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What It Looked Like Wednesday: The 'exclusive and sumptuous' Lenox Hotel

The Lenox Hotel is a noteworthy part of Buffalo's history — for many reasons.

For one, it's Buffalo's oldest operating hotel, one that played host to many wealthy visitors to the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. It also briefly was home to famed author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

For many today, the most important thing about the building is that a restaurant inside it supposedly has the city's largest variety of beer.

Regardless of which of these facts piques your interest, the Lenox stands as one of Buffalo's most historic structures.

Built in 1896, the Lenox Hotel was envisioned as a luxury apartment tower. Its location on North Street near Delaware Avenue gave it panache, since it was adjacent to Buffalo's society set living in the mansions on Delaware. The eight-story tower is built in the Venetian Gothic style with buff-colored bricks and with inner steel construction. It was billed as "absolutely fireproof."

In 1898, Fitzgerald briefly stayed at the Lenox when he was an infant with his parents, Edward and Mollie. Edward worked for Proctor & Gamble in Buffalo. The family later moved out of the Lenox and into an apartment at Summer Street and Elmwood Avenue.

But as the 1901 Pan-American Exposition grew closer, the demand for hotel rooms grew for the throngs of visitors to the fair. The Lenox was converted into a hotel for exposition visitors of "wealth, social refinement and prominence" who expected "aristocratic accommodations," according to the Lenox's website.

The book "Buffalo — Old and New," published in 1901, describes the luxury accommodations:

This most exclusive and sumptuous hotel, with its beautiful surroundings, velvety lawns and magnificent apartments, has long distance telephones in rooms, with free telephonic service throughout the house. All water used for any purpose is either filtered or distilled. It is fitted up on the latest and most improved principles of scientific sanitation, and has a spacious roof garden, from which can be had an unobstructed view for miles in every direction. High speed noiseless elevators, and unexampled service are in evidence, and massive carved furniture, rich draperies and tapestries, statuary and paintings combine to give a general effect unsurpassed even in these days of luxury.

At the time of the exposition, the Lenox operated a restaurant on the eighth floor that provided extended views of Buffalo and the waterfront.

In the 1940s, it was reconfigured yet again to more than 150 hotel rooms, many with kitchenettes for extended-stay guests.

Over the years its guest register included Aaron Copland, Henry Fonda, Duke Ellington and Harry Belafonte.

Today, the exterior of the Lenox is remarkably unchanged, except for a new main entrance and missing ornamentation along the roof line. Anthony Trusso, of Tru Development, has owned it since 2005. It operates mostly as an apartment building, with a small cluster of hotel rooms. The Lenox Grill restaurant is in the basement.

The Hotel Lenox on North Street in Buffalo, pictured in 2004. (Harry Scull Jr./News file photo)

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