A feature inspired by Beaux-Arts planning principles, this circle was one of several designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and Calvert Vaux as part of Buffalo’s Park and Parkway System. Originally named Chapin Place for Civil War Colonel Edwin Chapin, the circle is the southeastern terminus of Chapin Parkway, which extends northwest to Soldier’s Circle. In 1874, at Chapin Place, Olmsted and Vaux designed a five-acre rectangular park featuring an oval median and centralized plantings.
In 1902, in memory of her mother, Mary Pardee offered to finance a revised park design consisting of a central fountain nested within a sunken plaza, which would be flanked by sloping lawn and edged with generous seating. Redesigned by architect E.B. Green, the park became a series of concentric circles with locusts and sloping lawn panels serving to separate the space from the surrounding traffic, while clipped hedges softened a low granite wall, and a perimeter walkway encircled the plaza. Descending into the circle from the entrances at Chapin Parkway and Delaware and Lafayette Avenues, granite steps provide access to the fountain and lower plaza. Flanked by ornate, bronze lamp standards, the fountain is animated with arcing jets and a central spout. The radial symmetry of the design is interrupted only at the north by a series of terraced pools, flanked by two ornate urns atop granite bases. The three streets that converge at Gates Circle are framed by a rectangular park comprising linear paths through rows of elm trees. Gates Circle is a contributing feature to the Olmsted Park and Parkway System, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.