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Visiting Niagara Falls, New York: its skyline and the United Office Building; remembering architect James A. Johnson

Updated on April 9, 2011
State Flag of New York
State Flag of New York | Source
Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls, New York | Source
The American Falls of the Niagara Falls, in 2002
The American Falls of the Niagara Falls, in 2002 | Source
Map location of Niagara Falls, New York
Map location of Niagara Falls, New York | Source

Recognized as an Historic Place, designed by a distinguished architect

Seen at the right of the picture in the first photo of Niagara Falls, New York, the lines of the United Office Building, designed by James A. Johnson, have been a feature of the city's skyline since 1929.

Style and prominence

The style of the United Office Building is recorded as Art Deco, popular at the time of its erection. Features of the building include Mayan artwork on the façade. The basic material for construction was steel and brick, with terra cotta.

The United Office Building is now recognized both at a Federal and State level as an Historic Place.

Given the prominence of the United Office Building skyscraper, it has thus featured for many decades in numerous photographs taken of the American Falls from Niagara Falls, Ontario, across the Niagara River . The second view of the American Falls, seen at right, was taken in 2002; subsequently this view in which the United Office Building is prominent — indeed, is the tallest buidling in the picture — has been altered by the erection of the nearby Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel.

Indeed, the United Office Building was the city's tallest building from its inception until 2005.

Recently the building has been refurbished and fulfills various functions: partly the high quality Giacomo hotel; partly apartments and partly offices.

James A. Johnson

United Office Building architect James A. Johnson (1865-1939), previously worked with the New York City firm McKim, Mead and White, responsible for many great architectural works. Johnson himself was responsible for part of the work on the Ellicott Square Building in Buffalo, NY, (in its day the largest office building in the world).

He also designed the Temple of Music building at Buffalo's Pan-American Exhibition. A sombre note here: it was in this building, President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901.

Johnson was also responsible for the Electric Tower, Buffalo, NY, originally known as the Niagara Mohawk Building. His partnership with August Esenwein was known for working in diverse styles in their many designs.

Also worth seeing

The American Falls may be viewed to excellent effect from the Niagara Falls State Park, adjacent to the American Falls.

The US Post Office , Niagara Falls, New York, is a remarkable example of early 20th century Beaux Arts architecture, for which James Knox Taylor, Presiding architect at the US Treasury Department, was responsible. This striking, sedate building is situated at the corner of Walnut and Main Streets.

Niagara Falls, Ontario , Canada (distance by road: c. 2 kilometres), at Table Rock Point, is the best spot to view closely the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.

Lewiston (distance: 12.4 kilometres) downstream from Niagara Falls, New York, on the Niagara River, The historic Frontier House, in its day classed as an outstanding hotel, is one of a number of noted features. The first railway in the United States was built here in 1764, when carts, pulled by ropes, were drawn along wooden rails. It was from Lewiston in 1812, that US troops. seen as liberators on the US side of the Niagara River, attacked the Canadian side, where they were regarded as invaders. Since the War of 1812 and, despite fluctuations in relations between the US and Canada during the mid-19th century, the US-Canadian border has become established as what is regarded as the most peaceful international border in the world.


How to get there:

A number of airlines fly to Niagara Falls International Airport (distance from Downtown Niagara Falls, NY: 10.4 kilometres) from various destinations in the Southern United States. Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport (distance to Niagara Falls, NY: 42 kilometres). I-190 is the nearest Interstate to Niagara Falls, New York, linking near Buffalo, NY with I-290 and I-90 to Albany, NY. From Canada, accessible via the Rainbow Bridge, the QEW links Niagara Falls, ON with Hamilton and Toronto. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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