complex was situated between Swan and Exchange streets and ran from Van Renssalear to Hamburg streets. Most of the complex still exists today and can be seen by a do it yourself driving tour. It is well worth the visit since most of this area of the city is untouched. The street alone gives way to signs of a forgotten era as even the sewer covers date back to 1902.
Sadly, the Larkin Administration Building was demolished in 1950 for a reason that to this day remains a mystery. The Larkin Company itself had fallen on hard times during the 1930's and found it very difficult to compete with the changing social climate of the country. By the 1940s they were a shadow of their former self. The building became used as a store front for Larkin products, but the public just stopped coming. Rather than attempt to put the Wright building to good use, it was decided to bring it down.
However, this was no easy task. The building resisted attempts to demolish it and the end result took an incredibly long period of time. Ultimately, it had to come down brick by brick. The demolition crew lost a fortune on the deal as did the City of Buffalo.
To this day, the Larkin Administration Building can be seen as a white outline that was drawn into the decaying parking lot that replaced the building, and one brick pillar of an outer perimeter wall remains as a testament of another Buffalo legacy lost forever.
Photograph courtesy of