Buffalo, city (1990 pop. 328,123), seat of Erie co., W N.Y., on Lake Erie and the Niagara and Buffalo rivers; inc. 1832. With more than 37 mi (60 km) of waterfront, it is a major commercial and industrial port and railroad hub. Buffalo is a diversified manufacturing and financial center, with a large health-care industry.
In 1803 a village was laid out on the site by Joseph Ellicott for the Holland Land Company. Almost destroyed by fire (1813) in the War of 1812, it recovered slowly until the opening (1825) of the Erie Canal, after which it became a major Great Lakes port. The city developed as a flour-milling center and later thrived on steel milling, automobile and locomotive manufacturing, and other heavy industries. These all fell into decline, however, and by the 1980s Buffalo had lost its traditional economic base. The area has since benefited from the free trade agreement (1988) between the United States and Canada, attracting Canadian investment in real estate and manufacturing, but the city's population has continued the decline that began after World War II. By 2003 the decline led to a city financial crisis, and the state established an oversight authority to restore the city to fiscal health.
Buffalo's educational institutions include the State Univ. of New York (the city's largest employer), with campuses at Buffalo and suburban Amherst; Canisius College; and D'Youville College. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo Museum of Science are well known. Notable buildings include the city hall (1932) and the Guaranty Building (1895–96; formerly the Prudential Building), designed by Louis Sullivan. Buffalo has a music hall and a philharmonic orchestra and a noted park system created by F. L. Olmsted. The city is home to the National Hockey League's Sabres, and the National Football League's Buffalo Bills play in nearby Orchard Park. The Peace Bridge (1927) connects Buffalo with Fort Erie, Ont.
Grover Cleveland became mayor of Buffalo in 1882. Here in 1901, at the Pan-American Exposition, President McKinley was assassinated; Theodore Roosevelt took the presidential oath in Buffalo. The McKinley monument and the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (see National Parks and Monuments (table)) commemorate the two events. Millard Fillmore's home was in Buffalo.