Downtown Buffalo’s historic Hotel Lafayette has been restored to its early 1900s glory. Opened in 1904 and designed by the first American female architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune, the hotel was left in disrepair from the 1970s until renovations began in 2010 by developer Rocco Termini and R&P Oakhill. Aside from restoring the original splendor of the French Renaissance-style hotel, the renovation has enlivened the stark area of downtown Buffalo, bringing restaurant and nightlife patrons to the recently desolate area.
Up until Termini’s renovation, the hotel still operated as a hotel but attracted a different set of customers who were more interested in the pawn shop located in the lobby. With few restaurants and bars nearby, the area of downtown Buffalo is left largely abandoned after office towers empty out at 5 pm. Both an architectural and social restoration, the new Hotel Lafayette proves that just one project can restore the character of a neighborhood.
The bottom floor of Hotel Lafayette houses the lobby restored to its 1940’s Art Moderne style, retail shops, two ballrooms, three restaurants and an Art Deco-style bar. The Pan American Grill, named for the world fair that took place in Buffalo in 1901, faces the street. The sumptuous wooden double bar was also restored, along with the early 1900s moldings, columns and mirrors. A cozy hunting lodge-style room welcomes guests around a fireplace. Upscale steakhouse Mike A’s is just across the lobby, while Butterwood Sweet and Savory occupies a lower level that was once a speakeasy during prohibition.
Elements of the original hotel still remain, such as the antique phone booths complete with vintage phones and the mail slots assigned to the original rooms built in the 1940s.
The $35 million rehabilitation project has single-handedly spurred a renaissance in downtown Buffalo.
Images ©Lori Zimmer for Inhabitat