Buffalo’s strategic location and its major inland port at the western tip of New York, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, has established it as the state’s second-largest city and a major commercial and industrial center. These two Great Lakes are connected by the Niagara River, with Niagara and Erie counties as its east bank and Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula as its west. The smaller Buffalo River runs through the city’s southern section. Toronto, Canada’s largest urban area, is just across the waters of Lake Ontario to the north.
The Iroquois and Seneca people originally inhabited this area. In 1790 the Holland Land Company purchased land and designed a new community using Washington, DC, as a model. With the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal, connecting Buffalo to the Hudson River and New York City, Buffalo experienced rapid growth as a major distribution center, especially for grain from the Midwest. In 1843, the world’s first grain elevator was built here. By 1850 the city was a major grain and livestock market and was the leading flour-milling center in the country. Steel mills went up as railroads connected Buffalo with the vast coal and iron-ore sources in Pennsylvania and Lake Superior.
In the 1890s, nearby Niagara Falls opened a new hydroelectric power plant, and in 1901 Buffalo hosted the Pan-American Exposition, a move that firmly established its international reputation as an industrial hub. Buffalo was to reach its peak in the 1950s, with a population at that time of 580,000 and a thriving steel industry.
Competition from abroad led the city into an economic downturn, and by 1980 the population was fewer than 300,000. Heavy industry was replaced recently with high-tech manufacturing, international trade, and also medical research, but the city is still known as a leading flourmilling center. The current population is 332,000.
The Albright-Knox Gallery, just north of downtown, offers modern art, including works from van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso. Delaware Park has an area of 350 acres and is also the site of one of the oldest zoos in the nation, the Buffalo Zoo. The park also includes a 46-acre lake.
Delaware Avenue is lined with both nineteenth- and twentieth-century mansions. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright built several homes in the Buffalo area. His Darwin Martin House is nearing completion of a $15 million restoration. Allentown is an area of restored early American houses in downtown Buffalo and is also the site of an annual arts festival.
Niagara Square is a historic district with the attractive Art Deco Buffalo City Hall and McKinley monument, a stone obelisk that is dedicated to President William McKinley, who was assassinated in Buffalo in 1901. More history is on offer at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Museum, with its reproduction of an 1870 Buffalo street.
Nearby are some of Canada’s most famous wineries, including Inniskillin, which is worldfamous for its Ice Wine. Options for dining and lodging are plentiful throughout the region. “Buffalo wings,” extra-spicy chicken wings, are a specialty.
Buffalo sits right in a major snow belt so snow in May and June is not uncommon.
Numerous commercial flights are available at the Greater Buffalo International Airport and trains and buses also service the area.