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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 01-A Passing Era (1989)

01-A Passing Era (1989)

Narrative by - David M. Rote
(Narratives are copyrighted)

Railroads and breweries represent two of Buffalo's greatest industries of the past. Buffalo was the second largest rail center in the country and the railroads were its largest employers for many years. Up to 20 rail lines, led by New York Central, served Buffalo's needs through the first half of this century and such commodities as coal, lumber, livestock, iron ore, etc. were efficiently brought into the area from the South and the West (see 11-A). The tall weeds and grass which now dominate the former track bed are indicative of a true passing era for the Queen City.

Bi-products of Buffalo's leading role as a grain distribution center were the manufacture of flour, cereal and beer and the barrel-making trade naturally followed. Behind the rail trestle may be seen the abandoned home of the William Simon Brewery, successor to John Schusler's brewery and one of more than 19 independently-owned breweries which produced nearly a million barrels of beer and ale annually at the turn of the century.

Buffalo's first local "strong beer" brewer was Rudolf Baer who had settled in Buffalo by 1826 and ran a hotel at Cold Spring at Ferry and Main Streets. Several breweries used the waters of the natural spring at that location. By mid-19th century, 37 breweries and nearly 1,900 taverns were in operation. Of all the breweries, that of Gerhard Lang was the largest. Mr. Lang purchased the brewery which his father-in-law Philip Born had established in 1842 at Jefferson and Genesee Streets and moved it to Jefferson and Best directly east of the Buffalo Water Department's 110 million gallon reservoir, largest in the world in 1894, and later the site of War Memorial Stadium. Lang also built a creamery and a bakery. The Lang home stood on the site of the present Studio Arena Theater at the corner of Main and Tupper Streets. In addition to Lang and Simon, the breweries of Beck, Pabst, Phoenix, Schaefer and Iroquois were well known locally. In 1893 Iroquois purchased the Jacob Roos brewery, established in 1830 and Buffalo's oldest brewery still in operation at the time.

The impact of national brewing companies entering the local market plus the failure of the locals to stay abreast of modern improvements, including automation, spelled the doom of the local brewing industry and Iroquois, Buffalo's largest exporter of local beer, closed in 1971 followed by Simon the following year.