I photographed designer Ali Eagen on the rooftop of the Hotel Lafayette last month for a story about the relocation of her showroom and workshop Anatomy to the newly re-opened Art Deco inspired ground floor of the Hotel Lafayette after years of residency on the Elmwood Strip.
Ali is a vibrant young entrepreneur and creative whose handmade and tailored clothing rejects mass production in favor of craftsmanship, an idea that goes hand in hand with the resurrection of the building where she has chosen to house her shop. Anatomy had been a client of mine in the past, but this was really my first chance to work on a story with Ali herself as the subject, and I was very excited to be able to photograph her on the expansive rooftop of this great Buffalo landmark on one of the most beautiful evenings of the year.
As one of the great grand hotels of the early twentieth century, the Hotel Lafayette is steeped in stories and bits of historical significance stretching back to the turn of the century, but buildings are often reflections of the cities they inhabit. For decades Buffalo’s downtown had been in decline as residents moved to the suburbs and the cultural and artistic core of the city moved further away from the once bustling streets of downtown. Most nights downtown was like a ghost town except for a few scattered pockets of activity. The Hotel Lafayette, once the première destination in the city, was not immune to this decline and suffered from years of falling into disrepair, ill repute, and suffering from inattentive out-of-town management – But people are starting to breathe life back into the downtown center of Buffalo as the city takes its first lumbering steps towards reinvention. As the area begins to buzz again, developer Rocco Termini has spent the last few years resurrecting the hotel into one of the most exciting new developments in Buffalo, a mixture of hotel space, retail and dining, and luxury rental units that have brought life back to a derelict block.
I am so glad to see Anatomy added to the roster of businesses that the hotel hosts – restaurants, a furniture showroom, florist, and a wonderful bakery have opened up alongside her and have made the hotel an amazing destination. I love history, I’m a total nerd for it – Nothing gets me like a good story and the fascination that comes with delving into the details and minutiae that surround it. But for this historic hotel in Buffalo, NY and residents like Ali the story that is unfolding now might be the most vibrant and important one in its long history.