The Elmwood Village Inn
Karen had been studying empowerment and spent time on the issue of how to teach oppressed people empowerment. Her academic advisor recommended her not to go to Cuba, but Karen decided to abandon her Ph.D. program and went to join her husband anyway. They went on many trips together, to Cuba, Greece and Wales where they walked the Freedom Trail together, to follow the path of the Welsh nationalists. From 1993 to 1997 Karen restored and redecorated the Wick’s Mansion and got to apply her artistic and creative talents. In addition she got a bed and breakfast license for the mansion, and started to get some experience as a bed and breakfast hostess.
Life also threw Karen various curve balls: in 1998 Karen was diagnosed with cancer while her husband was diagnosed with a heart condition. They often talked about this and with a dark sense of humour they concluded “now we don’t know who is going to go first…”
A sitting area in the Master Suite
2001 finally became another turning point in Karen’s life: her beloved husband Ed passed away from his heart condition, just after he went bicycling. After Ed’s death Karen decided she needed a change of scenery and moved to Vermont to run a bed and breakfast. She moved around several times, trying to decide what to do, and finally made up her mind to come back to Buffalo. She purchased the 1891 mansion that was to become the Elmwood Village Inn in 2004, and decided to become a hospitality entrepreneur.
Her local knowledge paid off – Karen had picked a fantastic neighbourhood. The Elmwood Village has been chosen as one of the Top 10 Neighbourhoods across America. She decided to get to work and started fixing up the Victorian mansion. It needed a lot of work as it had been quite run down from many years as a lodging house. Karen set about to create more of an open concept on the main floor and created a total of five new bathrooms, some of them were converted from former closets. Much of the infrastructure of the house had to be changed: a new furnace, new central air conditioning and a separate furnace for the third floor had to be installed. Karen has done a lot of work to turn this historic abode into a modern bed and breakfast with lots of unique character.
We started our house tour in the open-concept salon on the main floor that features interesting treasures from Karen’s various travels. This is a popular place for gatherings among guests, and Karen also makes this space available for meetings, poetry readings, fundraisers and other special events. She also showed me her ingenious office-bedroom that is separated from the living room area by a rotating bookshelf that easily transforms her office into a private retreat.
On the second floor are three different suites: the Master Suite, featuring a large king size bed that can be adjusted to two twin beds, and a huge luxurious bathroom; the Middle Suite, decorated in more traditional furnishings and featuring a bathroom with marble walls, floors and ceilings and a Caribbean inspired open shower; and the Middle Eastern Room which is decorated in earthy tones and features artistic pieces from all different parts of the world. The private bathroom for the Middle Eastern Suite is located just across the hall and again features marble walls and floors and a deluxe glass shower and deep bathtub. In the hallway is a kitchenette that allows guests to prepare their own small meals. Unique paintings and sculptures adorn the hallways and the bedrooms.
The warm earth tones of the Middle Eastern Room
Our ascent continued to the second floor, past original stained glass windows in the staircase, to the Skylight Suite which is a fully self-contained apartment under the roof on the second floor. The bedroom features a double bed and a sitting area; right next to it is a fully equipped kitchen with a dining area. Slate floors enhance the kitchen and the bathroom, and the slanted roofline adds to the coziness of this completely self-contained unit that is very popular with families.
Karen also provided me with a bit of background about Buffalo which offers a surprising number of tourist attractions. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is not far way from the Elmwood Village Inn, and more than 50 private and public art galleries attract visitors from near and far. The Shea’s Performing Arts Center and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra are also within easy reach. Architecture lovers will enjoy the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Darwin Martin House, as well as stunning late 19th and early 20th century architecture downtown. Frederick Law Olmstead, the famous landscape architect that created Central Park in New York City, designed several parks in this city. Buffalo’s impressive city hall is a monumental homage to Art Deco architecture.
The spacious Skylight Suite
The Elmwood Village area in particular is a popular destination within the city. Every summer the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts brings thousands of out-of-town visitors into the city, enticing them with an artist’s market, live performances, environmental and cultural demonstrations, and a diverse palette of food offerings from a wide range of vendors. More than 40 restaurants, bars and bistros line the local streets, and eclectic boutiques and shops provide great opportunities for shopping. The Elmwood Village Inn is located smack dab in the middle of this charming neighbourhood.
Our stay in Buffalo was very brief since it was essentially our basis to easily access the Buffalo Airport that was the starting point for our Puerto Rican getaway. In addition, our short time in Buffalo was rather snowy and cold, certainly not the ideal weather for local discoveries. But Buffalo in general, and particularly the surrounding Elmwood Village area, are interesting, diverse destinations that are definitely worth a visit. For us the Elmwood Village Inn was a perfect home base for our short stay in Buffalo, but next time I am definitely planning to come in the summer and spend some more time to explore some of the interesting attractions that Buffalo has to offer.
The Middle Suite