Buffalo in the ’80s: Lost bits of the First Ward

By Steve Cichon

By the time this photo was taken in 1978, vast tracts of one of Buffalo’s oldest working-class neighborhoods were long gone.

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The decades’ old shanties of the First Ward and surrounding neighborhoods had long been a target of urban renewal. The Niagara Extension of the Thruway took over railroad right-of-ways, but it cut some streets and neighborhoods in half in the process. The Commodore Perry public housing project replaced block after block of rich, old-time neighborhoods with soulless government-owned tenements.

The Irish families that lived and worked there for generations left as the harbor and grain jobs did.

Thirty-seven years after this photo was snapped, parts of the First Ward are seeing new life. Within blocks on Fulton and Marvin, there are the Elk Terminal Lofts and the mixed use Fairmont Creamery Building. There’s all the development of the Buffalo River Works, Canalside and HarborCenter areas a short walk away.

And while the lot where this storefront/tavern/home once stood is now empty, it stands directly across the street from the Seneca Creek Casino.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.