It’s a new day in Buffalo. The city’s once-in-a-lifetime transformation has reached new heights as signature developments years in the making, rooted in the rejuvenation of Buffalo’s storied architectural legacy, welcome visitors to their restored grandeur.
Visitors sleep in new hotels that were a former insane asylum and century-old office building, tour the largest home ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in its renewed splendor, rock climb and drink craft beer among the ruins of grain silos and enjoy live performances in reclaimed movie palaces, churches and historic social clubs. New restaurants, breweries and distilleries greet visitors at every turn, and a burgeoning public art scene winds its way through the city’s neighborhoods.
Here are the top new developments that are transforming Buffalo – and a look at the year ahead:
Historic New Hotels
Two of Buffalo’s most unique hotels set in architecturally significant settings opened this year. The Richardson Olmsted Campus, a 19th century National Historic Landmark by acclaimed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, originally functioned as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane before sitting disused for over 30 years. Its rehabilitation culminated this spring with Hotel Henry, an 88-room urban resort and conference center honoring the building’s original architectural features. Grab a drink or a meal at 100 Acres: The Kitchens at Hotel Henry, and walk around in awe at this property that embodies the city’s broader rebirth.
Downtown, the Curtiss Hotel opened in June within a 105-year-old Terra Cotta office building on the National Register of Historic Places. The Curtiss is a 68-room property featuring an all-weather urban hot springs, rooftop patio, revolving bar and other high-end amenities.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center will open within the Richardson Olmsted Campus, adjacent to Hotel Henry, in early 2019. The center will feature the city’s first exhibit space permanently dedicated to telling the story of its architectural legacy – a starting point for visitors looking to explore Buffalo’s built environment.
Against the Grain
Buffalo has one of the world’s largest collections of grain elevators and lays claim to the invention of the steam-powered grain elevator. Those silos along Buffalo’s waterfront emptied out over the decades as the city’s once-booming grain industry declined, but a new generation of developers and creative types are bringing these unusual structures back to life.
In May, RiverWorks opened the world’s first brewery inside of a grain elevator and carved a beer garden out of adjacent silo ruins. Travelers seeking urban outdoor recreation can now also rock climb up the side of a RiverWorks silo or rent a kayak and cruise through the concrete canyon of Elevator Alley. Further down the Buffalo River, live theater, poetry readings and music festivals occupy Silo City, a collection of grain elevators left in their raw industrial state and reused as a seasonal event space. And a nightly light show on the Connecting Terminal grain elevator along the waterfront is the city’s largest public art installation.
WHAT’S AHEAD: RiverWorks will launch a zip line among the grain silos in the spring of 2018, and Silo City plans to debut a bar/restaurant and sculpture garden in silos’ shadows.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo
Frank Lloyd Wright buildings across the United States celebrated the acclaimed architect’s 150th birthday in June, and in Buffalo, the party was especially poignant. The first-floor restoration of Wright’s Darwin Martin House wrapped with the re-installation of the gold-hued glass mosaic fireplace in the living room. That fireplace marked the conclusion of nearly 20 years and millions in restoration work on the first floor of the Martin House Complex, with the completion of the home’s second floor and adjacent Barton House soon to follow.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Martin House is one of over a half-dozen Wright designs in Buffalo. Another building in the sprawling Martin House Complex – the Barton House – will also be restored in 2018, as will the Graycliff Estate on the shores of Lake Erie. Visitors can explore all of Wright’s work – including a gas station, boathouse and mausoleum all built posthumously – on an All Wright All Day tour.
Public Art Proliferation
Buffalo’s public art scene reached new heights in 2017. Nearly a dozen new pieces of public art burst onto Buffalo’s streets this year, including The Freedom Wall, which features giant mural portraits of prominent civil rights leaders from throughout American History. A creative vibe winds its way through the Queen City thanks to a public art initiative by the venerable Albright-Knox Art Gallery as well as civically minded property owners.
WHAT’S AHEAD: An ongoing partnership between the Albright-Knox and Erie County will generate dozens more public art pieces in 2018.
The boom in new restaurants that first began several years ago showed no signs of stopping in 2017. In Larkinville, the Swan Street Diner breathed new life into a 1930s diner car that hails from Central New York. The Rowhouse Bakery & Restaurant opened a bakery and restaurant within a restored 19th century row house on Delaware Avenue. And The Terrace at Delaware Park features a bar, restaurant and patio overlooking Hoyt Lake within the largest park in Buffalo designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
New Spots to Sip
The Buffalo Niagara region now boasts over two dozen breweries, the largest number since before Prohibition. Several of these breweries have adapted older buildings into unique spaces to drink a beer, including RiverWorks (featuring the world’s first brewery inside of a grain elevator); Pressure Drop Brewing, located in a converted barrel factory in the city’s Old First Ward and SATO Brewpub, housed in the basement of downtown’s historic Dun Building underneath the sidewalk on Swan Street.
Also Coming in 2018
The launch of the Buffalo Wing Trail, a journey through a dozen of the most iconic spots serving wings in the city that created them. Join us next year to take part in America’s Tastiest Drive! Stay tuned for more.