The Port of Buffalo lies on the far-northeastern shores of Lake Erie where it meets the Niagara River in western New York State. The Port of Buffalo is about 125 kilometers south of the Port of Toronto (across Lake Ontario) and 110 kilometers south-southwest of the Port of Rochester, New York. It is the second biggest city in the State and the center of a large metropolitan region that includes Lackawanna, Niagara Falls, Amherst, Lancaster, and many other New York towns. In 2000, over 292 thousand people called the Port of Buffalo home, and almost 1.2 million people lived in the urban area from Buffalo to Niagara Falls some 28 kilometers to the northwest.
Historically, the Port of Buffalo was home to heavy industries that included railroad and Great Lakes shipping, steel and automobile manufacturing, and grain storage. However, many of these industries have left the city since the middle 20th Century. The Port of Buffalo is the United States' busiest inland port and its second largest rail center. Today, the Port of Buffalo's economy is mixed with important service, high-tech, light manufacturing, and industrial sectors. The city continues to grow as a center for human genome research and bioinformatics as well.
The Port of Buffalo was home to The Neutrals (or the Attawandaron), a tribe of the Iroquois Nation, until it was overrun by the Senecas of the Iroquois Confederacy. In 1804, an agent of the Holland Land Company, Joseph Ellicott, designed a street plan for the new Port of Buffalo, one of three radial street plans in the United States. British troops burned the village of Buffalo in 1813 during the War of 1812.
In 1825 when about 2400 people lived in the Port of Buffalo, the Erie Canal was finished with the Port of Buffalo as its western terminus. Opening of the Canal brought a flood of people and business to the Port of Buffalo, and it was incorporated as a city in 1832 with a population of about ten thousand.
The Port of Buffalo has been home to a sizeable African-American community for many years. In 1845, the Macedonia Baptist Church was built, and it became an important meeting place for abolitionists before the American Civil War. Several leaders of the abolitionist movement lived in the Port of Buffalo, and it was a stop on the Underground Railroad where escaping slaves crossed the Niagara River into Fort Erie in Ontario.
The Port of Buffalo continued to grow during the 1840s when it served around 93 thousand passengers moving west. Increasing shipments of grain and commercial products resulted in many expansions of the harbor. The Port of Buffalo was the site of one of the firs steam-powered grain elevators that made it possible to unload lake freighters faster.
In 1861, future President Abraham Lincoln visited the Port of Buffalo on his way to Washington DC, staying at the American Hotel. During the Civil War, the city's population continued to grow. The Port of Buffalo sent many recruits to join the Union effort, and Buffalo manufacturers sent war supplies and materials to help. The Niagara Steam Forge Works made parts for the famous ironclad ship, the USS Monitor.
As the 20th Century began, hydroelectric power generated from the Niagara River supplied local mills, and the Port of Buffalo won the nickname "City of Light" due to its liberal use of electric lighting. It added the first electric street lights in the United States in 1881. The Port of Buffalo was also a major player in the infant automobile industry, being home to the early Pierce Arrow and the Seven Little Buffaloes.
In 1901, United States President William McKinley was assassinated at the Pan-American Exposition in the Port of Buffalo. When he died eight days later, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President at the Wilcox Mansion in Buffalo.
When the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1957, the Port of Buffalo was effectively cut off from important trade routes. The area began to lose important industries, and residents began to move to the suburbs. The Port of Buffalo's economy went into decline. Its population of one-half million people in the 1950s declined by half in the following decades.The modern Port of Buffalo is enjoying a 21st Century rebound with new investment and economic development. The downtown core is being renovated, and the city once again offers a promising job market.