A Staple of LockportOur History
The businesses that call the Bewley Building home are operating in the heart of downtown Lockport and are surrounded by rich, local history that stretches back well before the current building was even constructed.
A Long, Long Time Ago…
The Bewley Building was built on the foundation of the Hodge Opera House, a grand center of culture and commerce in the City of Lockport in the late 1800s, until its demise in the early 1900s.
Construction Begins on Hodge
John Hodge, whose Merchant’s Gargling Oil was the largest and most prosperous business in the city at the time, began construction on the three-story Hodge Opera House in 1871 with the arrival of 55 tons of sandstone from Ohio via the Erie Canal.
The Hodge Opera House opened in 1872 to a full house with a presentation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, led by Edwin Adams, a leading actor of the day. The building itself was three stories. The theater was on the third floor, with the first two being occupied by about 50 or so businesses, offices and storefronts.
Original Hodge Opera House Burns Down
A fire destroyed the original Hodge Opera House on January 5, 1881. The cause of the fire is not known for sure, however it is suspected that a carelessly thrown cigar butt started the blaze. After initially being put out, hot embers caused the building to reignite early the next morning, destroying many local records, including births and governmental proceedings. John Hodge immediately began the rebuild.
The Hodge Opera House re-opened in 1882, only a year after being ravaged by two fires and began running shows and entertainment again for the Lockport area.
Theater Hosts McKinley Memorial
The Hodge Opera House hosted a memorial service for President William McKinley, who was assassinated in Buffalo at the Pan-American Exposition at the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901.
Hodge Converted Entirely to Offices
The Hodge Opera House continued to run entertainment until the theater closed in 1914 and was replaced entirely by office space. The closing of the theater was a result of the emerging motion picture industry, which had made classic theater in smaller locales unsustainable.
Hodge Building Burns Again
A fire broke out in the basement of the Merchant’s Gargling Oil Company on February 25, 1928. The fire quickly spread next door to the Hodge Building, where firefighters beat back the blaze over the course of almost 24 hours, but were unable to save the Lockport landmark.
Construction Starts on Bewley Building
Construction on the Bewley Building began in 1929 on the foundation of the old Hodge Opera House. In addition to the original foundation, the original stone walls and Chimney of the Hodge Building can be seen when viewed from the rear or parking ramp. The current building consists of two hundred individual offices on floors two through five with ten retail stores on the first level.
Bewley Gets Self-Operating Elevator
In 1955, a self-operating elevator was installed in the Bewley Building. This elevator was the first of its kind anywhere on the Niagara Frontier.
Modernized Lobby Renovations
In 1991, the granite and marble that exists in the Bewley Building today was installed, replacing the “art-deco” style that was originally built.
In 2005, work began on renovations to the marble, awnings, windows, elevators and more that has restored the look of the building when it first opened in the 1920s, with some modern touches, of course.
Still the Hub
The Bewley Building continues to be the most desirable and prestigious office location in historic downtown Lockport.