Louise Bethune Circle

“When I was growing up in Buffalo, no one told me about the significance of the Olmsted parks and parkways that surrounded me every day. No one mentioned Buffalo’s many internationally renowned architectural landmarks. I never knew about the city’s remarkably diverse and historic neighborhoods. Like most of my friends, I left Buffalo when I graduated from high school, and sadly, I departed with essentially no knowledge of my hometown’s astonishing history.

Explore Buffalo, founded in 2014, now leads thousands of students on tours that educate and inspire. These young people will become the city’s leaders in the years to come, and their new-found understanding of Buffalo’s past will help them to build the city’s future. I’m proud to support Explore Buffalo’s essential work through the Louise Bethune Circle.”

Lauren Belfer, Louise Bethune Circle Honorary Chair and New York Times bestselling author of And After The Fire, A Fierce Radiance, and City of Light

Celebrate a Buffalo icon by joining the Louise Bethune Circle – Explore Buffalo’s premiere giving Circle – and play a leading role in supporting educational programs for learners of all ages to discover Buffalo’s stunning architecture, fascinating history, and vibrant neighborhoods.

Named after Buffalo trailblazer and America’s first woman architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune, the Louise Bethune Circle was created to help Explore Buffalo further realize its mission: to celebrate our architectural treasures and landmarks; tell the collected stories of the diverse members of our community and their remarkable contributions to our city’s history, and spotlight the city’s many distinctive neighborhoods. Learn more about Louise Bethune below.

The Circle is comprised of individual members who appreciate and celebrate the best Buffalo has to offer as a vibrant American city that continues to shape the future.  Members enjoy access to some of the most celebrated buildings and spaces along with opportunities to meet with experts and scholars.

Louise Bethune Circle Honor Roll

Louise Bethune Circle Levels

Four levels of Louise Bethune Circle membership are available, beginning with a gift of $250 annually.  The four levels of the Circle are below:

  • Surveyors $250 – 499
  • Pathfinders $500 – 999
  • Explorers $1,000 – 2,499
  • Trailblazers $2,500 and above

All Louise Bethune Circle members enjoy special benefits* that provide greater access and learning opportunities about Buffalo’s architecture and history including:

  • Complimentary invitations for two to intimate Circle members only events to meet and mingle with noted experts in architecture and history
  • Two complimentary tickets to the Winter Speaker Series
  • Complimentary invitation for two to the Annual Awards and Recognition Luncheon
  • Recognition on the Louise Bethune Circle Honor Roll (website) and Annual Report

Additional Benefits are as follows: 

$500 – $999
$1,000 – $2,499 

              $2,500 +           

4 complimentary walking tour passes to share with family and friends




Personal concierge service to schedule your tour request



Lunch with our Executive Director



Joining the Louise Bethune Circle

Please follow the link below to donate online using a credit card: 

Donate Online 

Donations may also be made by sending a check payable to Explore Buffalo to:
Explore Buffalo, One Symphony Circle, Buffalo, NY 14201.

Please contact Susan Reeder, Development Coordinator, with any questions at susan@explorebuffalo.org or (716) 245-3032 ext. 206.

About Louise Blanchard Bethune 

Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856-1913) was a pioneer for women in the profession of architecture.  After graduating from Buffalo Central High School, she apprenticed as a draftswoman with local architect Richard A. Waite.  In 1881, at the age of 25, she opened her own firm, R.A. and L. Bethune, along with her fiancé, Robert.  Bethune designed 18 schools and a number of factories in Buffalo alone.  The Chandler Street Complex, known today as a prime example of adaptive reuse in industrial architecture, was designed by her for the Buffalo Weaving Company. Some of her private home designs still stand in Buffalo today, most notably along the elegant Richmond Avenue.

Her crowning achievement was the Hotel Lafayette, which opened in 1904 with 225 hotel rooms.  It is the only existing example of French Renaissance architecture in the City of Buffalo. Today, her masterpiece still proudly stands and functions as a mix of a hotel, a private apartment building, and a restaurant and event space.

Bethune is considered America’s first woman professional architect.  She recognized pay inequality as early as 1891, when she refused to design for the Chicago World’s Fair as the wage gap between men and women architects became clear. Bethune was also the first woman to be admitted as a fellow in the American Institute of Architects in 1889.  An apartment complex in North Buffalo, the Bethune Lofts, is named in her honor.