A self-guided tour of the architecture of Buffalo is a fantastic (and free!) way to spend a city break weekend in Western New York. Buffalo hit its stride in the early 20th century and it was during the heyday of the Art Deco style that many of the skyscrapers in Downtown Buffalo were built. If you enjoy architecture, spending a weekend in Buffalo is a must do. Join us as we explore the eclectic styles of well-preserved architecture of Buffalo's downtown core and surrounding area.
Refreshed Opulence at the Newly Opened Curtiss Hotel
We visited Buffalo in August 2017, just a few weeks after the newly renovated Curtiss Hotel opened its doors. The Curtiss Hotel features a Belle Eqoque-inspired French restaurant and an Art Deco facade and interior decorating.
Hotel Henry Urban Resort: A Former Insane Asylum Turned Boutique HotelThe twin towers of Hotel Henry have dominated Buffalo’s skyline near Elmwood Village and Blackrock for as long as I can remember. As a child growing up in Buffalo, the Richardson Olmsted Campus was largely abandoned and in ruins. The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and was built in the 1870s and is now designated a National Historic Landmark. In 2017, the complex was reborn as Hotel Henry, a boutique hotel. I had the opportunity to stay at Hotel Henry for a conference for my “day job”. The hotel features a quaint bar, top notch restaurant, and is walking distance to Buffalo’s Delaware Park, Albright Knox Art Gallery, and Elmwood Village. Wanders the grounds and gardens which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man responsible for Buffalo's extensive park system and wide open green spaces.
The Mansions of Elmwood Village
Buffalo’s Cool Doors
Did you know that Buffalo also has some really cool doors? Just take a walk around Elmwood Village, the streets surrounding Delaware Park, and Buffalo’s West Side and see for yourself. I had breakfast in a renovated Victorian building on the West Side of Buffalo (now Cafe Sweet Ness 7) and discovered this gem of a door. You’ll find both classic and funky specimens if you take a walk around Buffalo’s historic core.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House Complex
Frank Lloyd Wright designed many buildings in Buffalo. Sadly, a number of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces were destroyed in the name of progress in the latter part of the 20th century. Thankfully, some of his projects still remain and are well-preserved including the Darwin Martin House Complex, another National Historic Landmark in the city of Buffalo near the Buffalo Zoo. There is an entry fee to go inside, but you can have a look outside for free. The Darwin Martin House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Buffalo is considered a Rust Belt city because of its industrial past. The U.S. Rust Belt is currently undergoing a renaissance. Consider Pittsburgh, another Rust Belt city that fell onto hard times. Today you'll find tons of fun things to do in Pittsburgh including a visit to Randyland in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood, birdwatching at the National Aviary, and fun walks around Pittsburgh's universities like CMU and Pitt. And did I mention that Pittsburgh has great coffee?
For an interesting read on the rise and fall of Buffalo over the course of the 20th century, check out City on the Edge below.
While I always associated Frank Lloyd Wright with northern midwest cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, did you know that you can find his architecture as far South as Arkansas at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas?
Parkside Candy: An Old-Fashioned Ice Cream ParlourA Taste of Buffalo: What To Eat in Western New York On A Food-Filled Weekend City Break
Buffalo's Art Deco City Hall
Downtown Buffalo's Art Deco Fire Department
Just around the corner from City Hall, continue your self-guided architecture walk and check out the Buffalo Fire Department. Speed lines, one of the hallmarks of the Art Deco style, draw the eye up the tower.
Downtown Buffalo's Guaranty Building
Continue your walk around Downtown Buffalo to the Guaranty Building, a late 19th century skyscaper designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler and is an impressive piece of real estate. Later taken over by Prudential, the Guaranty Building has an exceptional detailed Art Nouveau facade.
Buffalo's Ellicott Square Building
Walk on toward the Ellicott Square Building, another late-19th century addition to Downtown Buffalo. The Ellicott Square Building was built in the Italian Renaissance style by Daniel Burnham.
Buffalo's Liberty Building
The Liberty Building in Downtown Buffalo is another stand-out piece of architecture on the Buffalo skyline. Built in 1925 in a neoclassical style, you can't miss the Liberty Building. On your self-guided walk, simply look for the twin statues of liberty adorning the apex of the skyscraper.
The Dun Building: Buffalo's First High Rise
The Dun Building rises above it's neighbors in Downtown Buffalo and has the distinction of being the first high rise building in Buffalo. Built at the end of the 19th century, the architecture reminded me a bit of buildings I'd seen in lower Manhattan.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for day trip ideas in the Buffalo-Niagara region? Consider taking a trip to Westfield NY where you'll lake views, quaint bed and breakfasts and everything concord grape.
Buffalo's County Courthouse
Buffalo's Erie County Hall (now the county courthouse) is an impressive granite structure built in the 1870s and is another gem to discover on a self-guided walk around Downtown Buffalo.
Gold-Domed Buffalo Savings Bank
Shea's Buffalo Theatre
Shea's Buffalo Theatre is one of Buffalo's most iconic landmarks and is situated along Downtown Main Street. The inside is decorated in a mix of Spanish and French Baroque and Rococo styles. If you want a glimpse of the interior, pop by in the evening after a performance and the ushers might just let you sneak a peek.
Downtown Buffalo's Electric Tower
Buffalo is synonymous with electricity in my mind because of the proximity to Niagara Falls and the hydroelectric induced heydey at the start of the 20th century. The Electric Tower in Downtown Buffalo aptly lights up at night. During a daytime architecture walk, you can admire the Beaux-Arts Classical Revival style of this early skyscraper.
There you have it: a self-guided tour of the highlights of Buffalo's eclectic and well-preserved architecture. Taking yourself on an architecture city tour is a great free way to spend the weekend in Western New York.
Are you interested in learning more about Buffalo's history? Check out: Take A Buffalo River Silo Cruise: Exploring the Queen City's Forgotten History
Map of a Self-Guided Tour of Buffalo's Historic Architecture with a Focus on Downtown.
Click on the image of the map below to open up an interactive version in Google Maps to check out the places where you can find Buffalo's awesome architecture referecned in this post.