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What It Looked Like Wednesday: The corner of Main and Seneca

The unassuming northeast corner where Main and Seneca streets intersect belies its history.

Today, 237 Main St. is the site of a construction project to transform the 16-story building into a combination of apartments, offices and banquet space. Hints of the building’s past as headquarters of the Marine Trust Co. abound – whether they be the carvings of an anchor and the bow of a boat above the entrance, the grand lobby that once welcomed banking customers, or the massive vault doors that dominate the basement.

Hints of the tragedy that occurred here in 1896, however, have long fallen victim to the passage of time.

In 1896, it was not the Marine Trust Co. Building that stood at this intersection; it was the four-story Brown Building, which housed a variety of businesses, including the Western Union Telegraph Co. When the Western Union Telegraph Co. vacated the building in May 1896, it was renovated in preparation of a new tenant.

During the renovation the building collapsed, leaving a number of workmen and business patrons trapped inside. An eyewitness who barely escaped injury described the collapse to The Buffalo Evening News: “It came out like a big bellow of smoke. The whole site seemed to belch a big cloud of dust.”

While the newspaper reported 40 to 50 people stuck inside, the loss of life was minimal – only four people died in the calamity.

In 1915, the new headquarters of the Marine Trust Co. – designed by Green and Wicks – opened at the corner of Main and Seneca streets. Founded in 1850, the fledgling bank was first headquartered at 79 Main St. along the bustling Canal District. Indeed, much of the district's business relied on the shipping of goods along the Erie Canal and was as such appropriately named.

The carvings of an anchor and the bow of a boat above the entrance hint at the building’s origins as the headquarters of the Marine Trust Co. (News file photo)

As the bank acquired several other competing banks at the turn of the 20th century, it outgrew its second headquarters at nearby 220 Main St., thus facilitating the move into the 16-story building. That would not be the bank's final headquarters, as it moved into Marine Midland Tower in 1972.

The Marine Trust Co. Building, along with the adjacent Roblin and Stanton buildings, was purchased by Paul Kolkmeyer in 2014.

The building, newly rebranded as the Marin, is undergoing a $54 million renovation expected to be completed late summer. It will feature a large banquet facility where the bank lobby once stood, four floors of offices, and 10 floors of apartments.

The front and back of one of the building’s steel bank vault doors. (Todd Hariaczyi/Special to the News)

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