Buffalo was hot long before it became famous for its spicy wings. Once home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States, the Western New York community became a booming center for trade and manufacturing with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. And nearly two centuries later, it’s still producing more than record annual snowfalls. Get to know the City of Good Neighbors.
1. While there is much debate over its etymology, most agree that the origin is quite simple: Buffalo Creek, which was named before the city, is one of three tributaries to the local Buffalo River. Other theorists credit the mispronunciation of the French beau fleuve, or "Beautiful River."
3. Sometimes also referred to as the “City of Light,” it was one of the first American cities to have electric street lamps. The installation was aided by Buffalo’s proximity to Niagara Falls, which supplied an abundance of hydroelectric power.
4. Although locals simply refer to them as “wings,” what the world now knows as “Buffalo wings” were invented by Teressa Bellissimo at the Anchor Bar in 1964. Her son Dominic said that she created the local favorite as a late-night snack for him and his friends by deep-frying the wings (normally used for soups at the time) and flavoring them with a secret sauce.
Its location on the shores of Lake Erie provides more than a picturesque landscape. The waterway helps Buffalo earn its reputation as a city oft plagued by inclement winter weather thanks to its production of lake-effect snow. In 2014, a historic November storm yielded a staggering seven feet of lake-effect snow over the course of three days.
6. Even with all that snow, city law prohibits the throwing of snowballs, except in designated areas.
7. President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901 at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and subsequently died in the city eight days later.
After McKinley’s death, Theodore Roosevelt became one of the few United States Presidents to be sworn in outside of Washington D.C. He took his oath of office on September 14, 1901 at Buffalo’s Ansley Wilcox Mansion (now the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site).
9. Those aren’t Buffalo’s only presidential connections. Millard Fillmore helped establish the University at Buffalo in 1846 and became its first chancellor. And Grover Cleveland lived there for nearly 30 years and served as mayor from 1882 to 1883.
10. Cleveland’s wife, Buffalo native Frances (née Folsom) became the country's youngest first lady ever at 21 years old. She was also the first to be married in the White House.
11. During the War of 1812, the British burned all but a few of Buffalo’s 150 buildings on December 30, 1813. One of the only remaining structures was the local jail.
12. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright erected several buildings in the region, including Graycliff Estate and the Martin House Complex. With seven constructions still standing today, only one other city (Chicago) houses more of Wright’s works.
Martin House, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Built in 1896, the Ellicott Square Building on Buffalo’s Main St. was once the largest office complex in the world.
14. Originally known as the Statler Hotel, the Hotel Buffalo (built in 1907) had private bathing areas and running water in each room before any other hotel worldwide.
15. The city’s beloved NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, is the only professional football franchise to lose four consecutive Super Bowls (in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994).
16. Growing up in the Allentown neighborhood, a young F. Scott Fitzgerald put on plays at his 29 Irving Place home.
17. The Polish-American celebration of Dyngus Day (held on the Monday after Easter) attracts tens of thousands of revelers, making it the largest in the country. In addition to food, live polka music and parades, one of the annual fete’s main traditions involves flirtation by playfully tapping one’s crush with a pussywillow branch.
The annual YMCA Turkey Trot, which began in 1896, is the oldest continually running public footrace in North America.
19. In the United States, only the Capitol building has more columns than Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery. (It has 102 total.) The museum, which opened in 1905, houses works from Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet, to name a few.
20. Goo Goo Dolls’ frontman John Rzeznik once worked as a barback at local live music venue The Continental.
21. In 1842, Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar invented the first grain elevator for unloading and storing shipments arriving via the Erie Canal. One of Buffalo’s last working grain elevators is still used today to produce all of the East Coast’s Cheerios. The sweet smell of baking cereal is prevalent in nearby areas.
22. Wilson Greatbatch designed and developed the first implantable cardiac pacemaker in a barn workshop behind his Clarence home in the late 1950s. On April 7, 1960, he and his partners successfully implanted the device in a seventy-seven-year-old man at a Buffalo VA hospital.
23. “Super Freak” singer Rick James (born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr.) grew up in Buffalo and attended nearby Orchard Park High School.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Singer Ani DiFranco transformed a closed downtown church into “Babeville,” a concert hall, art gallery, bar/lounge, and recording studio. It’s currently the headquarters of her indie rock label, Righteous Babe Records.
25. “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo." Yes, this is a grammatically correct sentence—and it makes sense! The complete statement uses three variations of the word: the city, the animal, and a verb meaning “to bully.”
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain