BUFFALO — In an ideal world, the Hotel Lafayette would have been completed before the start of the Pan-American Exposition here in 1901. But completion of the seven-story French Renaissance-style building, designed by Louise Bethune, the first woman architect invited to join the American Institute of Architects, was delayed. It opened three years after that world’s fair. In the ’40s, elegant Art Moderne touches were added to the foyer, bar, and ballrooms. But by the 1970s, the brick and white terra-cotta building in the heart of Buffalo’s business district had become derelict.
It would remain an urban eyesore for the next four decades until favorite son and developer Rocco Termini, using the original specs, spent $43 million on renovations, giving the grande dame a much-needed facelift. It reopened last May as the Hotel @ the Lafayette. Walk inside the Pan American Grill and you’ll find the long wooden bar and century-old red herringbone quarry tile flooring. The brass on the chandeliers in the Crystal Ballroom is once again sparkling, the marble wainscoting in the lobby looking as originally intended. Another highlight is the vintage Art Deco lounge, across from the upscale restaurant, Mike A’s, that serves pre-Prohibition-era drinks popular during the exposition.