Lafayette Hotel - Table of Contents

Description of the Lafayette Hotel 
Based on the Nomination as Buffalo Local Landmark (Listed 4/12/79)

By Alison Kimberly

The Lafayette Hotel is an excellent example of the Renaissance Revival Style as it was adapted to commercial buildings around the turn of the century. The opening of the Lafayette Hotel was planned to coincide with Buffalo's 1901 Pan American Exposition, but the hotel was not actually completed until 1904. It was designed by the Buffalo architectural firm of Bethune, Bethune, and Fuchs; the firm with which the distinguished pioneer woman architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune, was associated. The Lafayette Hotel reigned for years as the luxury hotel of the area. In fact, in its heyday, it was considered to be one of the finest hotels in New York State, including many innovative features in its design.

The interiors of the hotel were custom designed by Duryea and Potter of New York City. This firm designed all of the original light fixtures, carpets, and draperies. The carriage entrance was on Washington Street where the frontage was 122 feet, with 147 feet on Clinton Street. The original lobby was 72 by 84 feet, and was finished in Numidian marble and Mahogany. There was a telephone in every room as well as hot and cold water, and a bath between two rooms.

Additions: In 1908, only four years after opening, the Lafayette management bought the lot in back of the original structure on Clinton Street and extending 250 feet on Ellicott Street, a site larger than that of the old French Church [photo] first bought for the Lafayette. The hotel was then doubled in size in 1912. Shortly after, the heating and power plant was moved to a separate building on the Ellicott Street side. The ballroom was added in 1916. The third addition was made to the Lafayette in 1925, when a lot was purchased south of the hotel, giving fifty additional feet on Washington Street. The ground floor of this addition was originally used as a billiard room, but in 1934 the space was remodeled into a taproom. Modernization of the lobby began in 1941, which made possible the addition of a modern drugstore, a gift shop, and a travel bureau. In 1952, preparatory to the renovation of the guest rooms, modern windows were installed throughout the hotel.

Louise Blanchard Bethune was America's first professional woman architect. At age twenty she received an offer from an office as a draftsman with the Buffalo firm of Richard A. Waite. For five years between 1876 and 1881, she continued as Waite's student and assistant, spending part of the time also with architect F.W. Caulkins of Buffalo. The apprenticeship was productive, for Louise Blanchard not only mastered the techniques of drafting and the art of architectural design, but met her future husband, Robert Armour Bethune, in Waite's office. Bethune came from Canada and had begun his work as a draftsman with Detroit's pioneer architect Gordon Lloyd before venturing to Buffalo. They soon decided to get married. In October 1881 they opened the Architectural firm of Bethune and Bethune. In 1888 Louise Bethune was admitted to the American Institute of Architects as the first woman associate. As early as 1890, with the admission of the architect, William L. Fuchs, to the firm, Louise had indulged in a semi-retirement; continuing as more or less a silent partner in the concern now known as Bethune, Bethune and Fuchs. In 1898 they were invited to plan the 225 room Hotel Lafayette that would, it was hoped, house visitors to the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo.

In 1969, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society placed a marker on the hotel recognizing the fact that Quota International was founded on the site in 1919. Wanda Frey Joiner, a local businesswoman, was responsible for this trendsetting organization of executive women which has flourished since its founding. The Lafayette Hotel was always a popular meeting place. In its time, the Lafayette counted several notable statesmen among its guests.


Page created in 2002 by Chuck LaChiusa
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