On Exposition Grounds
EVERY artistic composition, whether it be a picture, a piece of sculpture, or a group of buildings, can be said to have a focus-some Point or dominant feature which serves as a resting-place for the eye. The Electric Tower, by reason of its height and its central position, is such a focus in the midst of the main group of buildings of the Pan-American Exposition. Since this may be called the Age of Electricity, it was fitting that the focal point of the Exposition should be so designed as to afford an opportunity of accentuating that fact by a lavish display of electric power. This display is in the form of a majestic fountain and a scheme of brilliant illumination. The source of the power is Niagara, and this is suggested not alone by the fountain and the basin at the base of the tower, but by various groups of statuary in the wings, which have been designed to symbolize the great bodies of water which are tributary to the stupendous cataract. The following groups occupy the niches at the extreme ends of the curved wings, and are arranged from west to east in order: Lake Michigan, by Mr. Louis A. Gudebrod
Lake Superior, by Mr. Philip Martiny
Lake Ontario, by Mr. Ralph Goddard
Lake St. Clair, by Mr. Henry Baerer
Lake Huron, by Mr. Philip Martiny
Lake Erie, by Mr. Carl E. Tefft. The spandrels of the niche in the south face of the tower and the smaller ones above the arch of entrance on the north side were modeled by Mr. Adolph A. Weinman, under the direction of Mr. Karl Bitter. They represent the four rivers Niagara, Buffalo, St. Lawrence, and St. Clair. The keystones of these arches were modeled by the same sculptor. Another feature of the sculptural embellishment of the tower which deserves special note is the Pan-American escutcheon on the south front of the shaft of the tower, above the water niche. This was modeled by Mr. Philip Martiny and Mr. Michele Giusti. Mr. Martiny was also the sculptor of the torch-bearers crowning the four corners of the terminal pavilions, and of the groups typifying Progress which embellish the pyramidal pylons on the east, west, and north sides of the tower. The groups ornamenting the pylons on the south side adjoining the water niche were modeled by Mr. George Gray Barnard, and typify "The Great Waters in the Time of the Indian" and "The Great Waters in the Time of the White Man." The frieze with children, garlands of fruit, and eagles, beneath the loggia at the top of the shaft, was executed by Mr. Karl Bitter. The Goddess of Light which crowns the tower is the design of Mr. Herbert Adams, and is 16 feet in height. The total height of the tower is 389 feet. The shaft of the tower is 77 ½ feet square at the base and is built with steel framework, the walls being of staff. The colonnades which form the curved wings at the sides of the tower have an extreme width of 255 feet. The promenades on these colonnades afford a fine view of the court and the other main buildings. If one approaches the tower from the north, he may cross a bridge, enter, and take an elevator to the lantern at a level of 252 feet, which commands a superb outlook of the Exposition and the surrounding country. Aside from its function as an observatory, the interior of the tower is made of service to the people by means of restaurants. As regards the architectural design of the Electric Tower, it may be called essentially American. As in the other buildings, use has here been made of classic and Renaissance forms, and certain "influences" may perhaps be pointed out by the critic
but the tower cannot be said to have been designed in any strictly defined traditional "style." It shows the trend of thought in this country, and may be taken as an example of modern American architecture.
Howard, John Galen, 1864-1931, Turner, Charles Yardley, 1850-1919, and Howard, John Galen, 1864-1931, “Electricity Building,” Digital Collections - University at Buffalo Libraries, accessed January 27, 2021, https://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/items/show/94786.