Mildred C. Green (1874-1951), Title unknown [Ship with tugboats in Buffalo Harbor], undated; oil on canvas board, 11 x 15 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of John and Carol Kociela, 2010
In peace as in war, the force of the river required ingenuity of those who wished to link the lakes for shipping purposes. At the head of the Niagara and as gateways to Lake Erie, the independent villages of Black Rock and Buffalo vied to be preferred ports of call. After the War of 1812, the commencement of the Erie Canal’s construction in 1817 raised the stakes, as both villages competed to become its western terminus.
In 1820, Buffalo began a publicly subscribed expansion of its harbor facilities that included the dredging and deepening of the Buffalo River, the construction of a massive breakwater, piers, wharves, and support canals. It won the contest with Black Rock, and in 1853, Black Rock was annexed by the City of Buffalo.
By the turn of the next century the harbor at Buffalo was fueling economic growth. This along with the power available from Niagara Falls created a perfect atmosphere for business and industry to grow. The shipment and storage of grain would be one of the largest of these industries. It would eventually come to define the waterfront as it still does today.