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Electric Tower turns 100

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Buffalo: Electric Tower turns 100
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The ball drop from the Buffalo Electric Tower doesn't just represent the start of a new year. This year, it also signifies the hundredth anniversary of the iconic building. YNN's Jennifer Mobilia takes a look at what the building's meant to the city's past, and what's in store for the future.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As electricity became a part of everyday life at the turn of the 20th century, Western New York was ahead of the curve.

"We had hydropark from Niagara Falls so we were able to utilize electricity sooner than most cities were and General Electric came here and capitalized on that,” said Cynthia Van Ness, historian.

In 1912, Buffalo General Electric built its headquarters in downtown Buffalo.

"It was designed by Esenwein and Johnson who were famous for designing the Temple of Music at the Pan American Exposition where McKinley was assassinated."

The Electric Tower was designed to emulate the Tower of Light featured at the Pan American Exposition. The building was designed not just as a headquarters, but as an advertisement for electricity.

"You went to pay your bills there, but you could also shop there. There are pictures of refrigerators and irons and things like that for sale."

"Demonstrations of electric ranges and vacuum cleaners and washing machines, all modern day conveniences we take for granted now that in 1912 needed to be introduced to the public,” said Paul Iskalo of Iskalo Development Corp.

For the majority of its hundred years, the building served as a utility headquarters; first for GE, then Niagara Mohawk. That changed when Iskalo Development Corporation bought the building in 2004 and began extensive renovations to turn it into an office building.

"It was important for us to try to get the building's renovations completed in time for the 100th anniversary,” said Iskalo.

This year, Iskalo finished all of its mechanical and structural upgrades to the Electric Tower.

"The one that was most visible to the Western New York community was the restoration and renovation of the upper most lantern section of the building."

Tens of thousands are expected to gather around the tower for the 24th annual New Year's Eve Ball Drop. The tenants have changed, but the building remains a beacon for the city a hundred years after it was built.

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