Buffalo’s majestic grain elevators

Buffalo grew to become a large, affluent city due to its location as a gateway between the east and the west. The first elevators were invented in Buffalo by a merchant named Joseph Dart, to move and store grain. The steam powered elevator was put into use in 1843. At their height there were 50 grain elevators in Buffalo along the banks of the Eerie.

Cheerios are still made here and the waterfront smells faintly sweet of the baking cereal. You can buy t.shirts saying ‘My town smells of Cheerios’. The waterways are no longer used to transport freight, the railways had a big impact on this town as goods no longer needed to be transferred between boats.

Here’s an interesting blog piece comparing lovely 1905 drawn maps compared to satelite images of the landscapes today

Today, some think of the remaining grain elevators as an eyesore dominating the waterfront and preventing much needed development. It is hard to begrudge the structures that made the city great, however. And I find them powerful and curous structures. They are imposing, weighty beasts with all they know of the industry gone by beneath them.

I took a boat tour and in explaining my project was informed there is a terracotta grain elevator, it was further down the river than we voyaged and had been painted white my Guide informed me with distaste. Originally they built from wood and eventually concrete.

The parts that are decaying and becoming dangerous are being dismantled, like the iron sheeting structure in the pictures above. The sheer mass of these structures has kept them in existence for so long, although redundant, like so much in Buffalo the huge cost of demolition of massive concrete structures is prohibitive.  The waterfront area has been so far very successful in drawing visitors (30,000 this summer I heard) and there are plans to locate restaurants and cafes in the old train depot.

So the steady march of progress will no doubt afford the gentrification of this once thriving industrial area. There are 12 remaining grain elevators today, I wonder how long it will be before there are only one or two… and like the bottle kilns in Stoke-on-Trent, will become rare and precious icons of a era long past.

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