George Urban Junior

Source: "A History of the City of Buffalo," published by the The Buffalo Evening News, 1908

Excerpt from the

H. Seeberg Building application for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, pp. 2-3

The earliest known occupant, and likely the builder and owner of the 123-125 [Genesee Street] corner building is Henry Urban, who emigrated from Alsace, a French-controlled but culturally German region.

Opened with partner George Beyer, the grocery shop of Beyer and Urban was located at the corner of Genesee at Oak Street as early as 1847, and in the 1850 census Henry Urban’s property was valued at $3,000 indicating his ownership of the building.

In 1872 Henry Urban was noted as having both his shop and residence in the building at 123-125 Genesee Street. During the nineteenth century, the corner of Genesee and Oak was heavily occupied by the Urban family, including George Urban Sr.’s wholesale flour business located at the north-east corner (established in 1846) and later his son George Urban, Jr.’s Urban Roller Mills business was established in 1881 located at the north-west corner at 324 Oak Street. The Urban Roller Mills was the first mill in Buffalo to introduce the use of metal rollers in grain milling, with previous milling being done with large mill stones, and the Urban Milling Company became one of Buffalo’s most prominent companies.

Henry Urban the elder may have died sometime before 1860, since his seven year old son, Henry J. Urban, appears residing at 111 Genesee Street in the house of grocer Louis. P. Adolf in the 1860 census. Henry J. Urban continued the family legacy in the grocery business, operating his own store from the building at 123-125 Genesee Street (perhaps an inheritance from his father) from about 1878 until at least 1902. Henry J. Urban not only ran the grocery store and resided in the building, but for a short time around 1880-81, he also operated a saloon from the building at 123 Genesee Street.

The following text is a reprint of

"A History of the City of Buffalo," pub. by The Buffalo Evening News, 1908

George Urban Junior, one of the leading factors in the business life of Buffalo and Western New York, was born in this city July 12, 1850, the son of George Urban, a native of Alsace, France, who settled in Buffalo in 1835 and a number of years later entered the wholesale flour business.


The younger Urban received his education at the Buffalo public schools, and at the age of sixteen year entered the employ of his father. Four years later, in 1870, he was admitted as a partner in the business, which then became known as Urban & Company.

The original establishment, located at the corner of Genesee and Oak streets, was augmented in 1881 by the erection of the first roller flour mill in Buffalo, on a site opposite the store of the firm. Four years later the senior Urban retired from business life, and George Urban Junior became the head of the firm, having associated with him E.G.S. Miller and W.C. Urban, a brother of the senior member of the firm.

The business is known under the name The George Urban Milling Company, turning out several well-known brands of flour, which are used in every part of the country. The immense new mill of the company, at Urban and Kehr streets, adjacent to the tracks of the New York Central Belt Line, was completed in 1903. This mill which is one of the best equipped and handsomest of its kind in the world today, was the first mill in Buffalo in which the motive power was exclusively electricity, brought here from Niagara Falls.

Mr. Urban does not confine his attention entirely to the direction of his milling business, for he has found time to become prominently identified with various others of Buffalo's industrial and commercial institutions. He was

  • first vice-president of the Buffalo General Electric Company,
  • first vice-president of The Cataract Power and Conduit Company, and
  • president of The Buffalo and Niagara Falls Electric Light and Power Company.
  • president of The Buffalo Loan, Trust, and Safe Deposit Company,
  • director of the Market Bank
  • director of the Bank of Buffalo.
  • director of the Buffalo German Insurance Company,
  • director of the Buffalo Commercial Insurance Company, The
  • director of the Buffalo Elevating Company,
  • director of the Ellicott Square Company.
  • one of the organizers of The Thomson-Houston Electric Light Company, and served as its president until the business was absorbed by the Buffalo General Electric Company.
  • organizer and director of The Bellevue Land and Improvement Company


Although he could never be influenced to take office, Mr. Urban has ever been prominent in the counsels of the Republican party in Buffalo and Western New York. He was chairman of the Erie County Republican General Committee from 1892 to 1895. In 1896 and 1900 Mr. Urban was a Republican presidential elector from Erie County, and in 1904 he was honored by the selection as Republican presidential elector at large from New York State.

Mr. Urban is a member of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and the New York Produce Exchange.

Social Clubs

He is also a member of several of Buffalo's social organizations, including the Buffalo, Ellicott, Saturn, Country, and Park clubs of this city. His out-of-town affiliations include membership in the New York Club and the Republican Club of New York City, and the Whist Club of Rochester.

Family Life

In October, 1875, Mr. Urban married Ada E. Winspear, daughter of Pennock Winspear, of Cheektowaga. They have four children -- one son, George P. Urban; and three daughters, Emma M., Ada J., and Clara W. Urban. George P. Urban is secretary and treasurer of The George Urban Milling Comp

George Urban
Reprinted from
Cheektowaga Historical Association and Museum

George Urban Jr. was one of Cheektowaga's most prominent citizens. Born in Buffalo N.Y. July 12, 1850, the family lived at Genesee and Oak Streets. His father settled there in 1835 and had come from Alsace, France. Shortly after arrival George Urban Sr. started a milling company. George Urban Jr. attended Buffalo public schools and Shellys School for Boys until he was 16 years old. At that time he went to work for his father in the milling company. Four years later, when he was 20 years old , he was admitted as a partner in the milling business known as Urban & Co. Eleven years later George Urban Jr. was known throughout the country as the builder of the first roller mill in the U.S. The mill was located at Genesee and Oak Streets across from the company's original building.

When George Urban Sr. retired, George Jr. became head of the firm associated with Edwin G.S. Miller and William C. Urban a younger brother. Under George Jr. the company flourished and in 1903 became known as George Urban Milling Company.

The company built a new 5 story brick and steel mill on Urban and Kehr Streets and was one of the best equipped and finest of its kind in the world. It was the first mill in Buffalo to use power from Niagara Falls extensively.

George Urban Jr. married Ada E. Winspear, daughter of Pennock Winspear in October 1875. They had four children, George P. Urban, Ada Jeanette, Emma and Clara.

When George Urban built his family estate on Pine Ridge Road in Cheektowaga, he was surrounded by farm land. His property consisted of 8-9 acres. Besides a beautiful home, there was a grape vineyard, with 29 varieties of grapes and a 3/4 acre pond stocked with trout and gold fish. He was skilled in the knowledge of plants and his estate was filled with flowers and trees. There was Lilacs, Magnolia, 150 varieties of Roses including green roses brought from Bermuda, Pansies, a strawberry patch, ivy, oak, Lily of the Valley, ferns,  and a hot house with lemon trees and flowers. At age 77 Mr. Urban had planted 5000 Elms on a 200 acre plot opposite the Pine Ridge estate.

In the vegetable gardens were melons, potatoes, tomatoes, beans and the first bantam corn in Buffalo.

The estate also raised approximately 800 chicks yearly. The modern poultry houses were equipped with electric lights.

When Mr. Urban became interested in electricity, he visited Thomas Edison. As a result of this visit, George Urban bought an electric generator for for his flour mill. It was one of the first ten generators made by Edison. He later gave it to the Buffalo General Electric Co. which he was vice president of, as an historic object.

After electricity was made available at Niagara Falls, George Urban attended a conference on how to bring electricity to Buffalo. Urban introduced the first incandescent light service in Buffalo on July 14, 1881. The experiment consisted of nine lamps on Ganson Street.

George Urban was always a Republican. He was chairman of the Erie County Republican General committee from 1892-95 and in 1896 & 1900 was Presidential Elector from Erie County. In 1904 he was honored as Republican presidential elector from New York State.

Among his friends were Presidents Cleveland, McKinley and Harrison.
Although President Cleveland was a Democrat, George Urban supported and worked on his campaigns for president, which helped the former Erie County Sheriff get elected twice.

George Urban was a strong supporter of the Pan American Exposition held in Buffalo in 1901. He met with Buffalo Mayor Conrad Diehl and others in planning this event.

Besides being CEO of George Urban Milling, George Urban was;

  • President of the Niagara Falls Electric Light and Power Co.
  • President of the Buffalo Loan, Trust and Safe Deposit Co.
  • Vice President of Buffalo General Electric Co.
  • Vice President of the Cataract Power and Conduit Co.
  • Director of Market Bank, Bank of Buffalo, the Buffalo German Insurance Co., the Buffalo Commercial Insurance Co., the Buffalo Elevating Co. and the Ellicott Square Co.

George Urban continued to work up to his death on Thursday,  February 23, 1928. The George Urban home still remains today on Pine Ridge Road next door to Villa Maria College.

Urban Company photo: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record

"Buffalo Historical Society Publications," Volume 30, 1930

George Urban, Jr. died at his residence, Pine Ridge, Cheektowaga (See below) after an illness of three weeks, aged 77 years, on Feb. 23, 1928. He was financier, capitalist, merchant and pioneer in hydroelectric development, and one of the most prominent men of the Niagara frontier.

He was one of the supporters of Grover Cleveland for the honors of Governor and President, and also one of the promoters of the Pan-American Exposition.

His father, George Urban, Sr. was a native of Alsace, France, and migrated to Buffalo in 1835.

George Urban, Jr. was the builder of the first roller mill in the United States. He was one of the organizers and directors of the Brush Electric company which installed the first municipal lighting plant in Buffalo.

For 25 years he was the head of the George Urban Milling company, having one of the best equipped flour mills in the country. He was a director in several banks and other financial institutions. He was a Republican presidential elector in 1896, 1900 and 1904.

Pine Hill Farm
280 Pine Ridge Road, Cheektowaga, NY

Reproduction from the 1880 Erie County Atlas
In 1875, George Urban Jr. married Ada Pennock-Winspear and settled on the Pine Hill Farm. Urban was a full partner in their Urban Mills remaining president until his death in 1928.

See also:

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