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Buffalo of Yesteryear: Brisbane Building, once world's largest mercantile, office building

In the early 1890s, Buffalo was experiencing a building boom, especially when it came to big office buildings downtown.

The Brisbane Building, then known as the Mooney & Brisbane Building, was said to be the world's largest mercantile and office building in the city when it was completed in 1896. But it didn't hold that title long, as the Ellicott Square Building also made the claim of being the largest office building in the world when it was completed soon after.

The Mooney & Brisbane Building was built for businessmen James Mooney of Buffalo and James Brisbane of New York City. It's now simply called the Brisbane Building. It was constructed after the original Brisbane Building, erected in the mid-1800s, was destroyed by a fire.

The original Brisbane Building was razed by a fire.

The architects Milton Beebe & Son – the same firm that designed the original Masten Park High School – designed the Brisbane Building that was built after the original was destroyed by fire. The structure was built in the Italian Renaissance style and features elaborate pillars, friezes and cornices, many of which are still intact today.

The current Brisbane Building occupies a half-city block on Clinton Street facing Lafayette Square.

As soon as the building opened in 1896, it became a main center of commerce in Buffalo. By the 1900s, it housed three of the city's largest local stores: Kleinhans Men's Clothing Store, the Williams & Faxon grocery store and S.H. Knox 5 & 10 cent store (the precursor to Woolworth's). Kleinhans was the Brisbane's biggest tenant and occupied the basement, first and second floors of the building.

The facade of the Brisbane Building is largely unchanged, except for, most notably, the modernized, first-floor retail shops. The center of the building facing Lafayette Square contained a grand entrance, which has now been modified to fit in with the rest of the first-floor facade. The first-floor retail space today includes a tax office, clothing embroidery company and the Visit Buffalo Niagara visitors center.

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