It can be easy to forget just how much this city has transformed in recent years for those of us who live and work here every day. But for anyone who returns here annually, the difference can be startling.
Just since last Thanksgiving in Buffalo, a National Historic Landmark reopened as a hotel and restaurant following decades of disuse. Another downtown office building turned into one of Buffalo’s most luxurious hotels. Long neglected grain silos on the waterfront converted into a brewery, beer garden and rock climbing wall. Formerly blank building walls across city neighborhoods became canvasses for public art. And dozens of new restaurants offering everything from vegan donuts to artisan ice cream have opened.
It’s been a year like no other in Buffalo, and for those who haven’t been here in a while, welcome back. Here’s what you missed while you were gone and should check out over Thanksgiving Weekend:
HOTEL HENRY & 100 ACRES
This year saw the rejuvenation of one of Buffalo’s most iconic architectural landmarks. The Richardson Olmsted Campus, a 19th century masterwork by acclaimed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, originally functioned as a state hospital before sitting disused for over 30 years. Its rehabilitation culminated this spring with Hotel Henry, an 88-room urban resort and conference center that honors 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.
THE CURTISS HOTEL
A century old former office building downtown reopened this summer as The Curtiss Hotel, a 68-room property featuring an all-weather urban hot springs, rooftop patio, revolving bar and other high-end amenities. The hotel is a new lease on life for the Harlow C. Curtiss Building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and previously sat vacant for decades. Grab a meal at the hotel’s Chez Ami, named after the legendary downtown restaurant and night club of generations past on Delaware Avenue.
Buffalo has one of the world’s largest collection of grain elevators, hearkening back to the city’s industrial heyday and role as a transportation hub. RiverWorks kicked the redevelopment of those silos up a notch last spring by opening the world’s first brewery inside of a grain elevator and carving a beer garden out of adjacent silo ruins. Thrill seekers can now also rock climb up the side of a RiverWorks silo. These new spots at RiverWorks join a restaurant, roller derby rink and concert venue that opened at the property in 2015.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S MARTIN HOUSE COMPLEX
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 in time for his birthday 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 soon to follow.
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; Magic Buffalo, which envelops Joe’s Deli at Hertel and Colvin Avenues in North Buffalo; and the towering Flat Man sculpture on the city’s outer harbor. A creative vibe winds its way through the Queen City thanks to a public art initiative by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery as well as civically minded property owners.
The boom in new restaurants that first began several years ago showed no signs of stopping in 2017. Just a few of the highlights: in Larkinville, the Swan Street Diner breathed new life into a 1930s diner car that hails from Central New York. Fry Baby Donuts introduced Buffalo to the deliciousness of vegan donuts. Rowhouse opened a bakery, café and restaurant the likes of which this city has never seen in a restored 19th century row house on Delaware Avenue. And The Terrace at Delaware Park brought to life the park’s long underutilized Marcy Casino with a beautiful bar, restaurant and patio overlooking Hoyt Lake with views one visitor I was with compared to a Monet impressionist painting.
Hertel Avenue became ice cream central, with the openings of Lake Effect Ice Cream, Churn and Hertel Avenue Poutine and Cream. Around the corner on Main Street, Parkside Candy received a new lease on life, with its magnificent 1927 Art Deco interior undergoing a complete restoration. And on the West Side, Chef Victor Gonzalez introduced Buffalo to Mexican fare with flair at Las Puertas.
NEW SPOTS TO SIP
The Buffalo Niagara region now boasts over two dozen breweries, the largest number since before Prohibition. Pressure Drop Brewing, located in a converted barrel factory in the city’s Old First Ward; SATO Brewpub, housed in the basement of downtown’s historic Dun Building underneath the sidewalk on Swan Street and West Shore Brewing in Clarence joined the region’s ranks in 2017 (in addition to the aforementioned RiverWorks.)
But breweries aren’t the only facet of our sipping scene that improved in 2017. In March, Buffalo Distilling Company debuted in a Larkinville building that used to house a carriage manufacturer, while Angelica Tea Room and Lucky Day introduced Buffalo to new cocktails and a top-flight whiskey selection, respectively. New coffee spots like Remedy House on the West Side and an expanded Public Espresso in the Hotel at the Lafayette gave us more reasons to caffeinate than ever before. So grab a cup, plan your day and get out and explore all the ways this remarkable city has changed in 2017.