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M&T Bank headquarters withstands the test of time

Fifty years ago on Monday, employees moved into one of Buffalo's signature downtown buildings: One M&T Plaza, headquarters of M&T Bank.

The 21-story building was designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, who also was responsible for another project with a similar look: the World Trade Center in New York City. M&T a few years earlier had bought up an entire city block to create space for its new headquarters.

[Photo Gallery: Take a closer look inside M&T Plaza as the building turns 50]

Yamasaki's design didn't disappoint. The appeal of the building, with its exterior clad in white marble, has withstood the test of time. And the 315-foot-tall headquarters became the anchor for a bank that would flourish in the decades that followed.

Here are eight things to know about the architectural jewel that has towered over Main Street since May 1967:

1) At first, M&T had its offices on just the first 10 floors; eight other floors were listed for lease for tenants. The other tenants eventually moved out, except for one: Trubee, Collins and Co., a small brokerage which still has offices on the 13th floor. M&T has not only filled the rest of the floors, it has expanded into many more buildings in the region to accommodate its growth.

M&T Bank headquarters on Main Street in Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

2) Local companies, including general contractor John W. Cowper, abounded on the $14 million project (equivalent to more than $103 million in today's dollars). The structural steel for the building was produced by Bethlehem Steel.

3) Yamasaki was commissioned for the World Trade Center before One M&T Plaza, but M&T's building was completed first. "We got the benefit of the early thinking of the World Trade Center, and (the World Trade Center) got the benefit of a scale model having been built in Buffalo," said Keith Belanger, M&T's senior vice president of corporate services.

Copy of a photo of early construction looking west toward old County Hall of the M&T Bank headquarters. (Photo Courtesy of M&T Bank)

4) The 20th floor was home to a complex of public restaurants called the Plaza Suite. A company summary hailed the location's "dramatic view of Buffalo, the waterfront and the Canadian shore." The public restaurants later closed.

City hall is framed in the columns of the gallery at the top of M&T Bank at One M&T Plaza in Buffalo.
(Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

5) Yamasaki's vision included a public plaza that would serve as a downtown gathering spot. M&T has hosted free summer concerts there since 1969.

6) Sculptor Harry Bertoia designed a copper and bronze sculpture that sits in a pool on the plaza. Several years ago, when the sculpture was refurbished, Bertoia's son Val handled the task.

The fountain in the plaza in front of M&T Bank headquarters on Main Street in Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

7) M&T wanted a clock in the first-floor lobby, but Yamasaki did not. The result: M&T got its clock, but in an elegant building defined by elegance and symmetry, the clock on the wall is decidedly off center.

8) M&T chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers, who arrived in the 1980s, is meticulous about preserving the building's original appearance. When Belanger wanted to install film on the windows to make the building more comfortable for employees, he had to prove the film wouldn't alter the look of the windows from the outside before getting the go-ahead.

The exterior of M&T Plaza in downtown Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

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