The City of Buffalo, N.Y. was incorporated in 1832 and grew from a small village on the eastern shore of Lake Erie to a large, thriving metropolis by 1950. Originally inhabited by the Seneca and other indigenous tribes, the selection of Buffalo as the terminus of the Erie Canal put the city on the map as a place of growth and opportunity. Buffalo was built by generations of migrants and immigrants that arrived with the hope of finding a place of opportunity, most bringing their religious and cultural traditions with them.
Buffalo’s fortunes rose and fell from the late 18th through the mid-20th centuries due to its links with industry and its centralized location as a water transportation hub. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, Buffalo was no longer considered an essential stopping point in the transport of raw materials and goods. Much of the industry slowly moved out of the area. With that, many of the residents of the predominantly ethnic neighborhoods dispersed, as individuals assimilated into American culture and moved away from the old neighborhoods that dominated the area’s early history. Still, traces of the cultural traditions built by migrant and immigrant populations have survived and can be observed in the neighborhoods and institutions of the “City of Good Neighbors” today.
Some content in this exhibit includes use of outdated language and cultural attitudes. It is presented for educational purposes.