When people typically think of Buffalo, NY, they think of snowstorms, a losing football team, and people gorging on chicken wings. But Buffalo is being revitalized with microbreweries and a thriving biking community. There’s a ton to see and do in Buffalo – and now even more ways to experience the city. Buffalo can be a tough nut to crack without local knowledge however. So here’s our list of the Top 5 things you may not know about the Queen City.
1. BUFFALO WINGS WERE CREATED HERE…WE’RE JUST NOT SURE BY WHO.
While most realize Buffalo Wings got their start here, the story may not be so clear cut. One version goes that in 1964, a delivery driver confused an order when dropping off a shipment of chicken parts to the Anchor Bar. Instead of refusing the order, owner Teressa Bellissimo prepared the wings by cutting them in half. She then threw them into a deep fryer, and served them to her son’s friends after sports practice. And thus a legend was born.
Or maybe not. In the first-ever published article that describes the Anchor Bar story, in 1981, there is no mention of hot sauce. And that’s where John Young comes in. Young was the owner of Wings ‘n’ Things on Jefferson Avenue – which was listed in the Buffalo telephone book long before the Anchor Bar’s publicity. Young’s wings, were uncut, breaded, deep-fried, and served with his secret, tomato-based mumbo hot Sauce.
Get the lowdown in this video primer…
2. CANALSIDE WAS ONCE THE CAPITAL FOR VICE…FOR NORTH AMERICA
While today Canalside is a well-known tourist destination for concerts and family activities, it wasn’t always the case. In fact, Canalside was once regarded as one of the capitals for vice – with as many as 60% of its buildings serving as brothels. That reputation earned it the nickname “The Most Evil Square Mile in America”.
The scene was something out of Pirates of The Caribbean. Bygone bars such as The Tub of Blood, The Black Rag, and Limpy George’s reportedly numbered over 100 in the area. Several accounts detail underground gambling dens with trap doors for the easy disposal of bodies.
By the 1930s, hundreds of neglected buildings were bulldozed making way for urban renewal – and the canal was filled in with garbage. While the freewheeling days of the canal may be over, it’s still a great place to catch a sunset. More on Canalside and its colorful history is explored on Buffalo Bike Tours’ Waterfront Ride: Buffalo’s Outer Harbor by Bike.
3. THE PAN AMERICAN EXPOSITION WAS ONE CRAZY PARTY.
Buffalo in 1901 was the place to be. We had more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the word and were the site of the World’s Fair. The fair was themed “City Of Light” and saw populist inventor Nikola Telsa outwit Thomas Edison in harnessing the power of Niagara Falls.
The fair featured exhibits in science and the humanities…and some downright offensive displays. Indians were forced to re-enact war games and several exhibits featured racist stereotypes of African Americans.
Most famously, President William McKinley was assassinated by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. That put an end to the party – a foreshadowing of Buffalo’s economic fate to come.
While in town be sure to check out the Buffalo History Museum and TR Inauguration Site. For more on the Pan Am, see Buffalo Bike Tours’ History Ride: the Best of Buffalo by Bike.
4. BUFFALO HAS WORLD-CLASS ARCHITECTURE…POST-1813.
While the City of Buffalo was incorporated in 1801, you won’t find any buildings in Buffalo built prior to 1813. That’s because the entire city was literally burned to the ground during The War of 1812. It all began when American General George McClure invaded Canada and set fire to Niagara On The Lake. He left a trail of destruction and more than 400 residents homeless in the middle of the winter. The British retaliated by torching Fort Niagara, Lewiston, and Niagara Falls, NY. They eventually came to Buffalo – leaving just 3 buildings remaining when all is said and done.
Today, Buffalo is home to amazing architecture from some of the best in American design. Louis Sullivan? Check – we have one of his masterpieces, the Guaranty Building. Frank Lloyd Wright? Check – we have three of his buildings, including the Martin House, a museum of his life and work. And that’s the tip of our rich architecture. Your visit is incomplete without a trip to the grain silos, mansions, and iconic buildings.
For more on our architecture gems, see Buffalo Bike Tours’ History Ride: the Best of Buffalo by Bike.
5. BUFFALO WAS A CENTER FOR BLACK LIBERATION
Buffalo has played an important part of the civil rights movement. The city was the last stop for slaves entering Canada and there are several significant underground railroad sites. It’s documented Harriet Tubman passed through Buffalo several times. In addition, local author William Wells Brown personally escorted nearly 70 freedom seekers to Canada.
One of the more important events in black history in Buffalo is the Niagara Movement. The group held a convention in Buffalo outlining a manifesto for emancipation. They eventually formed a new organization, the NACCP, the largest civil rights organization in the U.S. Several key sites remain: Michigan Street Baptist Church, Colored Musicians Club, and Nash House Museum.
A more recent history of civil rights can also be found in Buffalo. In the 1960s, activist Saul Alinsky cofounded BUILD Academy, a school that taught an all-black curriculum (and still does). Martin Sostre operated his Afro-Asian Bookstore in Buffalo. And poets Ishmael Reed and Lucille Clifton began their careers while in Buffalo. Even our own Shirley Chisholm made history as the first African American to run for the office of president of the U.S.
For more on black history in Buffalo, be sure to check out our History Ride.
TAKE A BUFFALO FOOD TOUR OR HISTORY TOUR WITH BUFFALO BIKE TOURS
While many have preconceptions, we invite you to dig deep and visit Buffalo! While here, please join us as we bust some old myths and create some new ones on our guided bike tours of Buffalo, NY.
Our Buffalo history tours bring the city’s past to life through unforgettable stories, songs, humor, and local insight. Or, consider taking one of our Buffalo food tours, where we take you to some of Buffalo’s best kept secrets. Or do a tour on your own with one of our self-guided tours of Buffalo. Buffalo bike rentals are also available.
We also offer Team Building Activities and Corporate Outings for a more exclusive tour experience. Ready to discover the real Buffalo? Book your Buffalo Tour now.