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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 02-A Harbor Inn (1989)

02-A Harbor Inn (1989)

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

Located at the corner of Ohio and Chicago Streets in the old First ward, this 3-story brick Italianate building was erected circa 1869 as a bar and boarding house. Its semi-hexagonal corner, probably the original entrance to the building, is graced with cast iron Corinthian columns. Above is a 1 1/2 story likeness of a lighthouse bearing the name of the Harbor Inn. Cast iron columns were used in a number of Buffalo buildings and remind us of a great industry which steadily grew in the old First Ward and along the Niagara River - the iron foundries.

The rise of the grain industry and iron foundries provided good jobs for thousands of workers. Many of these workers naturally settled nearby and a number of the cottages which they called home are still standing in the old First Ward. The neighborhood taverns, like Harbor Inn, were popular gathering places after a long day's work and they became the center of much of the social life of the hard-working immigrant workers, much like their English pub counterparts.

Harbor Inn is located adjacent to old shipbuilding yards which existed along the Buffalo River for 150 years, until the closing of American Shipbuilding's Buffalo Dry Dock yards in 1962 - the builder of the sister ships Americana (1908) and Canadiana (1910). Buffalo's own Bidwell & Banta, organized in the early 19th century, was the Great Lakes dominant shipbuilder for nearly a half-century. In 1857 eight independent shipyards were in operation in Buffalo and that year Bidwell & Banta, launched the 331-foot, 2,000 ton City of Buffalo, a magnificent wooden "palace steamer" complete with a bison figurehead on her bow, built for the Michigan Southern Railroad Company.

The first iron steamship constructed on the Great Lakes entirely from local sources was The Merchant commissioned by the Evans Brothers forwarding firm and designed by Buffalo shipbuilder David Bell. The iron came from Pratt & Letchworth and the ship was launched in 1862, remaining in service until 1875. Many of the engines for Buffalo-built boats came from King Iron Works, located just to the north of the Harbor Inn while boilers came from the nearby Lake Erie Boiler Works.