History of the Great Arrow Building
The New Home of the Subversive Theatre Collective!
The Great Arrow Building was just one of
many buildings that originally made up the Pierce Arrow Campus. The Great
Arrow Building was where the cars were actually made -- where the proletarians sweated
away while management conducted business in the more aristocratic confines of
the Pierce Arrow Building on the Elmwood Avenue side of the campus.
The center of America's Pierce-Arrow Corporation, the
complex was constructed in 1901 by architect Albert Kahn involving dozens of
buildings that stretched all the way from Elmwood to Delaware Avenue.
Considered revolutionary at the time, the Great Arrow Building became the
template for many factory buildings nationwide.
The "Arrow Automobile Company"
was launched by George N. Pierce, an engineer who began his career crafting
birdcages and bicycles. In 1904, Pierce introduced his "Arrow"
Motor -- the most powerful automobile engine of the time -- and added
fender-mounted headlights giving his vehicles a unique and distinctive
appearance. In 1909 the company's name was officially changed to the "Pierce-Arrow
In its heyday, the Pierce-Arrow Automobile was
considered the most luxurious and well-designed vehicle in the world.
President Taft ordered three for the White House. Movie stars, Arab
potentates, and other celebrities followed suit.
According to local lore, bootleggers during
Prohibition insisted on using Pierce-Arrow motors in their smuggler boats
because of the engine's superior acceleration and quiet exhaust system!
By the 1930s, George N. Pierce retired, selling the company to a group of
Buffalo financiers. He got out just in time. The Great Depression
spelled the end for the Pierce-Arrow Corporation. People simply could
not afford this luxury item any longer -- a Pierce-Arrow car (the most
expensive on the market) sold for over $6,000.00 while the new Model T Ford
had a sticker price of just $700.00!
In 1938, Pierce-Arrow shut down for good selling off
the various buildings in the campus separately. Many of the buildings
that made up the eastern end of the campus were torn down.
During WWII, the Pierce Arrow Building and the Great
Arrow Building were acquired by an aircraft manufacturer who produced planes
and parts for the war effort.
After a long period of uncertainty, the Great Arrow
Building has found a new identity as home to a wide variety of small
businesses -- everything from birdseed producers to custom shoe repair!
The new ownership actively encourages art groups to find a home here and the building's third floor (where Subversive Theatre resides) has become a
nexus for artistic groups including a clay art studio, a music recording
studio, and the Alt Theatre (Buffalo's OTHER newest performance space!).