Tri-Main Center Tour
Photo courtesy Explore Buffalo
Explore Buffalo’s tour of the month for April is Inside Tri-Main. This interior building tour is a special offering for the winter season and it’s wrapping up as we transition to the 2019 tour season launch in May. The two-hour tour is a chance to experience the vibrant and unique mixed-use facility known at the Tri-Main Center. With over one hundred different companies, non-profit organizations and artists who call it home, this six-story, 575,000 square foot building has something around every corner.
Mixed-use buildings and the renovation of former industrial and manufacturing sites are becoming more and more common. A few examples would be Silo City, RiverWorks, Linde Air Manufacturing at 155 Chandler Street, and nearly all of the Hydraulics District, now known as Larkinville. Over the past several decades Buffalo has built a strong reputation for honoring its past through these revitalization efforts. The list of such projects would be incomplete without the Tri-Main Center which stands as a true pioneer.
Located at 2495 Main Street, Tri-Main progressed and adapted through three distinct eras. The complex was built in 1915 for Henry Ford, designed by Albert Kahn, to be used as a Ford Plant. During the “Ford Era,” popular Model T’s and Model A’s made their way onto the streets thanks to this plant. In fact, the Buffalo plant produced “over 600,000 of the 15 million Ford Model T’s produced by 1927” (https://holtarchitects.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/buffalo-architectural-history-minute-9/). In the early 1930s, Ford relocated to Fuhrmann Boulevard which marks the next phase of the Tri-Main Center’s development as the building was taken over by Hercules Motors in order to make engines primarily for Bell Aircraft Corporation.
The era that most Buffalonians are familiar with is probably “The Tri-Co Era” which lasted over forty years. From 1947-1988, Trico Products Company, at one time the largest windshield wiper manufacturer in the world, worked out of the Tri-Main, then called Trico Plant #2. The legacy of the company’s founder, John R. Oishei (1886-1968), endures today through the John R. Oishei Foundation and more recently through the Oishei Children’s Hospital located on the Medical Campus, formerly The Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
On this tour, the docent takes the group through specific sections of the building that help tell the story of these eras. In addition to highlighting Tri-Main’s past, we do our best to incorporate the “Modern Era” into the tour as well. Thanks to the redevelopment efforts that began in 1989, there are unique spaces and passionate companies throughout the building we have the opportunity to visit. While some shifting takes place due to conflicting schedules, our tours often stop into Neglia Ballet, Great Arrow Graphics, Journey’s End and Buffalo Heritage Press. No matter the date, there is always a space to explore and new organizations to discover.
We welcome everyone to check out this unique interior tour before it retires for the season! Inside Tri-Main tours will take place on Wednesday, April 10th and 24th at 2pm. This walking tour begins in the lobby of the Tri-Main Center at 2495 Main Street. Please note that the lobby is located at the main entrance on Halbert Street, adjacent to the building’s parking lots. The two-hour tour is approximately one mile of indoor walking within the building. Stairs are typically used, but an elevator is available if needed. General admission is $15, student admission is $5 and Explorer Pass Holders receive free admission.
Please visit our website at explorebuffalo.org for more information about this tour and spring tour offerings for 2019.
Olivia McCarthy is deputy director of Explore Buffalo.
Explore Buffalo is a volunteer-driven nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to promoting Buffalo’s history, architecture, and neighborhoods to learners of all ages.