Lafayette Hotel - Table of Contents

Partial reprint
History of The Lafayette: Part Two
By WCPerspective
Buffalo Rising, September 21, 2010   (online July 2017)

Source: National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, prepared by consultants Martin Wachaldo & Frank Kowsky and Daniel McEneny, New York State Historic Preservation Office.

Alterations and Additions, 1913-1937 by Esenwein & Johnson

One of the most pressing needs of the hotel after the opening of the new addition in 1912 was the installation of individual bathrooms in all of the guest rooms in the original building.  The management chose not to return the original architectural firm (which by the spring of 1915 consisted only of William Fuchs), but instead commissioned the local firm of Esenwein & Johnson, who had added a large semicircular marquee to the principal entrance in 1913. 

One of the largest architectural offices in Buffalo, Esenwein & Johnson served as architects to the United Hotels Company, the largest hotel chain on the continent, and thus had a national reputation in hotel design.  Over an eight year period (1914-1922), Esenwein & Johnson oversaw the installation of bathrooms in every guest room that did not originally have one, and the replacement of the communal bathrooms on each floor with new guest rooms.  This highly complicated task was exceeding difficult to accomplish without disturbing guests or hotel operations.

In 1916, Esenwein & Johnson was commissioned to add a ballroom to the hotel.  A two and three-story brick addition was constructed south of the recent addition, extending the hotel footprint to the north line of Darrow Alley.  Completed in 1917, this addition was constructed of brick, with white terra cotta trim on the Ellicott Street facade that is more restrained in design than that used on the earlier building, but nonetheless in sympathy to the original building. 

The principal space was the large rectangular ballroom, with a classically detailed interior unobstructed by columns.  The northwest end the ballroom was connected to the dining room corridor by a foyer, which was likely an earlier room modified for its new purpose.  At the northeast end the ballroom opened into what was likely the large lounge or assembly room in the earlier addition [Americn Automobile Association room]The present women’s lounge, rest room and coat check room were also evidently installed at this time.  All of these spaces are largely intact, but the large windows in the ballroom, three facing south and one facing east, have been considerably reduced in size.

1924 Additions

To keep the Hotel Lafayette current with the latest trends, Esenwein & Johnson were commissioned in 1924 to make further alterations and additions.  The most significant of these was an addition to the south, which was seven stories high facing Washington Street but only two stories to the east, so as not to cut off daylight to the numerous light courts.  Construction began in 1924 and was completed in 1926.  Like the ballroom addition, it was also constructed of red brick with white terra cotta of a much simpler design than the original building. 

The ground floor contained the new billiard room, while additional hotel rooms were located in the seven-story section; the second story of the rest of the addition contained hotel work rooms.  In the early 1930s, the billiard room was converted into a bar, the first hotel bar in Buffalo to open after the repeal of prohibition; soon named the Lafayette Tap Room, it has remained open until earlier this year.  Overall, the addition has had only minor changes since it was built.

Current West Elevation

The Washington Street elevation of the original building (completed in 1904) is seven bays wide, with an additional bay to the south (completed in 1926) which is wider and stylistically distinct from the original design but still complimentary. 

The northwest corner of the building, facing Lafayette Square, is chamfered and entirely clad in white terra cotta, and reads as an additional bay.  The main floor exterior consists of an arcade of wide segmental arched openings framed by terra cotta rusticated ashlar, set upon a stone base.  The large keystones at the top of each arch feature cartouches framed by wreaths.

The present main entrance is located in the fourth bay from the chamfered corner, which was the location of the original main entrance (which retains a small rectangular marquee suspended by chains from the fašade).  The present entrance (remodeled in 1956) is sheathed in plain stone panels and sheltered by a rectangular aluminum marquee with the name “Hotel Lafayette” in large raised white plastic letters facing the street.  On either side of the marquee appears the word “Lafayette.”  (This entrance and an identical one on the Clinton Street elevation are the only significant changes that have been made to the original exterior elevations.) 

The southernmost bay consists of a plain terra cotta post-and-lintel design framing a small storefront (this was the entrance to the Lafayette Tap Room, a venerable local bar and grill that recently closed).

The second story (first floor) of the fašade features a single large window above each arcaded bay of the main floor in the five-bay central section of the elevation and two large windows above the original end bay.  This story is of brick, with terra cotta belt courses at the sill and lintel level of the windows.  Each large window is framed by terra cotta quoins topped by triangular pediments framing small cartouche and wreath designs, alternating with brick planar wall, except for the paired windows at the original corner bays, which are topped by the terra cotta balconies of the story above.  Each large window opening on this story features a wrought iron railing.  A pair of smaller windows, also framed in terra cotta, flanks the large window in the fourth bay from the north (above the entrance).  There are also small windows between the large windows, between the second and third, fifth and sixth, and sixth and seventh bays from the northwest corner that are cut into the planar brick walls and have terra cotta sills only.  These smaller windows light the bathrooms. 

An elaborate wrought iron bowed balcony is the notable feature of the chamfered corner [original entrance] at this story. 

The single bay of the southern addition has two windows and features a simplified version of the original second story treatment.  The terra cotta belt courses continue into the addition and terra cotta quoins framing the windows and corners, echoing the original portion of the building. 

All of the hotel room windows in this building are non-historic aluminum replacements for the original one-over-one frame sash.  These original windows still exist in the stairwells.

The next four stories duplicate the fenestration pattern of the second story, but these are simply treated openings in the solid red brick wall plane, with terra cotta sills and keystones.  The exceptions are the end bays, which are framed in terra cotta for the entire height of the building; those at the third story (second floor) feature terra cotta balconies with wrought iron railings.  At the sixth story of the fourth bay, there is a small terra cotta balcony with wrought iron railing, which is flanked by a pair of small windows. 

The four-story oriel window in the chamfered corner terminates in the sixth story, with a rounded glass top beneath a large cartouche and wreath; the oriel is also flanked by a pair of shield and wreath designs. 

The four stories of the southern addition feature window openings with terra cotta sills and lintels in the plain brick wall.

The top story is simply treated with alternating bands of brick and terra cotta sandwiched between a terra cotta belt course and a projecting terra cotta cornice.  The fenestration pattern is the same as on the third through fifth stories.  A pair of terra cotta cartouches on flaming torches flanks the window of the fourth bay, while the pairs of windows in the original end bays flank stylized lion heads above plaques containing the letter “L” back to back. 

The same device appears in the chamfered bay, flanked by the pair of windows, which are in turn flanked by a pair of vertical modillions.  The richly molded cornice is supported by modillions, which frame underside rosettes, and is crowned with cartouches alternating with fleur-de-lis motifs.

 The top story of the southern addition continues the raised belt course at sill level, and features simple quoins around the windows and corners.  Above is a pair of cartouches at either end of the bay and a simple cornice supported by dentils.

1899  Hotel for this site first mentioned (H. H. Little / Bethune, Bethune & Fuchs)
1900  Construction begins and stops at foundation (Henry Ives Cobb)
1902  Construction begins again, with new design (Bethune, Bethune & Fuchs)
1904  The original hotel is dedicated

1906  Expansion first proposed
1909  Construction begins on east addition (Bethune, Bethune & Fuchs)
1911  Addition is largely complete
1912  Addition is formally opened
1913  New marquee for main entrance (now gone); beginning of Esenwein & Johnson involvement
1914-1922 Bathroom alterations in original section (Esenwein & Johnson)
1916-1917 Ballroom addition (Esenwein & Johnson)
1924-1926 South addition, interior alterations (Esenwein & Johnson)
1928-1929 New elevators (Esenwein & Johnson)

1942  New main lobby installed (Roswell E Pfohl and Design, Inc)
1946  Dining room remodeled
1952  New windows installed in all guest rooms
1953  Television antenna installed
1956  New marquees at both entrances

1962  Sold by Yates family to Carter chain
1970  Dropped ceilings installed in main floor spaces
1978  Sold by Carter chain to Tran Dinh Truong


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