16 of the Best Reasons to Love Buffalo Architecture

Buffalo Architecture: Art Deco Buffalo City Hall
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.

The Best of Buffalo Architecture at a Glance

Downtown Buffalo and the broader city of Buffalo are simply chock full of historic architecture. But where to begin? Check out this list of cool places to visit on a self-guided Buffalo Architecture tour.
  1. The Curtiss Hotel
  2. The Richard Olmstead Campus
  3. The Mansions of Elmwood Village
  4. Buffalo’s Cool Doors
  5. Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House Complex
  6. Parkside Candy: An Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlour
  7. Buffalo's Art Deco City Hall
  8. Downtown Buffalo's Art Deco Fire Department
  9. Downtown Buffalo's Guaranty Building
  10. Buffalo's Ellicott Square Building
  11. Buffalo's Liberty Building
  12. The Dun Building: Buffalo's First High Rise
  13. Buffalo's County Courthouse
  14. Gold-Domed Buffalo Savings Bank 
  15. Shea's Buffalo Theatre
  16. Downtown Buffalo's Electric Tower

Buffalo Architecture in Detail

Now let's do a deeper dive and take a closer look at the best of Buffalo's architecture in more detail.

1. Refreshed Opulence at the Newly Opened Curtiss Hotel

Buffalo Architecture: Art Deco dining room at the Curtiss Hotel in Downtown Buffalo New York

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.
Architecture Buffalo: Chandelier in the Art Deco dining room at the Curtiss Hotel in Downtown Buffalo New YorkBuffalo Architecture: Facade of the historic Curtiss Building in Buffalo, New York
This converted office building in Downtown Buffalo is an ideal spot to spend a city break weekend exploring the architecture of Western New York.

2. The Richard Olmstead Campus

The twin towers of the Richard Olmstead 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.
Buffalo Architecture: Hotel Henry
I don’t recommend staying here though if you are easily spooked. I'm not gonna lie. I was relieved to be checking out of historic Hotel Henry after a 4 night stay. Hotel Henry is quiet, comfortable but incredibly spooky. The hallways look like something out of The Shining. You’ll find cobwebs nestled in the outside corner of the windows. You can even take a hard-hat tour of a wing that is still abandoned and you’ll even see some evidence of the purpose of this building with a room full of wheelchairs and even a hospital bed or two. Given the building’s history, I got a chill while I was staying at Hotel Henry every time I thought about the former residents who once lived here. This was especially true as I lay in my room in the dark. There are even some who believe that Hotel Henry is haunted.

2021 UPDATE: Sadly, the Hotel Henry has permanently closed due to the pandemic. A new owner has come forth and it is hoped that the hotel will reopen as part of the Hilton Curio Collection so stay tuned!

3. The Mansions of Elmwood Village

Buffalo Architecture: Mansions in Elmwood Village
Elmwood Village is just a 10 minute drive from Downtown Buffalo and is a great place for a walk on a Saturday morning. Pick up some treats at the Elmwood Village Farmer's Market and then take a walk and admire the huge Victorian-era mansions. Buffalo is extremely close to Niagara Falls and these streets were some of the first with lights powered by electricity thanks to the hydroelectric power generated by the Falls.
Buffalo Architecture: Mansions in Elmwood Village

Buffalo Architecture: Mansions in Elmwood Village

4. Buffalo’s Cool Doors

My regular readers know that I absolutely love colorful doors and often make a scavenger hunt out of finding the best doors in a city. 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 blue door. You’ll find both classic and funky specimens if you take a walk around Buffalo’s historic core.
Buffalo Architecture: awesome blue door at Sweet Ness 7Buffalo Architecture: Williamsville DoorBuffalo Architecture: Williamsville Door
Williamsville is also loaded with gorgeous doors. Take a drive down Main St. and explore some of the smaller residential side streets to find some of the best Buffalo doors.

5. Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House Complex

Buffalo Architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright's 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. We embarked on a lovely tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Complex in Buffalo. The tour cost $22 per adult at the time of writing for a one hour and 15 minute guided tour. One of Wright's earlier projects at the turn of the 20th Century, this Prairie house was abandoned and fell into disrepair during the great depression. The home was lovingly restored in a renovation completed in 2017.

This Frank Lloyd Wright gem is also known as the Darwin Martin House Complex after the man who commissioned the house and is another National Historic Landmark in the city of Buffalo near the Buffalo Zoo. 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 neighborhoodbirdwatching 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?

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other great cities for architecture? Spend a day in ClevelandChicago, explore Art Deco San Francisco or the Art Deco Historic District of Miami and you won't be disappointed.

6. Parkside Candy: An Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlour

Architecture Buffalo: Parkside Candy sign in Buffalo, New York
Parkside Candy is one of my favorite examples of Buffalo architecture. Parkside Candy is an old-fashioned ice cream parlour with a well-preserved neon sign out front and a pastel interior that screams: "sweet!" Stop in for some sponge candy or orange chocolate. For more on things to eat in Buffalo see: A Taste of Buffalo: What To Eat in Western New York On A Food-Filled Weekend City Break
Buffalo Architecture: Inside Parkside Candy in Buffalo, New York

7. Buffalo's Art Deco City Hall

Explore the architecture of Buffalo: Art Deco City HallBuffalo Architecture: Art Deco crest of the city of Buffalo on the facade of Buffalo City Hall
A self-guided walk exploring the architecture of Downtown Buffalo was a highlight of our weekend city break in Western New York. In particular, Buffalo's City Hall is an Art Deco masterpiece. City Hall is closed on the weekend but walk around outside and admire the overall structure before zooming in on the Art Deco details.
Art Deco Architecture Buffalo: Buffalo City Hall

8. Downtown Buffalo's Art Deco Fire Department

Buffalo architecture walk: 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.

9. Downtown Buffalo's Guaranty Building

Buffalo Architecture: A self-guided architecture walk in downtown Buffalo: Guaranty BuildingBuffalo Architecture: A self-guided architecture walk in downtown Buffalo: 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 Architecture: A self-guided architecture walk in downtown Buffalo: Guaranty Building

10. Buffalo's Ellicott Square Building

Buffalo Architecture: A self-guided architecture walk in downtown Buffalo: 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.

11. 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.

12. The Dun Building: Buffalo's First High Rise

Buffalo Architecture: Liberty BuildingBuffalo Architecture: The Dun Building
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.

13. Buffalo's County Courthouse

Buffalo Architecture: Erie County Hall / 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.

14. Gold-Domed Buffalo Savings Bank 

Architecture Buffalo: Gold dome of Buffalo Savings Bank
One of my favorite buildings that I discovered on my self-guided walk around Downtown Buffalo was the over-the-top gold-domed Buffalo Savings Bank. Built in neoclassical Beaux-Arts style, Buffalo Savings Bank is a real architectural treasure (see what I did there? ;-)).
Architecture Buffalo: Buffalo Savings Bank

15. Shea's Buffalo Theatre

Buffalo Architecture: 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.

16. Downtown Buffalo's Electric Tower

Architecture Buffalo: 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 referenced in this post.
Buffalo Architecture Map

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Exploring the Historic Architecture of Buffalo New York on a City Break Weekend
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 16 of the Best Reasons to Love Buffalo Architecture
16 of the Best Reasons to Love Buffalo Architecture
Explore Buffalo architecture on a city break weekend in Western New York. Appreciate Buffalo architecture including Art Deco and Victorian examples.
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