When the steel industry declined in the seventies, Buffalo became a poster child for urban decay. Well, Manhattan’s not the only civic miracle of the decade: thanks to NAFTA, the state’s second-largest city is experiencing its own nineties boom. So plan to spend a weekend looking at art and architecture, because although barbarians long ago demolished Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building, Buffalo still has a disproportionately large number of fine structures. Five Wright houses still remain, including one you can go inside: the Darwin D. Martin house (actually two houses in one complex), a defining example of the Prairie Style. Nearby is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a groundbreaking collection of modern and contemporary works. (The Albright-Knox began buying its Picassos and Matisses in the twenties.) Have lunch downtown at the Anchor Bar on Main Street, where Italians first concocted the Buffalo chicken wing; then continue the architectural tour with the Guaranty Building, an extravagant masterpiece in terra-cotta by Wright’s mentor, Louis Sullivan. There is another Wright house on Lake Erie, about fifteen minutes by car from Buffalo, called the Graycliff house, which is also open to visitors. And if you want to dream about architecture, spend the night at the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, 30 minutes southeast of Buffalo. This was the home of the Roycrofters, one of America’s pioneering artist colonies. After an inspirational meeting with William Morris in England, Elbert Hubbard founded the Roycroft Arts and Crafts Community in 1895. It flourished as a complex of studios devoted to print- and furniture-making, bookbinding, and sculpture. The landmark inn has been fully restored, with leaded-glass windows and Stickley reproductions in the rooms. Much of the Arts and Crafts furniture in the public spaces is original, and the restaurant is superb.
DETAILS The Roycroft Inn (800-267-0525; suites start at $120); the Darwin D. Martin complex (716-856-3858, by reservation only); the Isabelle R. Martin House at Graycliff (716-614-6195, by reservation only, April through November); the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (716-882-8700; www.albright knox.org); Anchor Bar (716-886-8920; entrées, $8 to $15).