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Buffalo, New York
City of Buffalo
Aerial photo of Buffalo, NY Skyline.jpg
Sheas.jpg FNC2015.jpg
Erie County Hall 2012.jpg Goldome.jpg
PeaceBr.jpg BfloCityHall.jpg
Left to right from top: Buffalo skyline, Shea's Performing Arts Center, KeyBank Center, County and City Hall, Buffalo Savings Bank, Peace Bridge, Buffalo City Hall.
Flag of Buffalo, New York Official seal of Buffalo, New York
The City of Good Neighbors, The Queen City, The City of No Illusions, The Nickel City, Queen City of the Lakes, City of Light
Location in Erie County and the state of New York
Location in Erie County and the state of New York
Country United States
State New York
County Erie
First settled (village) 1789
Founded 1801
Incorporated (city) 1832
 • City 52.5 sq mi (136.0 km2)
 • Land 40.6 sq mi (105.2 km2)
 • Water 11.9 sq mi (30.8 km2)
600 ft (183 m)
 • City 258,959 (US: 73rd)
 • Density 6,436.2/sq mi (2,568.8/km2)
 • Urban
935,906 (US: 46th)
 • Metro
1,134,210 (US: 49th)
 • CSA
1,213,668 (US: 44th)
Demonym(s) Buffalonian
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 716
FIPS code 36-11000
GNIS feature ID 0973345

Buffalo is a city in western New York state and the county seat of Erie County, on the eastern shores of Lake Erie at the head of the Niagara River. As of 2014, Buffalo is New York state's 2nd-most populous city after New York City, with 258,703 residents. The metropolitan area has a population of 1.13 million.

Buffalo grew significantly in the 19th and 20th centuries as a result of the Erie Canal, railroads and Lake Erie, providing an abundance of fresh water and an ample trade route to the midwestern United States, while grooming its economy for the grain, steel and automobile industries during the 20th century. After an economic downturn in the latter half of the 20th century, Buffalo's economy has transitioned to sectors that include financial services, technology, biomedical engineering and education.

Residents of Buffalo are called "Buffalonians". The city's nicknames include "The Queen City", "The Nickel City" and "The City of Good Neighbors".


The city of Buffalo received its name from a nearby creek called Buffalo Creek. British military engineer Captain John Montresor made reference to 'Buffalo Creek' in his journal of 1764, which may be the earliest recorded appearance of the name. There are several theories regarding how Buffalo Creek received its name. While it is possible that Buffalo Creek's name originated from French fur traders and Native Americans calling the creek Beau Fleuve (French for "Beautiful River"), it is also possible Buffalo Creek was named for the American buffalo, whose historical range may have extended into western New York.


Wenro-Territorium um 1630
1630s: The French report the Wenro's territory was north and east of the Erie peoples, East of the Neutral people across the Niagara River and west of the Genesee River valley and the Genesee Gorge across which the Seneca people had their home.
City of Buffalo
Bird's-eye view of Buffalo in 1873
Women workers leaving the Republic Steel plant. 8d17844v
Women workers leave the Republic Steel plant, with open hearth furnaces in the background, 1943.
Steel production at Bethlehem Steel on the shores of Lake Erie, 1973

Early history

Prior to European colonization, French observers report the region's inhabitants were an Iroquoian-speaking tribal offshoot of the large Neutral Nation called the Wenro people or 'Wenrohronon', who lived along the south shore of Lake Ontario and east end of Lake Erie and a bit of its southern shore. Later, during the 1640s–50s Beaver Wars, the combined warriors of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy conquered the populous Neutrals and their peninsular territory, while the Senecas alone took out their weak neighbors, the Wenrohronon, and their territory, c. 1651–1653.

In 1804, as principal agent opening the area for the Holland Land Company, the architect of Washington D.C., Joseph Ellicott, designed a radial street and grid system that branches out from downtown like bicycle spokes similar to the street system he used in the nation's capital. Although Ellicott named the settlement "New Amsterdam," the name did not catch on.

During the War of 1812, on December 30, 1813, Buffalo was burned by British forces.

The George Coit House 1818 and Samuel Schenck House 1823 are currently the oldest houses within the limits of the City of Buffalo.

On October 26, 1825, the Erie Canal was completed with Buffalo a port-of-call for settlers heading westward. At the time, the population was about 2,400. The Erie Canal brought about a surge in population and commerce, which led Buffalo to incorporate as a city in 1832.

In 1845, construction began on the Macedonia Baptist Church, an important meeting place for the abolitionist movement. Buffalo was a terminus point of the Underground Railroad with many fugitive slaves crossing the Niagara River to Fort Erie, Ontario in search of freedom.

During the 1840s, Buffalo's port continued to develop. Both passenger and commercial traffic expanded with some 93,000 passengers heading west from the port of Buffalo. Grain and commercial goods shipments led to repeated expansion of the harbor. In 1843, the world's first steam-powered grain elevator was constructed by local merchant Joseph Dart and engineer Robert Dunbar. "Dart's Elevator" enabled faster unloading of lake freighters along with the transshipment of grain in bulk from barges, canal boats, and rail cars. By 1850, the city's population was 81,000.

20th century

At the dawn of the 20th century, local mills were among the first to benefit from hydroelectric power generated by the Niagara River. The city got the nickname City of Light at this time due to the widespread electric lighting. It was also part of the automobile revolution, hosting the brass era car builders Pierce Arrow and the Seven Little Buffaloes early in the century. President William McKinley was shot and mortally wounded by an anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo on September 6, 1901. McKinley died in the city eight days later and Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in at the Wilcox Mansion as the 26th President of the United States.

The Great Depression of 1929–39 saw severe unemployment, especially among working class men. The New Deal relief programs operated full force. The city became a stronghold of labor unions and the Democratic Party. During World War II, Buffalo saw the return of prosperity and full employment due to its position as a manufacturing center.

With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1957, which cut the city off from valuable trade routes; deindustrialization; and the nationwide trend of suburbanization; the city's economy began to deteriorate. Like much of the Rust Belt, Buffalo, home to more than half a million people in the 1950s, has seen its population decline as heavy industries shut down and people left for the suburbs or other cities.

Modern history

Like other rust belt cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Buffalo has attempted to revitalize its beleaguered economy and crumbling infrastructure. In the first decade of the 21st century, a massive increase in economic development spending has attempted to reverse its dwindling prosperity. In the early 2010s, growth from local colleges and universities continued to spur economic development.

Buffalo from Lake Erie
Buffalo from Lake Erie, c. 1911.

Geography and climate

Buffalo is on Lake Erie's eastern end-- opposite Fort Erie, Ontario.It is located at the origin of the Niagara River, which flows northward over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario. The city is 50 miles (80 km) south-southeast from Toronto. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 52.5 square miles (136 km2), of which 40.6 square miles (105 km2) is land and the rest water. The total area is 22.66% water.


See also: List of tallest buildings in Buffalo
Buffalo Skyline
Skyline of Buffalo, looking east from Lake Erie.
Buffalo skyline 2014
Aerial view of Buffalo's skyline. At center is the Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse and the Art Deco Buffalo City Hall, with the Buffalo City Court Building to the right. On the far right is One Seneca Tower, formerly the HSBC Building.


Elmwood Village
Elmwood Village
2001 image of the Niagara Peninsula, Niagara Falls and Buffalo from NASA's Terra satellite.

Buffalo's architecture is diverse, with a collection of buildings the 19th and 20th centuries. Most structures and works are still standing, such as the country's largest intact parks system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. At the end of the 19th century, the Guaranty Building—constructed by Louis Sullivan—was a prominent example of an early high-rise skyscraper. The 20th century saw works such as the Art Deco-style Buffalo City Hall and Buffalo Central Terminal, Electric Tower, the Richardson Olmsted Complex, and the Rand Building. Urban renewal from the 1950s–1970s gave way to the construction of the Brutalist-style Buffalo City Court Building and the One Seneca Tower—formerly the HSBC Center, the city's tallest building.

Historic Lake Effect Snow Hits Buffalo New York Area (15668722309)
Winter snow storm, 2014
Cherry blossoms in spring



Buffalo has a continental-type climate, which is common in the Great Lakes region. (Köppen climate classification "Dfb" – uniform precipitation distribution). Buffalo has snowy winters, but it is rarely the snowiest city in New York state. The Blizzard of 1977 resulted from a combination of high winds and snow previously accumulated on land and on frozen Lake Erie. Snow does not typically impair the city's operation, but can cause significant damage during the autumn as with the October 2006 storm. In November 2014, the region had a record-breaking storm, producing over five and a half feet (1.7 metres) of snow. Buffalo has the sunniest and driest summers of any major city in the Northeast, but still has enough rain to keep vegetation green and lush. Summers are marked by plentiful sunshine and moderate humidity and temperature. Obscured by the notoriety of Buffalo's winter snow is the fact Buffalo benefits from other lake effects such as the cooling southwest breezes off Lake Erie in summer that gently temper the warmest days. As a result, temperatures only rise above 90 °F (32.2 °C) three times per year, and the Buffalo station of the National Weather Service has never recorded an official temperature of 100 °F (37.8 °C) or more. Rainfall is moderate but typically occurs at night. Lake Erie's stabilizing effect continues to inhibit thunderstorms and enhance sunshine in the immediate Buffalo area through most of July. August usually has more showers and is hotter and more humid as the warmer lake loses its temperature-stabilizing influence. The highest recorded temperature in Buffalo was 99 °F (37 °C) on August 27, 1948 and the lowest recorded temperature was −20 °F (−29 °C), which occurred twice, on February 9, 1934 and February 2, 1961.

Climate data for Buffalo Niagara International Airport, New York (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1871–present )
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 72
Average high °F (°C) 31.2
Average low °F (°C) 18.5
Record low °F (°C) −16
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.18
Snowfall inches (cm) 25.3
Humidity 76.0 75.9 73.3 67.8 67.2 68.6 68.1 72.1 74.0 72.9 75.8 77.6 72.4
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 19.2 16.0 15.1 13.1 12.7 12.1 10.6 10.1 11.4 12.9 15.0 18.3 166.5
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 16.3 13.1 9.2 3.1 0 0 0 0 0 0.4 4.9 14.0 61.0
Sunshine hours 91.3 108.0 163.7 204.7 258.3 287.1 306.7 266.4 207.6 159.4 84.4 69.0 2,206.6
Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1810 1,508
1820 2,095 38.9%
1830 8,668 313.7%
1840 18,213 110.1%
1850 42,261 132.0%
1860 81,129 92.0%
1870 117,714 45.1%
1880 155,134 31.8%
1890 255,664 64.8%
1900 352,387 37.8%
1910 423,715 20.2%
1920 506,775 19.6%
1930 573,076 13.1%
1940 575,901 0.5%
1950 580,132 0.7%
1960 532,759 −8.2%
1970 462,768 −13.1%
1980 357,870 −22.7%
1990 328,123 −8.3%
2000 292,648 −10.8%
2010 261,310 −10.7%
Est. 2015 258,071 −1.2%
Historical Population Figures
U.S. Decennial Census
2013 Estimate
Racial composition 2010 1990 1970 1940
White 50.4% 64.7% 78.7% 96.8%
Black or African American 38.6% 30.7% 20.4% 3.1%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 10.5% 4.9% 1.6% (X)
Asian 3.2% 1.0% 0.2%
Largest ancestries (2000) Percent
German Germany 13.6%
Polish Poland 11.7%
Italian Italy 11.7%
English England 4.0%
French France Drapeau Franco-Américain.svg 1.8%
Race and ethnicity 2010- Buffalo (5559869161)
Map of racial distribution in Buffalo, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)

Like most former industrial cities of the Great Lakes region in the United States, Buffalo is recovering from an economic depression from suburbanization and the loss of its industrial base. The city's population peaked in 1950, when it was the 15th largest city in the United States, and its population has been spreading out to the suburbs every census since then.

At the 2010 Census, the city's population was 50.4% White (45.8% non-Hispanic White alone), 38.6% Black or African-American, 0.8% American Indian and Alaska Native, 3.2% Asian, 3.9% from some other race and 3.1% from two or more races. 10.5% of the total population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. Since 2003, there has been an ever-growing number of Burmese refugees, mostly of the Karen ethnicity, with an estimated 4,665 now residing in Buffalo.

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% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 38.4% of those under the age of 18 and 14% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Buffalo wings
A bowl of chicken (Buffalo) wings and celery.


The Buffalo area's varied cuisine is the result of variety of cultural contributions, including Italian, Irish, Jewish, German, Polish, African-American, Greek, Indian and American influences. In 2015, the National Geographic Society ranked Buffalo third on their list of "The World's Top Ten Food Cities". Locally owned restaurants offer Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, Arab, Indian, Caribbean, soul food, and French cuisine. Buffalo's local pizzerias differ from that of the thin-crust New York-style pizzerias and deep-dish Chicago-style pizzerias, and is locally known for being a midpoint between the two. The Beef on weck sandwich, kielbasa, sponge candy, pastry hearts, pierogi and haddock fish fries are local favorites, as is a loganberry-flavored beverage that remains relatively obscure outside of the Western New York and Southern Ontario. Teressa Bellissimo first prepared the now widespread Buffalo wing at the Anchor Bar on October 3, 1964.

Buffalo has several well-known food companies. Non-dairy whipped topping was invented in Buffalo in 1945 by Robert E. Rich, Sr. His company, Rich Products, is one of the city's largest private employers. General Mills was organized in Buffalo, and Gold Medal brand flour, Wheaties, Cheerios and other General Mills brand cereals are manufactured here. Archer Daniels Midland operates its largest flour mill in the city. Buffalo is home to one of the largest privately held food companies in the world, Delaware North Companies, which operates concessions in sports arenas, stadiums, resorts and many state and federal parks.

Fine and performing arts

Kleinhans buffalo
Kleinhans Music Hall is home to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Taste of buffalo 2008
2008 Taste of Buffalo.

Buffalo is home to over 50 private and public art galleries, most notably the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, home to a collection of modern and contemporary art, and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. In 2012, AmericanStyle ranked Buffalo twenty-fifth in its list of top mid-sized cities for art. It is also home to many independent media and literary arts organizations like Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Arts Center. The Buffalo area's largest theater is Shea's Performing Arts Center, designed to accommodate 4,000 people with interiors by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Built in 1926, the theater presents Broadway musicals and concerts. The theater community in the Buffalo Theater District includes over 20 professional companies.


The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which performs at Kleinhans Music Hall, is one of the city's most prominent performing arts institutions. During the 1960s and 1970s, under the musical leadership of Lukas Foss and Michael Tilson Thomas, the Philharmonic collaborated with Grateful Dead and toured with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Goo goo dolls slide
The Goo Goo Dolls began their career in Buffalo.

Buffalo has the roots of many jazz and classical musicians, and it is also the founding city for several mainstream bands and musicians,


See also: Festivals in Buffalo, New York

Festivals have become part of the Buffalo's culture and tradition. Though most occur during the summer, the city has winter festivals that reflect its snowy reputation. Popular summer festivals include the Allentown Art Festival (since 1957), Taste of Buffalo (since 1984), National Buffalo Wing Festival (since 2002), Thursday at the Square (since 1987; moved to Canalside in 2011) and the Juneteenth Festival (since 1976). Winter festivals include the Buffalo Ball Drop (since 1988), Buffalo Powder Keg Festival and Labatt Blue Pond Hockey.


The city of Buffalo's points of interest include the Edward M. Cotter fireboat, considered the world's oldest active fireboat and is a United States National Historic Landmark, Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Buffalo Museum of Science, the Buffalo Zoo—the third oldest in the United States— Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, the Anchor Bar and Darwin D. Martin House.

Parks and recreation

Delaware Park lake
Hoyt Lake at Delaware Park.

The Buffalo parks system has over 20 parks with several parks accessible from any part of the city. The Olmsted Park and Parkway System is the hallmark of Buffalo's many green spaces. Three-fourths of city park land is part of the system, which comprises six major parks, eight connecting parkways, nine circles and seven smaller spaces. Constructed in 1868 by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux, the system was integrated into the city and marks the first attempt in America to lay out a coordinated system of public parks and parkways. The Olmsted designed portions of the Buffalo park system are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are maintained by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC), a non-profit, for public benefit corporation which serves as the cities parks department. It is the first non-governmental organization of its kind to serve in such a capacity in the United States.

Situated at the confluence of Lake Erie and the Buffalo River and Niagara Rivers, Buffalo is a waterfront city. The city's rise to economic power came through its waterways in the form of transshipment, manufacturing, and an endless source of energy. Buffalo's waterfront remains, though to a lesser degree, a hub of commerce, trade and industry. Beginning in 2009, a significant portion of Buffalo's waterfront began to be transformed into a focal point for social and recreational activity. To this end, Buffalo Harbor State Park, nicknamed "Outer Harbor," was opened in 2014. Buffalo's intent was to stress its architectural and historical heritage to create a tourism destination, and early data indicates that they were successful.

Dyngus Day

Buffalo is one of the largest Polish-American centers in the United States. As a result, many aspects of Polish culture have found a home within the city from food to festivals. One of the best example's is the yearly celebration of Easter Monday, known to many Eastern Europeans as Dyngus Day.

Twin towns – Sister cities

Buffalo has a number of sister cities as designated by Sister Cities International (SCI):

  • Israel Kiryat Gat, Israel (1977)
  • Russia Tver, Russia (1989)
  • Ukraine Drohobych, Ukraine (2000)
  • France Lille, Nord, Hauts-de-France, France (2000)
  • Italy Torremaggiore, Italy (2004)
  • Nigeria Abuja, Nigeria (2004)
  • Jamaica Saint Ann's Bay, Jamaica (2007)
  • Ukraine Horlivka, Ukraine (2007)
  • Turkey Bursa, Turkey (2010)
  • Dominican Republic Baní, Dominican Republic (2011)
  • Rwanda Muhanga District, Rwanda (2011)
  • South Korea Yeongcheon, South Korea (2011)
  • People's Republic of China Changzhou, China

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