Posted by: Alex MacGregor | November 19, 2013

To the Other End of the Erie Canal

My trip across upstate New York ended in Buffalo, at the opposite end of the Erie Canal from where it began.


Unlike Albany, which was already a major city at the time, the mid-1820s completion of the canal was a gamechanger for Buffalo. The city quickly became one of the richest and fastest-growing in the country.

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Lots of grand architecture was whipped up in short order.

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Buffalo’s City Hall is an art deco landmark.


A mini-Statue of Liberty on top of a skyscraper.


The quality of downtown Buffalo’s modern architecture woefully lags behind Albany’s. This monstrosity would fit right in in downtown Atlanta!


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Buffalo’s downtown, while pretty well-preserved, felt deserted, with lots of historic storefronts either empty or serving as downmarket retailers. That’s not to say it was like the downtowns in Phoenix or post-nightfall Rio, but there just wasn’t much going on. Perhaps this is unsurprising: the city’s breakneck growth came to a screeching halt in the late 1950s with the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway, which made the Erie Canal far less prominent for commercial shipping. The city has been on a slow decline ever since.


In fairness, I also visited the city during one of its (apparently frequent) windstorms; a windstorm can’t do much for a bustling downtown. It can, however, cause the leaves to blow into interesting patterns and tidy mounds on the sidewalk–kudos, Buffalo, for teaching me something new!


Buffalo’s historic (and abandoned) main train station, lovingly adorned by the work of Inveread Atak Merk, Jr. A tagger with such a name has no risk of being mistaken for one of his colleagues.

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North Main Street, Buffalo’s theater district, is about a ten minute walk from the heart of downtown.

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The area appears to be where Buffalo has placed its bets as an urban renewal zone, and the road is currently being spiffed up on a large scale. Hopefully they can get this work done before the snow hits!


I headed on Delaware Avenue to Buffalo’s millionaire’s row. I was surprised at how busy the street was with fast-moving traffic and urban renewal (not the good kind). This was the only shot I was able to get that remotely resembles a millionaire’s row.


This synagogue was my favorite thing on Delaware. Cool building.


Much more enjoyable was my visit to nearby Allentown, a counterculture district that is Buffalo’s answer to Little Five Points.




Murals abound, conveying varying levels of political outrage.


If I were to live in Buffalo (on account of the weather alone, that will forever remain an if), I’d definitely pick one of these cool old houses in Allentown!


  1. […] For starters, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Moscow has no shortage of imposing Soviet-era buildings. This one, the Foreign Ministry, sort of reminds me of a more menacing version of the City Hall in Buffalo, New York. […]

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