By Tim Tielman and Chris Hawley
"The store of today that is designed in the tempo of tomorrow. A new store—and a modern spirit of architectural design—that reflects the vigorous character of American life and industry as we know it today. A store whose beauty of line, simplicity of color and freedom from superficial details of design will keep it a young store when another half century has rolled away. Today, in Buffalo, the new J.N. Adam & Co. store is an outpost on the architectural frontiers of the city. It reflects a style in modern architectural design that will be commonplace within a generation. It marks a new era."
The above quote,copy from a 1935 ad announcing the first phase of the J.N. Adam department store’s final incarnation, was right on all counts, except one: its warm urbanity did not become common in Buffalo. In fact, as far as commercial buildings go, J.N. Adam & Co.’s big store at Main and Eagle streets (also known as AM&A’s, for the last tenant), is Buffalo’s last outpost of urbanism, the end of an era.
To place JN’s architecture with the more familiar modernities of the age, the ad features eight vignettes showing the streamlined forms of ships, planes, cars, trains, furniture, houses, and clothing. This was necessary because the 1935 building was so different from other department stores across the street and the nation and because the aesthetic intent was incomplete: the new building represented only the first stage of an expansion strategy that would fill up a large parcel of land it had acquired in 1923. War moved back full realization by several years.