The Great Pan-American Exposition was held in Buffalo in 1901. The most prominent building in the exposition was the Electric Tower. It rose 391 feet above the fairgrounds and was equipped with 44,000 eight watt light bulbs. As the expo was a celebration of electricity, the power harnessed from nearby Niagara Falls was used to light up the 240,000 bulbs throughout the exposition grounds. A powerful searchlight was mounted at the top of the Electric Tower, which allowed it to be seen from Niagara Falls and Canada. The grounds, which were a 30 minute trip from downtown Buffalo, were thought to be a long trip, and perhaps, too far for many locals to visit, however the distance did not prove to be a deterrent, and thousands visited.
So what happened to the Electric Tower and why is there a different tower standing in downtown Buffalo today? The majority of the buildings constructed for the exposition were not intended to be permanent. Most were wooden framed, covered with chicken wire and plaster. The NYS Building was the only permanent structure in the Pan-American Exposition and is now home to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society on Nottingham Terrace near Delaware Park.
The General Electric Tower – a prominent feature in the Buffalo skyline today – was designed by James A. Johnson and built in 1912. It was inspired by the electric tower at the Pan-American Exposition. Iskalo Development purchased the building in 2004 and have since restored it into Class A business space. Every year on 12/31 at midnight, the Electric Tower is host to the 2nd largest New Year’s Eve Ball Drop (only to Times Square in NYC), in the country. The ball drop, complete with a fireworks extravaganza, is always an amazing finale to another year in WNY. It brings hope of good things to come for all in the New Year!