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What It Looked Like Wednesday: The 'absolutely fireproof' Iroquois Hotel

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the opulent Iroquois Hotel was built at the site of the former Richmond Hotel, which burned to the ground on May 18, 1887, tragically killing 15 people.

After that, fireproof building materials were used to construct the Iroquois Hotel at the intersection of Main, Eagle and Washington streets. When completed in 1889, the hotel advertised that the building was "absolutely fireproof" to allay any fears for guests.

The ruins of the Richmond Hotel after a fire killed 15 people in 1887. (Photo courtesy of the SUNY Buffalo State Courier-Express Collection)

The Iroquois Hotel quickly became a symbol of modern opulence and luxury. It was intended to rival any upscale hotel in Buffalo – or on the East Coast. The building was designed by architect Cyrus L.W. Eiditz in the French Renaissance style and was constructed using pressed brick, terra cotta, Medina sandstone and granite. It took up the whole city block, with its grand entrance on Eagle Street.

The building was originally eight stories tall, but in 1900, when Buffalo was anticipating a high demand for hotel rooms during the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, three stories were added to the structure. The striking new roof to the hotel was built in the Renaissance style.

The Iroquois Hotel pictured in 1901 after three floors were added to the top of the building. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

In 1909, two barbers launched the original shampoo formula for Wildroot from the barber shop in the Iroquois Hotel. Wildroot went on to become the world’s largest hair tonic supplier.

In 1923, E.M. Statler bought the Iroquois Hotel and closed it on the same day that the Statler Hotel opened to eliminate competition. It was converted into office space and Bond's clothing store, then demolished in the 1940s.

Newer office buildings were built on the site, but they were razed 20 years later to make room for One M&T Plaza, which opened in 1966 and still occupies the site today.

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