Open main menu

The New International Encyclopædia/Buffalo (New York)

BUFFALO (named from Buffalo Creek). The county-seat of Erie County, N. Y., one of the most important commercial ports of the Great Lakes, and, next to New York, the largest city in the State (Map: New York, B 3). It is at the eastern end of Lake Erie, at the head of the Niagara River, 20 miles above Niagara Falls, 540 miles east of Chicago, 297 miles west of Albany, and 410 miles by rail northwest of New York.

Description. The city occupies an area of 42 square miles. It is situated on ground rising gradually from the lake to an extended plain at an elevation of 50 feet (altitude 600 feet above sea-level). The streets generally are broad and cross each other at right angles, are beautifully shaded and well paved, considerably more than half (356 miles) of the total street mileage being paved, and about two-thirds of this distance (233 miles) with asphalt. Main Street, the principal business thoroughfare, runs northerly from the lake-front. Near Lafayette Square, Niagara Street, the main road to Tonawanda, starts from Main Street on a diagonal line. This is the centre of the business district. Here are the large office buildings, including many tall, steel-framed structures. The residential sections of Buffalo are marked by the large proportion of detached houses owned by the occupants. In the fashionable district the principal avenues are Delaware Avenue and North Street: here the houses are surrounded by ample lawns and trees and shrubs, which give this section of the city the picturesque appearance of a suburb. The same features of domestic architecture are carried out in the newly developed sections of the North Side. Many handsome buildings adorn the city; among these mention may be made of the new United States Government Building, which cost about $2,000,000; the city and county hall, of granite, with a tower 245 feet high; the State Armory and Arsenal; Music Hall; Merchants' Exchange; Masonic Temple; Y. M. C. A. Building; Fitch Institute; General Hospital; State Insane Asylum; the Erie County Penitentiary; Buffalo Library; Grosvenor Library; the Roman Catholic and Protestant Episcopal cathedrals; Board of Trade Building; the Erie County Savings Bank; Buffalo Savings Bank; Mutual Life and Prudential buildings; the D. S. Morgan Building; and Ellicott Square, the last named covering an entire block, and said to be the largest office building in the world.

The Buffalo street railways were among the first to adopt electric traction and the system of free transfers. Numerous lines, the entire system covering 185 miles, furnish transit to all sections of the city, and also to neighboring towns. An abundant water-supply is derived from the lake, and the sewerage system, comprising 416 miles of mains (140 paved with brick and 276 with tile), not only covers the whole city, but has a large outfall sewer discharging into the swift current of Niagara River.

The park system of Buffalo includes over 1000 acres, and consists of a chain of parks and parkways nearly encircling the city. The principal plots are the Front, of 45 acres, where the waters of the lake form themselves into the Niagara, and north of which is Fort Porter, a small military post; the Delaware Park, of 365 acres, adjoining which are the State Insane Hospital grounds, of 200 acres, and Forest Lawn Cemetery, of 230 acres; Humboldt Park, including about 56 acres, and three large parks in the south: Stony Point, on the lake shore; South Park; and Cazenovia Park. Besides these, and the connecting park boulevards and circles, there are minor spaces scattered about the town aggregating about 60 acres. The principal public monuments are the Soldiers and Sailors', in Lafayette Square, and those to Red Jacket and President Fillmore, in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Institutions. Besides its many churches of all denominations, and a large variety of charitable institutions, Buffalo is noted as the home of the first Charity Organization Society in the country (founded in 1877). Its home in the Fitch Institute is the headquarters for a large amount of philanthropic work, prominent among which is the crêche, or day nursery for children whose mothers are at work, with its kindergarten and training school for nursery maids. Among other philanthropic institutions may be mentioned the Orphan Asylum, Home for the Friendless, Saint Vincent's and Saint Joseph's (Roman Catholic) orphanages, State Insane Asylum, Buffalo General Hospital, Church Home for Aged Women, Saint John's Orphan Home, Saint Mary's Asylum for Widows and Foundlings, Saint Mary's Institution for Deaf Mutes, and Ingleside Home for Erring Women.

Educational institutions are numerous and efficient, one-fifth of the annual tax levy being allotted to the educational department of the city. In addition to the public schools, which include three high schools, a training school for teachers, and many kindergartens, there are a State Normal School, the University of Buffalo, Saint Joseph's and Canisius's colleges (Roman Catholic), the German Martin Luther Seminary (Evangelical Lutheran), Academy of the Sacred Heart, Holy Angels' Academy, etc. Two municipal libraries, aggregating about 235,000 volumes, are supplemented by school and collegiate, and Historical Society, Society of Natural Sciences, Law (Eighth Judicial District), Erie Railroad, German Young Men's Association, Lutheran Young Men's Association, Merchants' Exchange, and Y. M. C. A. libraries. The Buffalo Library Building is occupied also by the Fine Arts Academy and the Society of Natural Sciences, both of which have interesting collections illustrating many subjects in their particular lines.

Commerce and Industry. Buffalo is one of the most marked of large American cities in its recent development, and owes its prosperity to commerce. Although the city is so well located for a great commercial centre, originally the only harbor was in the shallow water of Buffalo Creek. The United States Government has constructed a series of breakwaters, forming both an inner and outer harbor, and is building a new breakwater to Stony Point, which will increase greatly the area protected from storms. The State has constructed Erie Basin, at the terminus of the Erie Canal, and the city has deepened Buffalo Creek, and constructed a ship canal to increase the wharf facilities. There is now a wharf frontage of 8 miles, with ample room for further extensions along Niagara River and along the lake.

Several great steamship lines and innumerable independent vessels ply to the chief ports on the Great Lakes, and there are several ferries to the Canada side, besides the International Bridge, completed at a cost of $1,500,000. The city is connected with the tide-waters of the Hudson by the Erie Canal, and with ports on Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River by the Welland Canal, and is also the terminus or connecting-point of a score of railroads. Among them are the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern; Michigan Central; Grand Trunk; New York Central; West Shore; Lackawanna; Wabash; Pennsylvania; New York, Lake Erie and Western; Lehigh Valley; Western New York and Pennsylvania; Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburg; and New York, Chicago and Saint Louis. A belt-line railroad encircles the city, affording valuable facilities for intercommunication.

The commerce of Buffalo by these various means of transportation is very great. With a season of only about 240 days in the year, Buffalo ranks with the leading American and European ports in extent of traffic. The immense quantity of flour and grain moved from the Western States to the seaboard constitutes the most important feature of its commerce; but live stock, lumber, and coal, iron ore, and fish, also, are of importance. Some part of the lumber and iron ore which arrive at this end of Lake Erie is received at Tonawanda (q.v.), a suburb to the north, on Niagara River, but Buffalo receives large quantities of each. Over 15,000,000 pounds of fish are received annually, mainly from Georgian Bay, and are distributed as far east as Boston and as far west as Denver. The horse market and sheep market of Buffalo are the largest in the United States, and in the trade in cattle and hogs Buffalo is among the leading American cities. The material facilities for handling this enormous traffic form a most important feature of Buffalo. The first grain-elevator in the world was built in Buffalo in 1843, and now there are some fifty elevators, transfer towers, and floating elevators. These represent an investment of over $13,000,000, can handle in one day 5,000,000 bushels of grain, and store at one time 29,000,000 bushels. The coal-docks have a capacity of 29,000 tons a day, and on the eastern outskirts of the city are the enormous coal-stocking trestles, in which the railway companies keep their accumulated supply. In East Buffalo are the railroad stockyards, 75 acres in extent, affording transfer facilities for through freight, and sales-yards for the local supply of live stock.

In addition to vast commercial activities, Buffalo's manufacturing interests are extensive and varied. In the production of foundry and machine-shop products, including stoves, nails, etc., and agricultural implements, the city ranks among the foremost. Other industries are slaughtering and meat-packing, refining petroleum, and ship-building; clothing, flouring and grist-mill products, brick, stone, lime, and stucco, malt and distilled liquors, soap and candles, starch, furniture, and tobacco and cigars, are extensively produced. Besides these are immense establishments manufacturing saddlery and harness, cars, awnings, tents, sails, willowware, carriages, wagons, cutlery, patent medicines, surgical appliances, etc. Power from the new electric plant at Niagara Falls (q.v.), brought through three circuits with an aggregate capacity of 30,000 horse-power, is already used in Buffalo to a large extent, and the cheap and abundant supply from this source justifies the prediction of a rapid expansion of manufacturing industries in the near future.

The receipts for 1900 of the Buffalo post-office amounted to over $800,000, a figure which represents an increase of nearly 100 per cent. in the last decade.

Government, Municipal Expenditures, etc. The government is vested in a mayor, elected every four years; a bicameral city council; and administrative departments, of which the health, fire, police, civil service, and park boards are appointed by the mayor; the city clerk, elected by the council; and all other municipal officials chosen by popular vote.

Buffalo spends annually, in maintenance and operation, about $6,000,000, the main items of expense being about $1,140,000 for schools, $650,000 for interest on debt, $780,000 for the police department, $700,000 for the fire department, $190,000 for parks and gardens, $120,000 for street cleaning and sprinkling, $350,000 for the water-works, nearly as much for municipal lighting, $155,000 for charitable institutions, $110,000 for garbage removal, $100,000 for libraries. The water-works, which were built in 1868 at a total cost of over $9,100,000, are owned and operated by the city, the entire water-works system now including about 400 miles of mains. During recent years great municipal activity has been displayed in the improvement of the water-supply service; in the laying of asphalt pavements; in the construction of natural-gas mains, facilitating the substitution of this fuel for coal; in the removal, in the business district, of overhead telephone and telegraph wires to subways, in which are carried also the fire-alarm and police wires of the city; in the establishment of the great public library (1897) and of municipal baths; and in harbor improvements, supplemented by Government expenditure. The city has entered also into a plan to abolish railroad grade crossings, mostly at the expense of the railroads. Buffalo has a bonded debt of over $16,000,000, and the assessed valuation of property (real and personal) amounts to nearly $250,000,000.

Population. Buffalo is one of America's most rapidly growing cities, as is shown by the following census figures: 1820, 2095; 1840, 18,213; 1860, 81,129; 1880, 155,134; 1890, 255,664; 1900, 352,387. During the last decade it rose in rank from eleventh to eighth place among the cities of the United States. The foreign born number 104,000, and the native born of foreign parents number 160,000. The Germans number over two-fifths of the total foreign born, the principal other nationalities represented being the Canadian, Irish, Poles, and English. The negro population is small—1600.

History. In 1679 La Salle visited this locality, and built near the present city the first ship that was navigated on Lake Erie—a little vessel of only 60 tons, called the Griffin. In 1792 there was only one settler here, a trader named Winney, and in 1795, according to the French traveler Liancourt, there was only “a small collection of four or five houses.” In 1792-93 the Holland Land Company, so called, bought a large tract of land in this vicinity, which during 1798-1803 was laid out into townships by Joseph Ellicott. Influenced by Ellicott, commonly called the ‘founder of Buffalo,’ the proprietors decided, in 1801, to establish a town (New Amsterdam) at the mouth of Buffalo Creek, and in 1803-04 a village was laid out under Ellicott's supervision. Though legally New Amsterdam, this new village soon came to be called Buffalo, probably from the immense herds of bison which had formerly frequented the salt licks several miles away, and in 1810 the township of Buffalo, with limits including the present city, was incorporated. In 1811 the first newspaper, the Buffalo Gazette, was published, and in 1818 the first steamboat, Walk-in-the-Water, was built. On December 29, 1813, a British and Indian force of 1200 men, under General Riall, captured Buffalo, and on the 30th, and January 1, almost completely destroyed it by fire. In 1815 it was rebuilt, but its growth was very slow until after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, when it became a distributing centre between the East and the West. In 1832, with a population of 15,000, it became a city, and since 1857 it has been noted for its manufactures and commerce. In 1853 Black Rock, which for many years was Buffalo's great rival, was brought within the city limits. Buffalo was the home for a time of Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland, the latter serving as mayor in 1882. In 1901 (May 1 to November 1) the Pan-American Exposition was held at Buffalo. At this exhibition occurred the assassination of President McKinley, on Friday, September 6, 1901. See Pan-American Exposition.

Consult: Smith, History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County (Syracuse, 1884); Ketchum. An Authentic and Comprehensive History of Buffalo (Buffalo, 1864-65); and Powell, Historic Towns of the Middle States (New York, 1899).

NIE 1905 Buffalo (New York).jpg