Lafayette Square (formerly Court House Park or Courthouse Square) is a park in the center of downtown Buffalo, Erie County, New York, United States that hosts a Civil War monument. The block, which was once square, is lined by many of the city's tallest buildings. The square was named for General Lafayette, who visited Buffalo in 1825. The square was part of the original urban plan for the city as laid out by Joseph Ellicott in 1804. Its eastern edge has long been defined by important civic structures; first, the Erie County Courthouse, followed by the original Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Presidential history was made in Lafayette Square when former United States President Martin Van Buren received the Free Soil Party nomination for the 1848 election. President-elect Abraham Lincoln also spoke at the square.
Lafayette Square is one of three squares laid out in Joseph Ellicott's city plan. The square is located three blocks east of Niagara Square and is the second most important space in downtown Buffalo. The block is surrounded by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's Metro Rail light rail rapid transit to the west, which runs above-ground along Main Street in what is called the Free Fare Zone, Washington Street to the east, Lafayette Square to the north (a one-way westbound continuation of Broadway) and Lafayette Square to the south (a one-way eastbound connection to Clinton Street).
The square once was surrounded by an iron fence that was no longer present by 1905. By the 1860s, the square was a heavily wooded park. In 1876-7, trees that lined the square along main street were removed. Lafayette Square was the last park in the heart of the city, but the commercialization of the downtown area caused vehicular space demands. The original parklike square was originally viewed by urban planners as an impediment to crosstown traffic. In 1912, the Buffalo Common Council authorized the extension of Broadway to Main Street through Lafayette Square, which reduced the size of the square "to devote to street purposes all that part of the Square except for a small circle around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument."
At one time, a rivulet flowed from Lafayette Square down Court Street where it eventually met a stream at Niagara and Mohawk Streets. The square hosted the Niagara County Courthouse from 1810 until it was destroyed by the British Army during the Burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812 on December 30, 1813. In 1831, the Holland Land Company gave the deed of the public park to the city.
The original Erie County court house was built facing the square park in 1818. Buffalo was the county seat of Niagara County until 1821, when Erie County was created. In 1833 an adjacent county jailhouse was added. The jail, which was crude, and a debtors' prison were located in the back of the courthouse. In 1853, the city fenced in the square and installed a US$30,000 ($850,440 today) fountain. Erie County Sheriff Grover Cleveland once personally hanged a criminal in the square when it was still named Court House Square, after his subordinates refused to do so. President-elect Abraham Lincoln spoke at the square on February 16, 1861. The courthouse was used as the place for the determination of justice for the American side of the Niagara River until it was abandoned on March 11, 1876.