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11 Fascinating Historical Sites in Buffalo & WNY

Culture & Arts, History, Things to Do

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Written by Sean Bermingham

Published on July 1, 2021
City of Buffalo

Whether you’re a history buff, a Buffalonian looking for a summertime adventure, or visiting the region, there are many historical sites in Buffalo and Western New York. Our city is rich with compelling stories which paved the way for what we call Buffalo today. From presidential to musical and architectural history (and more), it’s safe to say our city distinguishes itself with a unique and diverse past.

In this guide, we’ll explore a variety of historical sites worth a visit in Buffalo and Western New York.

1. The 1901 Pan-American Exposition Site

Delaware Park in Buffalo / More Info

Following the Spanish-American War, the Pan-American Exposition was held in 1901. Between May and November, the cultures and achievements of each nation of the Western Hemisphere were showcased. Furthermore, the Exposition served an important purpose in rekindling relations between North, South, and Central America. The Fair occupied 350 acres of land on the edge of what we call Delaware Park today. Over a century later, this is a captivating piece of history you can explore at anytime!

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2. William McKinley Assassination Site

Fordham Drive in Buffalo

The twenty-fifth President of the United States was shot twice and fatally killed during the Pan-American Exposition at the Temple of Music. Today, a bronze tablet is enshrined within a boulder residing in the grass lot in the middle of Fordham Drive. This monument serves in remembrance of the former president, and is a really intriguing piece of history to check out.

Theodore Roosevelt inaugural site
TR Site / Step Out Buffalo

3. Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

641 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo / More Info

The year was 1901. Theodore Roosevelt descended Mount Marcy when he received the news he would be our nation’s next President after the assassination of President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition. After boarding a train to Buffalo, he would be sworn under oath at this location, making the TR Site one of the most unique historical sites in Buffalo. With guided tours happening daily, checking out this Presidential history is a must. This historical adventure will not disappoint.

Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo / Photo x Kayla Milligan
Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo / Photo x Kayla Milligan

4. Colored Musicians Club

145 Broadway Street Buffalo / More Info

For more than seventy five years, the Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo has celebrated its love for jazz music. Since receiving its Charter in 1935, this establishment links Buffalo to Jazz in a unique way. During a time of segregation, its inclusion of African Americans shines brightly as a cornerstone of the equality we cherish today. In addition to live music events, check out the The Colored Musicians Club Museum of Buffalo Thursday-Saturday between 11am and 4pm.

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Frank Lloyd Wright Martin House
Frank Lloyd Wright Martin House / Photo courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Martin HouseFrank Lloyd Wright Martin House

5. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House

125 Jewett Parkway, Buffalo / More Info

You will be taken aback by the brilliance of early twentieth century architecture at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House. Acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the house between 1903 and 1905. Residing here was Darwin Martin, the self-made millionaire and prominent business figure of the time. Today, this National Historic Landmark serves as compelling symbol of Civic Identity entrenched within our City.

Photo courtesy of The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
Photo courtesy of The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

6. Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center 

825 Depot Ave W, Niagara Falls / More Info

During the 1800s, many African Americans ventured Northward, traveling along the ‘Underground Railroad’ in their plight for freedom.  The Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls serves as remembrance for the righteous individuals who assisted those escaping slavery; risking their lives in the name of freedom, and paying homage to the brave souls who traveled the Railroad themselves.  If you’re looking to learn more about this enriching narrative check out the Heritage Center this summer! 

7. Michigan Street Church

511 Michigan Avenue, Buffalo / More Info

For over one hundred fifty years, this Church has been glorified as a monumental piece of history here in Buffalo. The Michigan Street Church stands proudly as a station of The Underground Railroad, which provided sanctuary to escaped slaves before they crossed the border to Canada. The prominent Abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave a powerful speech from this building established in 1845, making it one of the most significant historical sites in Buffalo.

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Photo courtesy of Old Fort Niagara
Old Fort Niagara / Photo courtesy of Old Fort Niagara

8. Old Fort Niagara

102 Morrow Plaza Youngstown / More Info

Old Fort Niagara is the cornerstone of history in Western New York. Established in 1726, the oldest occupied Military site in the nation exemplifies a direct tie between Buffalo and the Revolutionary War. Since 1934, it has been available to the public as a historical site and museum. Furthermore, The Fort consists of the six oldest buildings in the entire Great Lakes region! There are so many interesting artifacts at this site one can marvel at. Tours are open year round from 10am-4pm. What are you waiting for? Check out Fort Niagara today.

Bonus! Old Fort Erie

350 Lakeshore Road, Fort Erie Ontario / More Info

Across the river from Old For Niagara, Old Fort Erie stands out as another captivating historical site. If you have the chance to venture into Canada, a visit to Old Fort Erie will have you walking in the footsteps of the British and American forces who battled at this place during the War of 1812.

9. Ganson Street

Ganson Street, Buffalo (Buffalo Riverworks is located on this street)

During the late 19th century, Buffalo had established itself as one of America’s rising cities. The Buffalo History Museum says: “We were a powerhouse of innovation, industry, transportation, and commerce”. However, the most advanced technology of it’s time shined brightest. Ganson Street was chosen by Charles Brush, owner of Brush Electric Company, to be the first street in the nation to be powered by electric lights. This was monumental during a time when electricity was scarce. Next time you drive by Ganson Street, realize you are standing upon history.

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10. The Carrier Memorial @ Forest Lawn Cemetery

1411 Delaware Avenue Buffalo / More Info

It’s a hot summer day and you’re sweating bullets. It’s time to turn on the Air Conditioning. Did you know “The Father of the Air Conditioning Industry” actually originated from Buffalo? Willis Haviland Carrier was born on November 26th, 1876 on a farm near Angola. There is a memorial in his honor which resides in the Forest Lawn Cemetery. A very cool piece of history.

11. Site of The First Steam Powered Elevator

Located at the intersection of Erie Street and Marine Drive, South East corner in Buffalo

Another example of Buffalo being the pioneer of technology during the nineteenth century. Buffalo merchant Joseph Dart and machinist Robert Dunbar collaborated to instill the first steam powered elevator across the nation. The 50 by 100 foot ‘Dart Elevator’ stood on a site near the mouth of the Buffalo Harbor at the junction. Today, you can observe a bronze plaque which was placed there by the Buffalo Historical Society. Learn more about Joseph Dart on buffaloah.com.

More History in Buffalo

Written by <a href="https://stepoutbuffalo.com/author/seanbermingham/" target="_self">Sean Bermingham</a>

Written by Sean Bermingham

Sean is a SUNY Fredonia graduate with his Bachelor's Degree in English. As a Buffalonian born and raised, Sean is an avid sports fan, writer, outdoors enthusiast, and lover of music. His hobbies include hiking with his yellow lab, spending time with family, and making an impact in our wonderful community.
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