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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Top 5 Travel Experiences of 2012, An Architectural Tour of Buffalo

Friends laughed when I mentioned that I was headed to Buffalo last July, before dropping my son off at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. “Not exactly Paris, huh?” Little did they realize that the city was undergoing a cultural renaissance, rehabbing many of the architectural wonders that Buffalo is blessed with. In the early 1900s, the affluent community, rich with Erie Canal commerce, helped persuade Louis J. Sullivan, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Frank Lloyd Wright to come to town to create skyscrapers, parks, and estates. 

Wright’s Darwin Martin House (1905), rivaled only by Fallingwater in scope and mastery among his residences, just completed a 10-year, $50 million renovation. This includes the renovation of a conservatory and carriage house, linked to the main house via a 100-foot long pergola. This was my third tour of a Wright house, include Taliesen West, and was by far the most impressive. 
I also checked out the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, a castle-like assemblage of 14 buildings designed by H.H. Richardson in the late 1800s. The gothic-looking towers have been rebranded the Richardson Olmsted complex and will soon become a boutique hotel and center for architecture. Other noteworthy stops include Louis J. Sullivan’s 13-story 1895 Guaranty Building, the first skyscraper in America, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, considered one of the finest collections of modern art in the country.
To top it off, the food was exceptional. On the first night we had inspired Polish fare at Bistro Europa, including pierogies and golabki, stuffed cabbage that would make my grandmother proud. The second night, we dined at the spanking new Mike A’s Steakhouse in a downtown building that was dormant the past 40 years. Saved by Buffalo’s favorite son, developer Rocco Termini, the circa-1904 Lafayette Hotel has reclaimed its French Renaissance and Art Deco glamour and is now a boutique hotel with a vintage bar. 
From the Saturday morning farmers market to Shakespeare at Delaware Park, the city was energized and proud locals were having the last laugh. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/13 at 01:00 PM
Art Finds • (6) CommentsPermalink Bookmark and Share


No, it's not exactly Paris but Buffalo's original street plan of 1804 was inspired by Frenchman Pierre L'Enfant, who designed the plan for Washington DC.

Picture of Denise Comment by Denise
on 01/10/13 at 05:30 PM

Great little tidbit, Denise. Thanks for sharing!

Picture of Steve Jermanok Comment by Steve Jermanok
on 01/10/13 at 05:57 PM

Buffalo is one of America's hidden gems. Literally. The architecture, the people, the beauty, the rough is truly a special place. The city has advanced despite a lack of effective political leadership (like many poorer cities have experienced). The people have done it. I can't imagine where that city would be if it had a Booker or Norquist?

Picture of Buffalolover Comment by Buffalolover
on 01/10/13 at 07:53 PM

Richardson, Wright, Olmstead, Sullivan, oh my it looks like all the great architects can works can be seen there. I must get to Buffalo, have never been. It's on my list of places to see.

Picture of Fran Folsom Comment by Fran Folsom
on 01/10/13 at 09:37 PM

Don't forget about East Aurora a small quaint but quirky artisan village about 20 minutes from downtown Buffalo. Home to the Roycroft Campus from the Arts & Crafts era. The Roycroft Inn is fully restored and across the street the main campus buildings are under restoration. The village is full of artisans just like it was one hundred years ago...

Picture of Thomas Pafk Comment by Thomas Pafk
on 01/11/13 at 02:21 PM

Thanks for the kudos! I moved to Buffalo partly for the architecture about a year ago and I second that it truly is a special and unique place. It not only has architecture by all the greats (Sullivan, Wright, Richardson, Olmsted, Albert Kahn, Upjohn) but it also has many remarkably intact historic neighborhoods lined with mansions of barons from the city's gilded past and lovely and active commercial streets lined with coffee shops and boutiques. Like the article said, we also have a pretty good culinary scene (way beyond chicken wings, though we have some really good ones). One of the recent developments I've been exploring is a quickly-growing SE asian immigrant community from the Burma/Nepal area that is leading to some very interesting restaurants and stores popping up. All that said, it's still a bit gritty in places and, as another commenter said, all the good that happens is grassroots, but things are improving quickly and the changes are the result of a large group of very passionate locals. Anyways, I encourage you to visit - we've been getting a lot of good press lately from people that visit and find the city unexpectedly lovely, not at all what its reputation forbodes.

Picture of mitclal Comment by mitclal
on 01/12/13 at 04:31 AM

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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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