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Washington Iron Works - Buffalo, NY

by Lynne Belluscio

If you walk up Main Street from Bank Street to McDonald’s, you will go by the Ross Block.  It’s clearly marked on the top.  If you tap the columns, you’ll discover that they are iron and they are marked near the base “Washington Iron Works Buffalo N.Y.”

I have been curious about the Washington iron foundry and did a little searching on the Internet. It appears that the old foundry building was still standing in Buffalo in 2003 at 419 Broadway and Pratt Street, although from what I can gather, the building was unoccupied. Whether it has been razed since then, I don’t know. There are several buildings in Buffalo, like the Ross Block,  that have facades manufactured by the Washington Iron Works, all marked in the same way. Several are on the National and State Register of Historic Buildings.

According to one of the National Register applications: “Cast iron provided greater structural strength, allowing for wider first story openings, while easily supporting the weight of the masonry above. Larger shop windows could be created, letting more light into the building and providing additional display space. Iron could be cast in a variety of designs. Use of the material became so prevalent that ultimately entire cast iron facades were constructed.

The idea was to mold all of the decorative elements - columns, pilasters, capitals, arched window lintels, dentil moldings, and cornices - out of iron and then paint the iron to resemble stone.

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