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Buffalo, New York

See Buffalo for other places with this name.

Buffalo is a city in western New York. It is the state's second largest city, after New York City, and is the county seat of Erie County6.

Curiously, the city's name arose not from the same-named animal, but from its location at the origin of the Niagara River. Some claim that the name is a bastardization of the French "beau fleuve" - for "beautiful river." Other historians cite the fact that Buffalo Creek was so-named long before the naming of the city, and suggest that the city's name more likely honors the Seneca Indian after whom this small waterway was named.

A panoramic view of Buffalo from the observation deck at the top of the 30-story City Hall reveals much the city's landmarks. Buffalo has the third-oldest zoo in the United States; a science museum; historical museum; the Roswell Park Cancer Institute ; the renowned Albright-Knox Art Gallery; and Kleinhans Music Hall , known for its acoustical quality and home to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra . At the Naval and Servicemen's Park on the waterfront are the cruiser USS Little Rock, the destroyer USS The Sullivans, and the submarine USS Croaker , all open for public viewing. Several other US Navy ships have been named USS Buffalo in honor of the city.



Early History

Most of western New York was granted by Charles II of England to the Duke of York, but the first European settlement in what is now Erie County was by the French, at the mouth of Buffalo Creek in 1758. Its buildings were destroyed a year later because of an impending British attack. The British took control of the entire region in 1763, at the conclusion of the French and Indian War.

The first American to settle in present day Buffalo was Cornelius Winney, who set up a log cabin store there in 1789 for trading with the Native American community. Dutch investors purchased the area as part of the Holland Land Purchase, and parcels were sold through the Holland Land Company's office in Batavia, New York, starting in 1801. The village was initially called New Amsterdam. In 1808 the new Niagara County, New York was formed (including what is now Erie County), and newly renamed Buffalo became its county seat. By 1811, the predominantly Anglo-American village had grown to 500 people.

The 19th Century

On December 30, 1813, during the War of 1812, British troops and their Native American allies captured the village of Buffalo and burned much of it to the ground. Buffalo was rebuilt and incorporated as a town in 1816.

Upon the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, Buffalo became the western end of the 524-mile waterway starting at New York City. At the time Buffalo had a population of about 2,400 people; with the increased commerce of the canal, the population boomed. Buffalo was reincorporated as a city in 1832, at which time it had some 10,000 people. The re-incorporation included the village of Black Rock, which had been Buffalo's rival for the canal site.

Buffalo was a terminus of the Underground Railroad, an informal series of safe houses for runaway slaves who had escaped from the U. S. South in the mid-19th century. After hiding at the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, the slaves could take a ferry to Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada and freedom.

Several U.S. presidents have connections with Buffalo. Millard Fillmore took up permanent residence in Buffalo in 1822 before he became president. Grover Cleveland lived in Buffalo from 1854 until 1882, and became mayor of the city. William McKinley was shot on September 5, 1901 at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and died in Buffalo on the 14th. Theodore Roosevelt was then sworn in on September 14th, 1901 at the Wilcox Mansion (currently a National Historic Site), becoming one of the few presidents to be sworn in outside of Washington.

20th Century Buffalo

At the turn of the century, Buffalo was a growing city with a burgeoning economy. Immigrants came from Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Poland to work in the steel and grain mills which had taken advantage of the city's critical location at the junction of the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal. Hydroelectric power harnessed from nearby Niagara Falls made Buffalo the first American city to enjoy widespread electric power.

The city's importance declined in the 20th Century for several reasons, perhaps the most devastating being the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1957. Goods which had previously passed through Buffalo could now bypass it using a series of canals and locks, reaching the ocean via the St. Lawrence River. The city, which boasted over half a million people at its peak, has seen its population decline by some 50 percent, as industries shut down and people left the Rust Belt for the more moderate winters and air-conditioned summers of the South and Southwest.

Main Street and Lafayette Square, Buffalo, from a 1922 postcard
Main Street and Lafayette Square, Buffalo, from a 1922 postcard

The opening of the Peace Bridge linking Buffalo with Fort Erie, Ontario on 7 August, 1927 was occasion for significant celebrations. Those in attendance included Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VIII of the United Kingdom), his brother Prince Albert George (later George VI), British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Canada's Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King, US Vice President Charles G. Dawes, and New York governor Alfred E. Smith.

Buffalo's new City Hall was dedicated on July 1, 1932.

Notable people from Buffalo

Millard Fillmore,the thirteenth president of the United States, hailed from Buffalo. He also was the first chancellor of the University at Buffalo. Other well-known Buffalonians are baseball pitcher Warren Spahn, Howdy Doody host Buffalo Bob Smith, actor James Whitmore, actor and director Vincent Gallo, Iroquois leader Red Jacket, and Wells Fargo founder William G. Wells .

The city is the birthplace of folk singer and songwriter Ani DiFranco, as well as the home of her independent record label, Righteous Babe Records. The Goo Goo Dolls and Rick James also hail from this city, as did: songwriter Harold Arlen; author Taylor Caldwell; Fran Stryker , the creator of the Lone Ranger; and the seminal 1940s harmonic group, the [[Modernaires; and the chef at the Anchor Bar who first prepared Buffalo chicken wings there in 1964.


Buffalo is located on the eastern end of Lake Erie, at the beginning of the Niagara River, which flows northward over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario. It is located at 4254'17" North, 7850'58" West (42.904657, -78.849405)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 136.0 km² (52.5 mi²). 105.2 km² (40.6 mi²) of it is land and 30.8 km² (11.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 22.66% water.


As of the census2 of 2000,the city had a total population of 292,648. Erie and Niagara Counties have a combined population of 1,170,111 (2000).

At that time there were 292,648 people, 122,720 households, and 67,005 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,782.4/km² (7,205.8/mi²). There are 145,574 housing units at an average density of 1,384.1/km² (3,584.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 54.43% White, 37.23% African American, 0.77% Native American, 1.40% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.68% from other races, and 2.45% from two or more races. 7.54% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 122,720 households out of which 28.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 27.6% are married couples living together, 22.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 45.4% are non-families. 37.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.29 and the average family size is 3.07.

In the city the population included 26.3% under the age of 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $24,536, and the median income for a family is $30,614. Males have a median income of $30,938 versus $23,982 for females. The per capita income for the city is $14,991. 26.6% of the population and 23.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 38.4% are under the age of 18 and 14.0% are 65 or older.


Buffalo has a perhaps undeserved reputation for severe weather. In fact its summers are sunnier than those of most east coast cities, and due to the effect of breezes off Lake Erie, cooler as well. Though the winters are long and cold, they feature no more snow than other northerly cities. The occasionally very heavy snowfall in the region is caused by below-freezing winds blowing over the warmer water of Lake Erie. Often the resulting meandering "snow belts" are only ten or fifteen miles wide, with sun shining in one spot and a raging lake effect blizzard occurring only a mile or two away. Lake Erie is much shallower than the other Great Lakes, and may freeze over in a cold winter. When this occurs, lake effect snowfall ends. Perhaps the best known snow storm in Buffalo history is the Blizzard of '77.

Educational Institutions

Buffalo is home to two State University of New York institutions, Buffalo State College and the University at Buffalo, one of SUNY's four university centers. The city also is home to D'Youville College, Medaille College, Canisius College, and Trocaire College. A campus of Erie Community College is located in the downtown area.

Sports Teams

Buffalo is home to the Buffalo Bills, a charter member of the American Football League now in the NFL, and the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League.

Other local teams include the Buffalo Bisons of baseball's International League; the Buffalo Bandits (indoor lacrosse), Buffalo Wings (Roller Hockey); Buffalo Destroyers (arena football); Buffalo Blizzard (indoor soccer).


The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, or NFTA, operates public transit throughout the Buffalo area. The NFTA runs a number of buses throughout the city and suburbs, as well as an 8-mile Metro Rail system in the city. The NFTA also operates Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The city is served by Buffalo-Depew and Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak stations.


"Names on the Land", by George H. Stewart

"A Short History of Buffalo", from the "Buffalonian"

External links

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45