After years of being utilized primarily for weddings, with no real public access except for the occasional event, The Marcy Casino is about to undergo a significant transformation. Taking notes from the boathouse in Central Park, Jason Davidson and Mike Shatzel (current catering operators at The Marcy), have opted to convert the top floor of Buffalo’s historic boathouse into a restaurant, with bar, called The Terrace.
This is an exciting development for the boathouse, and for Delaware Park. For years, the Marcy Casino was looked upon as a building that was inaccessible except for those attending weddings. In recent years, Jason and Mike have been hosting a number of public events at the building, in order to ‘test out’ the viability of creating a permanent food and drink operation on the top floor. After a blessing from the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the plan will move forward, and The Terrace will open in early summer.
The plan is to offer an a la carte menu, with seating for 165 people (indoor and out). The interior of the restaurant will pay homage to the historic nature of the boathouse. Only one wall will be taken down – the rest of the build-out is mostly aesthetic in nature. A grand fireplace will be installed, tin ceilings will be added, and a wood floor will be put down. Historic murals will accent the restored architectural details, and there will be a heavy emphasis on serving out on the spectacular terrace overlooking Hoyt Lake.
The first floor of the boathouse will continue to function as a wedding venue, operated by Magnolia Events, the same business that will be running the restaurant. That means that the weddings held at the site will be ‘business as usual’. It just so happens that the second floor was never really utilized to begin with, and was considered somewhat of a waste of space. “We began hosting Thursday night ‘Hoppy Hour’ in the building,” Jason told me. “It turned out to be a big hit. People would come up to me and say that had never been inside the building, which was incredible to think that this beautiful building was not accessible to so many people for so long. This building should be a source of pride for the neighborhood, not the mystery that it currently is.”
The funding for the restaurant conversion will be private. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy is anticipated to profit more that $100K a year, which would be a big boost to the organizations coffers. The money raised through rent would go towards continuing to stabilize and enhance the building and the grounds. Already a plan is being formulated to remove the driveway/parking lot the runs in-between the boathouse and the Rose Garden. In the future, there will be a seamless entranceway, filled with flower gardens instead of the ugly asphalt that is found today.
In the summer, the boathouse will be filled with vibrant flowery plants, and in the winter it will transition into a cozy chalet. Jason and Mike plan on hosting some classy live music on the terrace, while people eat. They are also going to be lighting up the exterior of the building with LED fixtures. Following Green Code specs, a bike corral will be incorporated into the grounds. There are also talks of bocce courts being incorporated into the plan, which is brilliant.
BMS Design is tackling the historic project, and ensuring that as much of the historic integrity of the building remains intact, while reintroducing elements that have been lost over the years. The front of the bar (see inset mock up) will boast a design tribute to Calvert Vaux – Olmsted’s architect partner. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, featuring 20 craft beers and a full bar. Guests will be able to eat and drink, while looking out over the water, which will be filled with Maritime Center’s rowboats. There is also talk about working with the West Side Rowing Club about storing some single rowing sculls in the boathouse, and offering practices and races to rowers (the lake is perfect for that sort of sport). Jason also suggested that there might be dingy sailing boats for kids, where they could race around the lake while their parents watched from The Terrace.
It’s an exciting new day for Olmsted and park advocates. It’s a new day for the boathouse, and one that many people never would have thought would come to pass.
Above photo: Joe Cascio – Party for The Parks