Buffalo Travel: The Hotel Lafayette – An Astounding Transformation from Flophouse to Architectural Jewel
Day 2 in Buffalo was a rainy day, but we had a great indoor program: a visit to the historic Hotel Layafette which was opened in 1904 as Buffalo’s premier hotel. After a long period of decline and neglect, the hotel was reborn in the spring of 2012 as the “Hotel @ the Lafayette”, following a $43 million investment and about a year of painstaking and historically correct restoration work. Prominent Buffalo developer and historic restoration expert Rocco Termini took us on a 3-hour tour of this stunning hotel property, starting in the magnificent Art Deco Lobby which was originally installed in 1942 and carefully restored to exact specifications. Today, the Hotel Lafayette is on the National Register of Historic Places and makes a huge contribution to the revival of Buffalo’s historic downtown area.
After its amazing restoration, today’s Hotel @ the Lafayette is a 57-room boutique hotel with luxury rental apartments on the upper floors. The main floor is the location of the Cyrstal and Grand Ballrooms which feature a mix of Beaux Arts and Art Deco designs and were restored to strict historically accurate specifications. The architect of the Hotel Lafayette was Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first female professional architect in the United States. For this project she demanded to be paid at the same rate as male architects at the time, a demand unheard of in the early 20th century, and she got her way. Developer Rocco Termini explained that in some of the ballrooms they had to strip 7 layers of paint to reveal the original paint colours. During the restoration of the Hotel Lafayette a lot of “architectural archeology” work had to be done in order to bring the building back to its original glory. Today, the ballrooms at the Hotel @ the Lafayette are masterpieces of historical preservation.
On the main floor, the hotel has an upscale restaurant called “Mike A @ the Hotel Lafayette” which offers contemporary American fine dining and an extensive international wine list. Buffalo chef and restaurateur Mike Andrzejewski runs this gorgeous restaurant whose interior design impresses with its vaulted ceilings and pillars. Across the hallway, is a cool Art Deco inspired bar that has become a popular spot for cocktails.
Talking about restaurants at the magnificently restored Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo: downstairs we got a tour of Butterwood Sweet and Savory, a full-service fusion restaurant that is located on the basement level in the former speakeasy where alcohol was secretly served during the 1930s Prohibition era. Butterwood Sweet and Savory offers sweet and savory flavoured dishes, hand-crafted brick-oven produced pizzas and a well-stocked cocktail bar. It is also known for its wide range of desserts which include European style pastries, the popular Caramel Apple Pie and many other sweet indulgences. You can pick up some enticing treats at the Butterwood Retail Bakery Outlet and even buy intricately decorated wedding cakes. Developer Rocco Termini explained that he intended to make the Hotel @ the Lafayette a wedding destination, and in Butterwood’s large downstairs kitchen, wedding cakes are made right on site and shipped to customers all across the country.
Given that the Hotel @ the Lafayette has become a popular wedding destination in Buffalo, developer Rocco Termini took me to Anatomy, a bridal store located in a gorgeous space on the main floor of the hotel. Owner Ali Eagen, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, moved back to her home town of Buffalo in 2010 and opened her store Anatomy in late 2010. In the spring of 2012 she relocated into her fabulous space at the Hotel @the Lafayette. Now she provides one-of-a-kind wedding dresses and stylish made-to-measure clothing and accessories from her architecturally inspiring showroom and workshop.
The Hotel Lafayette is home to another store catering to its wedding customers: Woyshner’s Flower Shop, also located on the main floor of the hotel, provides all sorts of floral arrangements for weddings and special occasions. At the Lafayette Flower Market you can find a wide range of fresh cut flowers, floral arrangements, plants, design accessories and gift ideas. In honour of the season some Halloween merchandise was already on display.
As one of the highlights of our tour of the recently restored Hotel @ the Lafayette we got to see one of the luxurious bridal suites that was situated in a prime corner location. The design of this iconic hotel’s restoration was handled by Carmina Wood Morris, a leading architectural firm in Buffalo, and every one of the 57 boutique hotel rooms features a unique décor. Accessories and décor items can actually be purchased in a store on the main floor of the hotel.
On the main floor of the Hotel @ the Lafayette there is one more hospitality establishment: the Pan-American Grill & Brewery, a restaurant-brewery that can accommodate over 300 guests as well as private functions. The décor is stunning: the early 1900s layout and details were carefully preserved and restored and the Pan-American Grill is indeed reminiscent of a turn-of-the-(previous)-century beer hall. A huge picture of Theodore Roosevelt greets you at the entrance, in memory of the Pan-American Exposition that was held in 1901 in Buffalo during which he was inaugurated.
After our 3 hour tour of the magnificently restored Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo, developer & historic restoration expert Rocco Termini took us to another one of his projects: “Tappo” (meaning “cork” in Italian) is a newly opened wine bar that is housed in a historic building. It is downtown Buffalo’s first Italian restaurant and features a very affordable Italian menu and bottles of wine that start at a very reasonable $15. The chic red décor of the restaurant also features wine corks on the tables under a layer of glass and the bar is adorned with thousands of wine corks as well. The rooftop patio can hold 50 people and provides great views of downtown Buffalo.
I absolutely love early 20th century architecture, but I am equally passionate about art. Our next destination was a great spot for art lovers: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.