When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, a new revolution in transportation of grain had suddenly developed. During the first five years between 1835 and 1841, when grain was literally unloaded on the backs on men, Buffalo's grain receipts rose from 112,000 to over 2 million bushels. This tremendous increase in grain traffic saw the need for a faster and more efficient method of loading and unloading grain from the ships that arrived in Buffalo. In 1842 Joseph Dart, a Main Street retail merchant, constructed what came to be known as the first grain elevator at the foot of Commercial Street on the Buffalo Creek.
Dart's invention consisted of a wooden structure that served as storage bins for the grain. Loading the grain into this structure was a steam-driven belt which had buckets attached to it. As the belt with the buckets was lowered into the hold of a ship, the buckets would scoop the grain and hoist it up into the structure where it was dropped into tall bins. This is where the term "elevator" originated because this is exactly what the process did. It elevated the grain from the ship and stored it in bins until it was lowered for transshipment or for milling purposes.
Fires have always been a great threat to the grain industry and certainly caused the demise of Buffalo early wooden elevators. Since grain dust is a highly explosive substance, a careless spark would cause an explosion that would not only destroy the elevator, but neighboring property as well. In 1897, the Great Northern and Electric elevators were constructed as an answer to the explosion/fire threat. Both of these elevators were constructed of steel and brick, and as a testament to its sturdiness, the Great Northern elevator still stands, only now no longer in use. As the 20th century dawned in Buffalo, new safety standards appeared in the construction of grain elevators. The wide-spread use of concrete and steel was accompanied by revolutionary ventilation and dust-control measure until the industry was no longer victim to as many fires.
The 20th Century brought the invention of the railroad, and grain started arriving in Buffalo from northern states and Canada. The railroad proved itself faster and more reliable than the lakes and canals; it didn't freeze in the winter and was more direct. Railroad tracks eventually were built right up to the elevators and as the years of the 20th Century went by, shipping grain by water was almost non-existent.
The opening of the Welland Canal and St Lawrence Seaway spelled the end for Buffalo regarding grain shipment and processing. (http://www.buffalohistoryworks.com/grain/history/history.htm)
Cargill-Superior: Cargill Superior, or just the Superior Elevator, was designed and built by local architect A. E. Baxter who also designed several other grain elevators in the Buffalo area. Construction began in 1914 with section "A" and section "B" added in 1919. A final section, "C", was added in 1925. Cargill leased the 1.5 million bushel Superior elevator in Buffalo in 1927. In 1978, Cargill simply abandoned three grain elevators after refusing to pay property taxes on them for five years, leaving the city with an uncollected bill of $860,000. The city, subsequently acquired the property at its own tax sale, but was unable to realize as much money from the selling of the property as the amount Cargill owed in taxes. Buffalo sought to collect the delinquent tax money from Cargill by taking the case to the New York State Supreme Court. The Court, however, ruled that state law compelled the city to bid on the property at the tax sale and that the same law deemed the delinquent taxes to have been paid when Buffalo picked up the property at the tax sale.
Concrete Central: Spanning over a quarter of a mile, it is Buffalo's largest grain elevator. The Eastern Grain Mill and Elevator Company built the Concrete Central Elevator in three stages between 1915 and 1917. The entire complex contains over 250 bins, some of which are 150 feet in height. The Concrete Central Elevator was acquired in 1944 by the Continental Grain Corporation, one of the largest grain trading organizations in the world, and continued to operate until 1967. When the elevator closed Continental grain deeded the elevator to Buffalo Grain Elevator Inc. for about $10,000. Buffalo Grain Inc. dissolved in 1975 and Concrete Central was left to the vultures.
Marine-A: The Buffalo-based Abell family was responsible for the building and operation of the Marine elevators. William H. Abell built the original Marine Elevator about 1870 on the site of the recently burned Hatch Elevator. In the second decade of this century, Harold L. Abell drew up an ambitious expansion plan, a 5,000,000 bushel complex, but only the main house was constructed. The elevator is Buffalo's only example of bins constructed according to the detailed drawings of T. D. Budd's patent for the "Improvement in Grain Elevators" granted in 1921. The estimated cost of construction was $250,000, providing storage at a cost of 25 cents per bushel and a total capacity of 2,042,600 bushels. The elevator opened in 1926. Use of the elevator ceased in 1962, and was taken over by the City of Buffalo for back taxes in 1974. Local attorney Glenn A. Claytor bought the abandoned facility from the city in 1985 and engaged engineering studies that would allow him to convert the property from grain storage to a fresh-water marine hatchery to supply the city's restaurant trade with fish free from the contaminants present in the Great Lakes, however nothing ever materialized. (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/ny/ny1600/ny1680/data/ny1680data.pdf) Marine-A is part of a complex now referred to as Silo City, also including the Perot and American Elevators, owned by Rick Smith who intended to turn them into an ethanol plant. However when that plan ended up not being feasible, he has re-imagined the area, turning it into a sort of tourist attraction, holding several events during the warmer months including the increasingly popular City of Night.
Bethlehem Steel North Office: Designed by noted New York City architect Lansing C. Holden, this magnificent Beaux Arts building was originally designed for the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1902. Built of brick, terra cotta, and incredibly detailed ornamental copper, the elegant-yet-imposing Administration Building spoke to the power and influence of Lackawanna Steel owner John J. Albright and the giant corporation for which he secured the land. Bethlehem Steel bought the headquarters building and steel works in 1922. The building has been vacant since Bethlehem Steel closed in 1982. The City of Lackawanna condemned the building and ordered its demolition in May 2012.