InnBuffalo: A Buffalo inn with historic heart

Entering InnBuffalo, in the City of Light’s Elmwood Village, is like diving into a Victorian time capsule. Queen Anne stained glass windows glow softly in the vestibule. Step foot in the hall, and plush carpets, a marble-mantled fireplace, and gleaming oak paneling usher you into a magical world.

Owners Joe and Ellen Lettieri have poured their hearts and souls into this Buffalo inn. They call InnBuffalo “Preservation in Progress.”

A boutique hotel with 13 guest suites, the Buffalo inn was originally built in 1889 as a home for Herbert Hills Hewitt and his wife Sarah. The eclectic architectural style is a mixture of stick ornamentation and Arts & Crafts, with a Richardsonian Romanesque porch. Outside, you can still see the two Medina sandstone hitching posts for the horses.

At the time, no expense was spared. Lighting fixtures were electric but also dual-purpose with gas backup. There are many fireplaces, but the home also featured central heat. Look around the walls and you’ll spy nine pneumatic heat control thermostats installed to regulate temperature. Silk damask lines the walls of the front parlor.  Stenciled gold canvas wall coverings are especially prominent in the library.

Library with historic architecture books.
InnBuffalo is an antique treasure trove.

After the Lettieris bought the Buffalo inn in 2011, they found that it retained most of its original elements. Of the original footprint, 95 percent was intact.

The structure had been turned into a boarding house for several decades and the floors were divided into several apartments. When the Lettieris went to work, walls were torn down, paint was peeled back and modern finishes scraped away.

Four years later they opened the InnBuffalo doors to guests.

Each of the 13 guest accommodations reflects either Buffalo’s historic past or aspects of the Hewitts’ lives. The Charles Burchfield Suite on the third floor is an homage to the renowned landscape painter. The Burchfield Penney Art Center is part of Buffalo State University. A gallery and community art hub, it sits across from the Albright Knox Museum (renamed recently to the Buffalo AKG Art Museum).

The Charles Burchfield Suite.
The Industrial Patent Suite on the lower level of this Buffalo inn is a nod to Hewitt’s mechanical mind.

H.H. Hewitt was born in Detroit and came to Buffalo after working with the Pullman Company in Chicago. An industrialist, his goal was to tap into the new electrical energy harnessed from nearby Niagara Falls. He founded the Hewitt Rubber Company and the Buffalo Brass Company. In addition, he joined local titans of business including John J. Albright, and John D. Larkin, and founded the Union Car Company.

Engineering buffs will be tickled to see some of Hewitt’s rail car patents in the Industrial Patent Suite. The décor is that of a steampunk lair with hanging ceiling pipes, exposed brick walls, and black pillars.

A slightly more feminine approach can be seen on the second floor in the Sarah Dutro Suite, named for Hewitt’s wife. The fireplace mantle and built-in desk are made of blond mahogany, wing-back chairs feature floral upholstery, and a warm wooden armoire presides on one wall.

Guest suites offer King beds, most have tiled, ensuite bathrooms with walk-in showers, and some have classic, footed tubs.

Music room with grand piano.
On the main floor of this Buffalo inn, common areas include the library, parlor, dining room, and music room. Want to learn a bit more about Buffalo? The library is filled with books on the city’s history and architecture. Are your fingers itching to play? The music room features an 1871 Chickering Square grand piano. Restored to tunefulness, guests are encouraged to tinkle its ivories.

InnBuffalo breakfast of fruit, scones, and granola parfaits.
In the morning, self-serve breakfast is complimentary. Coffee, tea, freshly baked scones, juices, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt/fruit parfaits are available in the dining room. Come afternoon, treats such as gooey, chocolate brownies appear and can be paired with coffee or a variety of teas.

Depending on the time of year, it’s a joy to sit outside on the grand porch with a beverage and watch the world go by.

Pantry with beverages and snacks.
You can also help yourself, 24/7, to a pantry loaded with soda, beer, water, and wine.

Pool table on lower level.
On the lower level, if you’re feeling like a game, a pool table beckons. Take a look at the walls and you’ll see original tile depictions of windmills and Dutch life. In the corner, a small sculpted sink is available for hand washing. Turn the knobs (hot or cold) and a lovely little waterfall trickles down. A fun spot to unwind, the room has comfy couches and a help-yourself liquor caddy stocked with numerous spirits.

InnBuffalo provides a glimpse into the city’s past while delivering thoughtful comforts of the present.

Rates for suites range from USD$200-$500 per night, depending on day of week, and time of year. Free parking is available on the street or for a fee on site. Wi-Fi included. Early and late check-in for a fee. You can also check Expedia to compare rates.

Hotel feature by Toronto-based travel writer Maureen Littlejohn. Photos © Maureen Littlejohn. Visit Buffalo organized her stay for a number of different stories. Thoughts and opinions, as always, are her own.


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