Tourist attractions in Buffalo, New York

If you only have time to visit one Frank Lloyd Wright building in Buffalo, make it Martin House...

If you only have time to visit one Frank Lloyd Wright building in Buffalo, make it Martin House (1903-05), which Wright once called "the most perfect thing of its kind in the world -- a domestic symphony." (Mike Peake/QMI Agency)

DIANE SLAWYCH, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:57 PM ET

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- For many Ontarians, Buffalo is a popular gateway for cross-border shopping, but tourism officials there are keen to entice visitors to explore the city's many other attractions.

Chief among them is its excellent collection of historic architecture that includes works by Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Eliel and Eero Saarinen, plus one of the largest collections of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings outside Chicago. All this amidst a beautiful parks system, designed by noted 19th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead.

For years, some of the city's most notable structures sat neglected and deteriorating, while others came close to being demolished. But in recent decades, many have been -- or are being -- restored, while other important buildings were saved from the wrecking ball and are now celebrated as part of Buffalo's rich architectural heritage. The must-see list includes:

Kleinhans Music Hall: This National Historic Landmark, designed by father-and-son Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen, is considered to be one of the greatest concert halls ever built in the U.S. Home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Kleinhans Music Hall, which opened in 1940, is famous for its excellent acoustics, and had an influence on many concert halls built after the Second World War, including Festival Hall in London. Judge for yourself at an upcoming performance: Violin concert with Paul Huang (Sept. 30, free), American Chamber Players (Oct. 2), Ben Folds Five (Oct. 5) and Fiona Apple (Oct. 9).

Richardson Olmsted Complex: In a few years, visitors may be able to book a room in one of the city's architectural gems. The former Buffalo State Hospital, built in 1895 and designed by H.H. Richardson, is being converted into a boutique hotel, event and conference space, and Buffalo Architecture Center. The red Medina sandstone building is notable as the first major example of Richardson's revival of Romanesque style. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, consisted of 10 connected pavilions, stretching from either side of the twin-towered administration building in the centre. The grounds, which once covered more than 80 hectares were designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and partner Calvert Vaux (the designers of New York's famous Central Park, among others).

Guaranty Building: One of the most richly ornamented exteriors can be seen on the Guaranty Building, now the Prudential Building at 28 Church St. Decorative designs can be found on the ruddy terra-cotta blocks on the facade of this National Historic Landmark. Considered one of architect Louis Sullivan's best skyscrapers, the building was completed in 1896 and restored in the 1980s after Herculean efforts saved it from demolition.

Ellicott Square Building: If you've ever been inside Chicago's Rookery Building, which is on many architectural tours of the city, you may feel like you're experiencing deja vu on entering Buffalo's Ellicott Square Building (295 Main St.) with its beautiful large glass-enclosed interior courtyard. The stunning mosaic floor contains 23 million pieces of marble depicting various sun symbols. The Italian Renaissance style structure with a granite, iron and terra cotta exterior was designed by Charles Atwood of D. H. Burnham & Co., and was the world's largest office building when completed in 1896.

Darwin D. Martin House Complex: If you only have time to visit one Frank Lloyd Wright building in Buffalo, make it Martin House (1903-05), which Wright once called "the most perfect thing of its kind in the world -- a domestic symphony." Built for wealthy Buffalo businessman Darwin Martin, Wright's patron and best friend, it is unlike the tall Victorian homes in the neighbourhood. Martin House has strong horizontal planes, deep overhanging eaves, and a low cantilevered roof, exemplifying Wright's Prairie House architecture. Also of note are the large number of art glass "light screens," as Wright called the windows, doors and skylights.

The home is connected to four other buildings -- a conservatory and carriage house with chauffeur's quarters, the Barton House and a gardener's cottage, all unified by an integrated landscape design. The $50-million restoration, begun in 1997, is in the final stages of completion. Tours are offered year-round.

For more, check the Visit Buffalo Niagara website at VisitBuffaloNiagara.com or call 1-800-Buffalo.


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