BUFFALO, N.Y. - Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Administration Building was a modern marvel when it was built in 1906. Not only was it Wright's first major commercial project, but University at Buffalo Architecture Professor Jack Quinan says, "He pulled out all the stops you might say, it's full of innovations. It was full of innovations."
Quinan wrote a book about Wright and the Larkin Building in 1987 which highlights many of those innovations such as the fact that it was a fire-proof building with a huge atrium space that brought in daylight and doubled as a recreation and entertainment area. It even had toilets that were hung from the walls, and air conditioning.
Preservationist Tim Tielman adds, "This was a building that influenced modern architecture around the world."
But by the early 40's, the Larkin Soap Company, never fully recovering from the great depression was forced into bankruptcy. The City of Buffalo eventually took title through foreclosure. This grand building, an architectural and innovative masterpiece of one of the true masters, sat empty, deteriorating, as the city tried to come up with an idea for reuse. That idea never came and in 1950, Larkin fell victim to the wrecking ball.
Today, all that remains at the site, sitting in the shadow of the rebirth of the Larkin Complex, is a brick structure and the remnants of the exterior wall. The rest of the wreckage was buried. It was used to help fill in the Ohio Canal Basin in the Old First Ward, under what is now known as Conway Park in Buffalo's Old First Ward. The park is named after Father Thomas Conway, a Navy chaplain who died in World War Two.
There are many people, including Tielman, who wonder what is actually sitting beneath these fields and playground.
"Well we know, bricks, concrete. We don't know if there is any furniture. Possibly the remains of windows."
Along with, they hope, remnants of Wright's fine detail work, such as an elaborate fountain that sat in front of the building.
That's why Tielman, among many, would like to ultimately do an archeological dig here in Conway Park.
A piece of Buffalo's proud history, fittingly used to create a park now dedicated to a heroic figure from our past.