When you visit even a few of the architectural treasures of Buffalo, you begin to understand why it is one of the most significant architectural cities in America.

by Katie Johnson

There is so much to explore, why wait? Whether by car, bike or foot, make your own fun exploring the beautiful buildings of Western New York

Even before American architect masters like Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and H.H. Richardson made their mark on Western New York, Buffalo was a city intended for big things—beginning with the road system originally built here in the 19th century.

Built To Impress

Buffalo was originally designed to be an “Americanized Paris”, featuring a system of radiating boulevards

“Buffalo has a radial street plan,” explains Olivia McCarthy, Deputy Director of Explore Buffalo, an organization offering architectural tours of Western New York throughout the year.  Originally designed to be an “Americanized Paris”, featuring a system of radiating boulevards, Buffalo’s street plan was loosely based on Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s vision for Washington D.C.—enriching the views of some of our incredible downtown structures to this day. 

“It’s nice to be able to walk from Lafayette Square to Niagara Square . . . you just really get that visual experience of seeing how Buffalo springs out from those centers,” shared Olivia, describing some of the views in the Explore Buffalo Best of Buffalo Downtown Walking Tour. “It’s also a fun pathway just because you get to see a variety of different architectural styles. I mean, Lafayette, you’ve got this beautiful French Renaissance style but then right next door, you’ve got this Modern style with the library and then you’re walking up to City Hall, which is this beautiful Art Deco landmark, but along the way you see more Art Deco. You see some kind of Beaux-Arts, more lavish styles and elements. So it’s visually just really engaging.”

Historic Districts

Elmwood Village (East and West) is one of the largest historic districts in the country

While downtown holds many of Buffalo’s prized architectural structures, across the city you can see buildings inspired by Buffalo’s Gilded Age, 1870 to 1900, from Millionaire’s Row on Delaware Avenue to the Vitcorian homes of Elmwood Village—their charm kept preserved by local and national Historic Preservation Societies.  “When we’re talking about Delaware District and Elmwood Village, just those specifically, so much grew out of our waterfront and obviously, just the amount of commerce and industry that came after the Erie Canal . . . that’s what you can point to in terms of how Buffalo exploded in such a great way . . . when we’re talking about some of these neighborhoods, they really kind of grew up and cropped up around different transportation areas, Elmwood Village had a streetcar system and that’s why you see so many of these large streets that have an incredible amount of housing, and it’s been untouched, because of local preservation.” Elmwood Village (East and West) is one of the largest historic districts in the country.

Explaining more about Explore Buffalo’s Hidden Gems of the Delaware District Tour Olivia shares, “It not only touches on the Millionaire’s Row history, but it focuses pretty closely on Oakland Place as well, which is just a street over from Delaware Avenue. It’s just gorgeous houses by really prominent families in relation to Buffalo’s boom times of the Gilded Age. So it’s really fun, I think, for people to see maybe kind of off the beaten path of Delaware Avenue and learn some of the history of the people and the families.” The infamous Goodyear Family being one of them.

Notable Landmarks & Public Spaces

The Buffalo History Museum was constructed in 1901 and is to-date the only surviving permanent structure from the exposition

Some of Buffalo’s most popular surviving landmarks can be tied back to the Pan-American Exhibition—a World’s Fair held throughout the city from May 1 – November 2, 1901. Thomas Edison famously filmed the exposition during the day and took a pan of it lit up at night. 

Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Designed by Edward Brodhead Green (E.B. Green) the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, soon to be renamed the Buffalo AKG Art Museum after undergoing an extensive renovation in 2020, was built between 1890-1905 for the Pan-American Exposition.

Delaware Park System

Home then to the World’s Fair in 1901, Buffalo’s Delaware Park is an interconnected park and parkway system rather than stand-alone parks by Frederick Olmsted—his first designed city ever to do so. 

Buffalo History Museum

Situated in the northwest corner of Delaware Park, the Buffalo History Museum was constructed in 1901 as a pavilion for the Pan-American Exposition, and is to-date the only surviving permanent structure from the exposition.

DIY Buffalo Architecture Tours

There is so much to explore, why wait? Whether by car, bike or foot, make your own fun exploring the beautiful buildings of Western New York utilizing these free architectural tour guides created by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. 

Cultural Buildings Tour

By Car: 16.9 miles (1 hour, 10 minutes)

Enjoy a drive by of 21 cultural and residential buildings around Buffalo featuring buildings like the Albright-Knox, the Richardson Olmsted Complex, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House Complex, the Wilcox Mansion and Buffalo Central Terminal.

Delaware Park Points of Interests Tour

By Car: 6.4 miles (25 minutes)

By Foot: 5.5 miles (1 hour, 50 minutes)

By Bike: 6.1 miles (37 minutes)

Become one with nature on this tour that highlights 10 sites in and around Delaware Park: the Albright-Knox, the Richardson Olmsted Complex, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House Complex, and the Blocher Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

Downtown Buildings Tour

By Car: 3.4 miles (27 minutes)

By Foot: 1.8 miles (38 minutes)

By Bike: 2.2 miles (30 minutes)

Become acquainted with 16 buildings in downtown Buffalo featuring: Ellicott Square Building, Guaranty Building, Hotel Statler, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo Savings Bank and City Hall.

Industrial Buildings Tour

By Car: 21.5 miles (50 minutes)

Get into your grain elevators on this tour highlighting eight industrial structures throughout Buffalo.

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