What It Looked Like Wednesday: The 'world's largest hotel' at Elmwood and Forest - The Buffalo News

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What It Looked Like Wednesday: The 'world's largest hotel' at Elmwood and Forest

Now the gateway to the Elmwood Village, the corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues was once the gateway to the Pan-American Exposition.

In the years leading up to the 1901 fair, hotels began to spring up all over the city to anticipate the huge crowds. And the northeast corner of Elmwood and Forest was prime real estate to market to fairgoers, as it was a block away from the exposition grounds.

So hotel magnate E.M. Statler seized the opportunity to buy the land and build Statler's Pan-American Hotel there in 1901. Descriptions of the hotel in the book "Buffalo – Old and New" (published in 1901) lavish praise onto the building:

It fronts on Elmwood Avenue a most beautiful location, and is in the form of a square, with 18 wings to fill up or form the square, this feature making each room an outside one. The front or first wing is devoted to an immense office with all necessary facilities for looking after the reception of guests, telephone and telegraph facilities, news and cigar stand, etc.

With 2,100 sleeping rooms – reported to be the most rooms ever built into a hotel at the time – the hotel was billed as the "world's largest." It could accommodate 5,000 guests, and the three-story structure covered 4 acres. Each floor was fitted with 600 feet of fire hoses – that's how massive the hotel was.

Room prices ranged from $2 to $5 a night for lodging, breakfast and dinner. Rooms with private bathrooms cost extra. The dining hall could serve 1,500 people at a time.

Like many of the buildings erected for the Pan-American Exposition, the hotel was also temporary. The exposition was a financial failure, after the assassination of former President William McKinley soured visitors from coming to Buffalo for the fair. When Statler closed the Pan-Am Hotel, he put his small profits toward opening the Statler Hotel on Delaware Avenue downtown.

Statler's Pan-American Hotel had a trolley stop in front of it. (Photo courtesy of Susan Eck at PanAm1901.org)

The two towers in the middle of the hotel were open for viewing and at night, visitors could gaze out onto the Pan-American Exposition grounds. As described in "Buffalo – Old and New":

From the towers, a magnificent view meets the eye in every direction and especially in the evening when the exposition grounds are lighted up with myriads of glistering electric lights, the sight is entrancing.

Located on the site of Statler's Pan-American Hotel today is a Mobil gas station.

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