BUFFALO, NY – Buffalo is undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime transformation, as its proud history and incredible architectural legacy weave their way into every aspect of the visitor experience. Visitors sleep in hotels that were former mansions and an insane asylum, tour the largest home ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in its restored grandeur, 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.
A palpable energy winds its way through the city’s streets and neighborhoods, as locals who have summoned the collective will to revitalize their city are finally seeing their efforts paying off after decades of work. This resurgence is part of a broader transformation in Buffalo’s economy – the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere, for example, has opened on the site of a former steel mill. Here are “then and now” examples of Buffalo’s new developments – and the unexpected experiences awaiting visitors in 2018.
THEN: The Grange League Federation (GLF) operated an extensive grain milling and storage facility on Buffalo’s waterfront; Buffalo has one of the largest collections of grain elevators, which were invented here, in the world because of its position at the confluence of Lake Erie, the Niagara River and the Erie Canal.
NOW: The former GLF property has been redeveloped into the RiverWorks entertainment complex. An urban adventure course will open in 2018 at RiverWorks, including a zip line that launches from the top of grain silos. A rock climbing wall, beer garden carved out of silo ruins and the world’s first brewery inside a grain elevator opened there in the summer of 2017. RiverWorks has played a key role in the Buffalo waterfront’s emergence as a hub for outdoor recreation, as visitors can also rent kayaks and water bikes from the property and navigate through the towering concrete canyons of Elevator Alley. buffaloriverworks.com
THEN: Designed as a summer home in the early 1930s by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the lakeside Graycliff Estate nearly met the wrecking ball when it was put up for sale in the 1990s.
NOW: The not-for-profit Graycliff Conservancy purchased the property 20 years ago and expects to complete its multi-million dollar restoration by next summer. The Graycliff Estate is one of a half-dozen Wright designs open for tours in Buffalo, including the spectacular Martin House Complex, which has undergone its own 20-year, $50 million restoration that is also nearing completion. experiencegraycliff.org
THEN: The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, built in the late 19th century by acclaimed architect Henry Hobson Richardson and set on grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The building sat abandoned for over 30 years.
NOW: The redeveloped property and National Historic Landmark, now known as the Richardson Olmsted Campus, will welcome the Buffalo Architecture Center in September of 2018. The center will be the city’s first exhibit space dedicated to telling the story of its incredible architectural legacy – a legacy being renewed, restored and reimagined. Hotel Henry, an 88-room property, also opened within the Richardson Olmsted Campus in 2017 and is conveniently located next to the city’s vibrant museum district. buffaloarchitecturecenter.wordpress.com
THEN: Once home to the Larkin Soap Company, one of Buffalo’s largest employers, this sprawling warehouse district southeast of downtown Buffalo became a forgotten and underutilized corner of the city in recent decades.
NOW: The revitalized area is filled with popular events and new hangouts, including weekly food truck rodeos, several breweries and distilleries – and – opened in October of 2017 – the Swan Street Diner, fully restored from the 1930s. The diner joins Hydraulic Hearth, The Filling Station, and the soon-to-open Dobustsu Japanese restaurant in making this emerging Buffalo neighborhood a dining hotspot. larkinsquare.com
THEN: The city’s Anchor Bar first created the now world-famous Buffalo Wing, fried up and tossed in hot sauce, in 1964.
NOW: Visitors will have a chance to experience the region’s signature culinary creation on a new “Buffalo Wing Trail,” set to launch in the spring of 2018. The trail will connect the “Delicious Dozen” wing restaurants across the Buffalo region that each have a unique story to tell and serve their own variation on the Buffalo classic. visitbuffaloniagara.com/flavor/wings
THEN: The Harlow C. Curtiss Building was an ornate early 20th century downtown office building that was abandoned by the 1990s.
NOW: The Curtiss Hotel, a 68-room boutique hotel featuring an all-weather urban hot springs, rooftop patio, revolving bar and other high-end amenities, opened in the summer of 2017 in downtown Buffalo. curtisshotel.com
THEN: Republic Steel, once one of the city’s largest employers, operated a sprawling plant along the Buffalo River, just upstream from present-day RiverWorks. It closed by the mid-1980s.
NOW: Tesla, the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere, has opened on the site of the former steel mill. tesla.com/blog/tesla-and-solarcity