The Powers Building has enjoyed a history as one of Rochester’s most remarkable commercial structures. Daniel Powers began construction of his building in 1865 and after it’s initial completion in 1868 he would undertake a series of expansions and enlargements as he sought to maintain its claim as the tallest building in Rochester.
This Rochester landmark earned fame and status due to it’s design and finish that included many engineering marvels never before seen in Rochester.
Construction of the building utilized steel framing with a cast iron and ornamental stone façade. This revolutionary method of construction was employed to create what was then billed as a fireproof building. The building was the first in upstate New York to have a passenger elevator (then called a vertical railroad), gas illumination and marble floors. In 1861 it became the first commercial structure in Rochester to have electricity, utilizing its own power generating boilers.
It was reported that Daniel Powers would not tolerate any building being taller than his own and as neighboring buildings were constructed approaching the height the Powers Building he responded by adding floors to the top of his building. Construction from 1873 thru 1888 resulted in three additional floors being added to the building as well as a four-story observation tower.
In 1875 Daniel Powers opened the largest private art gallery in the country occupying the entire 5th floor of his building. His collection consisted of over 1,000 pieces of both original work and reproductions of masterpieces acquired during his numerous trips to Europe. After his death in 1897 his art collection was auctioned off and ownership of the building changed numerous times and it’s condition gradually declined.
In 1990 the building was acquired and underwent a major renovation that not only replaced all of the mechanical systems bringing the building to a true Class A level but more importantly in doing so restored all of the original grandeur and finishes of the building. The renovation earned numerous architectural awards and the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This 1865 photo at the corner of West Main and State Streets shows the starting construction of the Powers Building.
The Building was originally built as a five story structure. This Photo shows a sixth story which was added by Daniel Powers in the 1870's to house his art gallery.
During the 1880's a 7th and 8th floor were added along with a 4-story observation tower in order for Daniel Powers to maintain his claim to the tallest building in Rochester.
Today the building looks almost as it did at the turn of the century.