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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 05-A Michigan Avenue Bridge (1989)

05-A Michigan Avenue Bridge (1989)

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

The earliest known bridge at this location was built about 1873 - and was a swing bridge. Through the years, a number of spans have replaced the original structure.

The lift bridge depicted here dates only from 1960 and was designed to look like an earlier 1930's era bridge which was severely damaged by a drifting ship (the Tewksbury) caught in a torrent of water spawned by a sudden ice thaw on the Buffalo River in January of 1959. Nearby buildings including a ship chandlery and a grain elevator were also damaged during the mishap.

Traces of old wooden wharves which serviced a grain warehouse complex here are visible from the bridge and an excellent view of the old DL&W train sheds maybe seen (see 11-A). Directly to the north of the bridge is the berth of the retired fireboat Edward M. Cotter, originally named the W.S. Grattan, one of the last vessels of its kind on the Great Lakes, a victim of budget cuts by the city government. Because of the volatile nature of grain storage, including heating the grain to reduce moisture content, many fires have occurred along the Buffalo River and the City Ship Canal and the Cotter was often the only sure method of accessing the sites to fight those fires. Until recently during the winter months, the fireboat Cotter, which has been serving Buffalo since 1900, had been used to break up ice along the Buffalo River and the inner harbor.

The General Mills complex at the northwestern end of the bridge, formerly the Washburn-Crosby Plant, produces not only the highly-acclaimed Gold Medal Flour but also such breakfast favorites as Cheerios and Wheaties and many Betty Crocker products. Unique tile grain bins, the only ones of their kind in Buffalo, were built in 1903 for Washburn-Crosby and may still be seen on the Michigan Avenue side of the plant at the City Ship Canal. Behind these are the concrete Frontier Elevators of General Mills.

The mill of George Urban grew to be the largest flour milling operation in Buffalo at the turn of century and today General Mills and nearby Pillsbury on Ganson Street continue to make Buffalo the world's largest flour-milling center.