I recently moved into the Hotel Lafayette. For those who don’t know, the hotel originally opened in 1906 and was designed by Louise Bethune, the first female architect in the country. Louise was a Buffalo Girl, and designed many buildings in Buffalo, including some industrial sites and many schools. She was a pioneer in educational architecture and one of the pioneers of the idea of having a classroom Unfortunately, none of Louise’s schools are still standing, however, we have her beautiful designed luxury hotel.
The Hotel was originally to be built to be used to house the influx of visitors to the City of Buffalo when it hosted the Pan-American Exhibition (a world’s fair) in 1901. However, problems with the investments caused the hotel’s construction to be delayed for 5 years. The newly opened Pan-American Brewery located on the first floor of the Hotel Lafayette pays homage to the Pan-Am Expo.
The Hotel was considered to be a luxury hotel and was noted historically as “one of the 15 best hotels in the country”. It was one of the first hotels to have a telephone in every room as well as the first to have both hot and cold water in every room. For the first 40 years of its existence, the Hotel experienced many a grand party and had several additions added onto the original building. The last significant addition was in the 1940s. The hotel started to decline and a series of negligent property owners caused the property to go into disrepair and eventually became a place that was known around town as being where the people you don’t want to talk to live.
Rocco Termini, of Signature Development, brought the Hotel Lafayette back to its original glory, by completing a 42 million dollar renovation project. It’s amazing at the progress that has been completed in only a year’s time. I went on a walking tour of downtown Buffalo developments in September and got a chance to see the Hotel while it was under construction. I immediately fell in love with the Lafayette and decided I needed to move in as soon as it opened.
Shortly after the tour I went on in September, I called Rocco to get more information about leasing. I signed my lease nearly 6 months before even moving in, I was so excited about the apartments after seeing the building’s progress. I was lucky to be among the first rush of tenants to move in on April 29th. Most of the people moving in that first weekend were other young professionals. As an urban planner who is committed to downtown living, it made me happy to see that maybe my urban pioneer lifestyle is not so out of the ordinary for my age group. My apartment is beautiful! They stocked our kitchens full of beautiful appliances. I chose an apartment on the top floor, with a south view. Out my window, I can see the lake, the ballpark, general mills and the arena. I overlook the courtyard where the Pan-Am Brewery has weddings.
In addition to living here, I’ve been able to experience a few of the Hotel Lafayette’s grand events. I work as a volunteer at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, which held its 150th Anniversary Gala at the Hotel on May 10th. Grover Cleveland’s grandson George Cleveland was in attendance!! That night, I ended up showing my apartment to a few people I knew, and a few people tagged along. One of the people who came to see my apartment was Seymour Knox IV! Those of you who are Sabres fans should know that Seymour’s father was the original owner of the Sabres. That was a surreal experience!
Rocco was also gracious enough to invite the tenants to the Grand Opening celebration on May 29th. During the Grand Opening, the restaurants who are located on the first floor showcased items from their menus. The restaurants include Mike A’s Steakhouse, Pan-Am Brewery, Sweet and Savory, Butterwood and the Marquis D’ Lafayette (they do the catering in the ballrooms).
It’s been an adventure being one of the first tenants, since parts of the building were still a construction site. But things have been great so far. Every day, it seems new things are being done, and slowly but surely the building is being completed. Each new touch added to the building adds to my excitement in the fact that I live in such an important, historic structure. I’m proud to live here, proud to live in a building surrounded by such history, and proud to be a part of some of the regeneration of Downtown Buffalo.