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Historic hotel wins top recognition; The Mansion on Delaware Avenue honored by national preservation group

The Mansion on Delaware Avenue has been inducted into the Historic Hotels of America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation's prestigious seal of approval.

The move exposes the Mansion -- and the region -- to a following of millions of wealthy, educated cultural tourists and a network of "historic-friendly" business meeting planners.

According to studies by Visit Buffalo Niagara, that type of traveler spends about 30 percent more than the average tourist, giving the region a potential influx of tourism dollars.

"Buffalo is in a unique position to attract more of those travelers," said Michael P. DiRienzo, director of sales for the Historic Hotels of America program.

The 28-room hotel on Delaware Avenue at Edward Street is the first in the Buffalo Niagara region to be listed, and one of only 12 in the state, including New York City's famed Waldorf Astoria and Lake George's Sagamore. The designation was created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"This is absolutely a milestone moment we can build from," said Mayor Byron W. Brown, at the Mansion on Friday.

To qualify, a hotel must be nominated, at least 50 years old and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized as having historic significance. It goes through a series of reviews by architects and other experts who study its national, state and local historic significance and who vet its quality and service.

"It's a pretty high bar," said DiRienzo.

The influx of tourists and money brought by the National Preservation Conference as well as the success of the Mansion as a private investment are "waking up" locals to the rich and valuable resources in the region, said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president of Visit Buffalo Niagara, the region's visitors and convention agency.

"If you live in Buffalo and you can't understand why anyone would want to put $25 million into the Darwin Martin House, this validates it," Gallagher-Cohen said.

The Mansion was designed by George Allison, built in 1869 as a private residence but converted to a hotel soon after. From 1947 to 1977, it housed the Victor Hugo Wine Cellar and some apartments, but sat vacant and in disrepair until the current owners bought it in 1998, spending $3 million to convert it into a luxury, butlered hotel.

The Mansion is the only property in Buffalo to receive AAA's four-diamond rating. It's also top rated in the Zagat Survey.