Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

University Archives

1st Medical Buildings of UB

Washington and Seneca Streets 1846-1850

The first course of medical lectures opened on February 24, 1847, with an attendance of sixty-six registered students. The council of the university leased the First Baptist church on the corner of Seneca and Washington streets to be their first building. The Buffalo Medical Journal announced in its December 1846 issue:

The council has been fortunate in obtaining a building admirably adapted for a medical college. Had it been erected with a view to this purpose it could hardly have been improved.

Main and Virginia Streets 1850-1893

This building on the corner of Main and Virginia streets, constructed in 1849, was the first building in Buffalo built solely for collegiate education. Completed in time for the fourth lecture semester of 1849-1850, at a cost of about $15,000, it was known as the most advantageous and ergonomic medical school in the country.

The second Medical School building at Main and Virginia Streets. There is a glimpse of Sisters of Charity Hospital on the left side of the photograph. Because of its close proximity, Sisters was the first teaching facility by University medical educators; however it was never a University Hospital.

Dr. Austin Flint, one of the founding faculty of the University, described it as:

The building situated on the corner of Virginia and Main streets, in a pleasant part of the city, somewhat elevated and sufficiently removed from the center of business to be free from the noise and disturbance of the latter. The style of architecture is Norman, or more properly Romanesque, a style regarded as peculiarly appropriate for buildings designed of similar purposes. The windows are arched; the walls of red sandstone… They present a rough, unhewn surface, the effect of which is to give an appearance of massiveness, age and strength to the building…

The lecture rooms present one peculiar feature which has excited great attention. They are seated with cast-iron chairs, with bottoms firmly screwed on cushioned benches. They are pleasing to the eye and exceedingly comfortable to the sitter, in fact combining all the advantages of a luxurious arm chair. The right arm of each chair is expanded for the purpose of taking notes, and, the whole being painted, it presents quite an elegant appearance. We know of no educational institution in which similar provision for the physical ease of the pupil exists. If the faculties of the mind are inactive, it will not be because the attention is absorbed by uneasy sensations of the body; and while the latter are obviated, the indulgence of postures favorable to indolence and sleep is effectually prevented.

Early lectures in this building were very exciting, especially the class on February 18, 1850 when Dr. James Platt White introduced demonstrative or clinical midwifery to the scandalous horror of the city.

24 High Street 1893-1953

Long before the stretch of High Street between Main and Michigan became an enclave of medicine and science, an imposing citadel stood at the northeast corner of Main and High streets.¹ A true medical palazzo, the new building at 24 High Street was built by architect George Cary in the Italian Renaissance style.

Cary, brother of Dr. Charles Cary, Professor of Clinical Medicine at UB, was architect of some of the most recognizable buildings in Buffalo including the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society and the gates and administration building of Forest Lawn Cemetery.

The building at 24 High Street was praised at its dedication on March 7, 1893 for being the perfect balance between "utility and convenience" and "architectural symmetry." Dr. Charles Cary stated in his dedication speech:

It was partly for the sake of this educating influence, as well as for economy, strength, safety, and cleanliness, that the open system of internal construction was adopted, which avoids all concealed spaces, and exposes every plank and timber and every pipe to view -- so that a walk through the building may be said to be a lesson in anatomy.

The building contains three lecture rooms, with a seating capacity varying from 100 to 350 chairs; several private offices; a dispensary large enough to care for 250 patients daily; chemical-anatomical, physiological, pathological, and bacteriological laboratories, and excellent accommodations for the medical and scientific library, as well as rooms devoted to the use of the various branches of the medical department… The library rooms are fire-proof, and contain our present library of about 4,000 volumes and 5,000 unbound pamphlets. They are capable of holding about 40,000 volumes.

¹The Medical Foundation of Buffalo, Inc. Newsletter, vol 8 no. 4 December 1979

South Campus Health Sciences complex 1953-present

In 1909 the University bought the 106 acres on Main and Bailey streets where the Erie County Almshouse was located. By 1921 the University began constructing its first building, Foster Hall. Although the University was building up the new campus in leaps in bounds, the Medical School would not move out of the 24 High Street building until 1953 when Capen Hall (now Farber Hall) was built.
Later, architects James, Meadows & Howard would expand the South Campus Health Sciences complex to include Sherman and Cary Halls where the Schools of Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy and the Department of Biology would reside until later expansions.