Torn-Down Tuesday: Elmwood Music Hall

By Steve Cichon

During the first decades of the 20th century, the Elmwood Music Hall was Buffalo’s top convention, speech-making, and musical concert space. It was also a popular site for sporting events like boxing and high school basketball.


1932. Buffalo Stories archives

Originally built as an armory, the building left much to be desired as an event venue. During one 1936 address meant for all of Buffalo’s WPA workers, little was heard other than a series of “blasts, snorts, rasps and gurgles” because of the hall’s “abominable acoustics.”

Regardless, for two generations, the place always had something going on, whether it was Boy Scouts, suffragettes, prohibitionists, or speeches from a long line of presidential candidates and New York governors — including both Presidents Roosevelt.

Beyond the bad acoustics, the hall also had structural issues. The building was deemed unsafe, condemned, and torn down in 1938. Two federal government-sponsored, Depression-era projects helped replace the building at Elmwood and Virginia where Family Dollar now sits — both Memorial Auditorium and Kleinhans Music Hall opened in 1940.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.