Canalside Archaeology: Digging for the Story of Buffalo

As Canalside gets dug up, in preparation for new developments to come, a series of archaeological digs are underway to unearth pieces of Buffalo’s waterfront history. In order to tell the ‘Buffalo story’, it’s important to learn as much about our past as possible. And if that means uncovering the puzzle pieces one at a time, that’s what archaeologists intent to do this summer at the site between Main Street and Hanover Street, under the Skyway and across from the Webster Block construction.  Digs will be conducted at the site from 9am-4pm on these dates: June 15, 19, and 29; July 3, 13, 17, 27, and 31; and August 7, 10, and 21.
“The Canalside area of Buffalo was at the heart of Buffalo’s and the nation’s 19th century economy and transportation network,” said Nathan Montague, Historian, Archaeological Survey at the University at Buffalo. “Great Lakes ships, Erie Canal boats, and the railroads all came together at Buffalo’s waterfront, to move products of the west to markets in the east and to carry people in the other direction to settle the west. The University at Buffalo’s Archaeological Survey is beginning its second season at Canalside at a site between Hanover Street and Main Street.  See Buffalo’s 19th and 20th century history as it is uncovered and learn about archaeology as it is practiced.
“Where we propose to dig is now an abandoned field, but four- and five-story brick buildings once covered this entire block of land between the canal and the Buffalo Harbor.
“The lower floors of those buildings typically housed businesses like warehouses, wholesale groceries, taverns, insurance companies and hardware stores, while upper floors were used for lodging or storage. Some of the buildings likely were erected in the 1830s and the last ones weren’t torn down until about 40 years ago.
“It’s hard to say what we’ll find down there, but previous digs we’ve conducted nearby have uncovered pipe stems and other personal items, dinner plates, commercial objects, a lot of brick and mortar, coal dust, ash and something that could be a cannonball or part of a ship’s ballast.
“Last summer we turned up building materials, objects related to daily use, ceramics and cups and parts of children’s toys, and parts of tools – all evidence of the daily lives of people living and working here.  We will probably find similar items and even may find a few surprises.
“It’s such an interesting experience for those of us who live here now to be able to connect with a world we don’t remember and can hardly imagine. This excavation is helping to uncover and present artifacts that serve testaments to a rich and fascinating aspect of Buffalo’s history that many of us hardly know.”
Excavation dates for the demonstration archaeology project and more info can be found on Canalside’s events page: www.canalsidebuffalo.com/events
For an intriguing look at the nature of the site, along with historic items that may be unearthed, click on the following PDF.
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About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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