The all-but-forgotten landmarks and art-deco buildings of Buffalo are becoming more than photos in a history book. In recent years, efforts to preserve, restore and reintroduce these buildings have offered visitors an opportunity to experience the splendor of a bygone era in the form of boutique hotels. Even more properties that provide a fusion of historical grandiose with modern innovation and comfort are slated to open in 2014 (and beyond).
At the center of this movement is Hotel Lafayette, originally designed for the Pan American Exposition of 1901. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this art-deco era building was designed by the nation’s first professional female architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune.
After years of neglect, the downtown building was transformed into a 57-room hotel and multi-use property by developer Rocco Termini. The restored site showcases the same opulence that it had during its heyday – with a creative twist.
The lobby of Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo — Photo courtesy of Hotel Lafayette
A mini-city in itself, Hotel Lafayette has its own brewery with a massive lounge and bar area, a five-star restaurant and a casual lunch or dinner venue that once served as a speakeasy. Several banquet rooms make it ideal for weddings and events, and it also boasts a dress shop, a bakery with photo-worthy cakes and even a florist.
The same innovative spirit can be found in a number of the developer’s other downtown projects, including favorite sushi restaurant Seabar, several residential lofts and Tappo - a stylish yet unpretentious new Italian restaurant with rooftop seating.
In the big picture, Termini isn’t just opening businesses; he is creating neighborhoods. His next project will be a 21-room boutique hotel in North Buffalo and will be the first hotel in that area.
But Termini isn’t the only one with a vision for Buffalo’s chipped and discarded gems. Developer Mark Croce, who operates the Statler City event and banquet space, plans on opening a 68-room hotel and restaurant in the Curtiss building on Huron and Franklin Streets. The exterior of the building will be fitted with LED lighting to showcase the terra cotta façade.
The Giacomo — Photo courtesy of The Giacomo
A short drive from Buffalo in Niagara Falls, NY, The Giacomo invites guests to experience luxurious accommodations and commanding view of the falls and gorge. Towering 20 stories high, the historic landmark was re-opened in 2010 and features 39 hotel rooms, a posh lounge and bar and 24 apartments. Built in 1929, the structure blends art-deco design with Mayan influence and offers several room options, including suites with full kitchens, fireplaces and Jacuzzis.
An aerial view of the massive Richardson Olmsted Complex — Photo courtesy of Monica Pellegrino Faix / Richardson Olmsted
Lastly, Buffalo’s 480,000-square-foot “fortress,” The Richardson Olmsted Complex, is undergoing a major renovation. (Some buildings have been left untouched since 1947.) When complete, the infamous 19th-century psychiatric ward will become a boutique hotel, event and conference space and an architecture discovery center that highlights the Buffalo area. Phase one to reclaim the south lawn is already finished, with inviting new gardens and eco-friendly walk ways.
Prior to this movement, much of the Queen City’s accommodations were chain hotels with little character. Now, when visitors come to soak in the Buffalo’s thriving music scene, Canalside area, Niagara Falls, breweries, wineries and historical wonders, their cultural experience can continue the moment they check in, and it will leave a lasting impression long after they check out.
A portion of the Richardson Olmsted Complex — Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan