Hydraulics - Table of Contents

History of the Hydraulics
Buffalo, NY

By James Napora
The text below is reprinted with permission from
"Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York," by James Napora. Page 270. Master of Architecture Thesis. Found at Buffalo Central Library NA5235 B8 N37 1995

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The canal has long since passed into history, leaving the remains of the Hydraulics neighborhood, the site of the earliest manufacturing district in the city.

With the completion of the Erie Canal, a group of local business people desired to capitalize on its economic potential. In 1825, a number of them banded together and raised $25.000 with which they desired to develop an industrial area utilizing water power. Within two years, they had placed a dam on Buffalo Creek in the Kaisertown area and constructed a passage to connect it to Little Buffalo Creek.

Utilizing this additional water, they built a millrace from Little Buffalo Creek along a route paralleling Seneca Street. At approximately Hamburg and Seneca Streets, the millrace took a sharp turn and the water was directed over a cascade, after which it flowed into the Hamburg Canal, present day Exchange Street. At this falls developed a small industrial area which initially contained a flour mill, tanneries and metal shops.

In 1850, additional power was created when the height of the millrace was increased resulting in further industrial development of the district. Attracted by the prospects of work in the nearby industry, German and Irish families began to settle the neighborhoods bordering on the canal. With increased settlement, the nature of the neighborhood began to change.

By1875, the Hydraulic Canal was filled in, ending the earliest chapter in Buffalo's industrial development. In the 1880s, the city incorporated the millrace into the sewer system and filled what was left of a ravine for the construction of Seymour Street.

Larkin soap: Further changes occurred in 1876 when Elbert Hubbard and John D. Larkin began to manufacture soap products in the area. By 1900 the company had grown into one of the largest mail order business in the nation.

On a site bordered by Swan and Seneca Streets and the railroad line, Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building stood. Constructed in 1904, it served as the administrative center for the once flourishing company. With the demise of the mail orderbusiness, the building went through years of subsequent usesuntil being destroyed in 1950. A lone pier from the building remains at the northwest corner of the parking lot now occupying the site.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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