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Then and Now: Buried Treasure

These images show the corner entry of the Lafayette Hotel across from Lafayette Square.  The older image shows the entry as we have known it for probably the last 40 years – with a bland canopy, sign, and door surround not to mention the electric blue and white color scheme. (Though as I look at it there is a possibility that this change goes back to the 1930s art deco lobby renovation) The more recent image, sent to me by BRO’s West Coast Perspective, shows the original entry now exposed to view. Restoration workers have recently removed these past “improvements” which had long covered its wonderful detail. 
The density and intricacy of the detail around this doorway is amazing.  Uncovering a long hidden treasure like this is like going back in time.  What was in the collective mind of a society that decided the beautiful craft of this door needed to be banished in favor of the bland?  It is likely that at the time this door was being modernized the beautiful old Richardsonian Buffalo Library was being torn down right across the street.  Historic buildings were under attack in a way that would shock even today’s tear-down crowd. I do have some insight into their thinking.  I remember seeing the brilliant white M&T Plaza tower when it was brand new.  The striking affect of that white building at that time cannot be understated.  The old buildings around it were uniformly black from ages of coal soot.  Until city hall was cleaned in the 1970’s I had thought that it was a black building rather than the honey color we know now. The antiquated dark old buildings at mid century just did not speak to people’s souls anymore.  Modern design gave promises of a new way of life.  The old had to go either in part or in whole.
Seeing the grimy tone of the newly exposed old terra cotta around this Lafayette doorway is like a view back to that time.  They had to make the old building look new if it was not yet convenient to get rid of it all together.  Thankfully most of the detail below the modern covering was retained for us today.    Look back at the before image.  Soon all those magnificent first floor arched windows will be opened up and filled with businesses.  This door, and the whole building it is attached to, is one big buried treasure. 

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

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