Historic Buffalo Waterfront Tours

11:46 PM, Jun 3, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY-- No doubt many of you have been down to Canalside to enjoy a concert or to walk along the Naval and Servicemans Park and the newly restored Commercial Slip.

That's arguable the best view of Lake Erie. But if you continue walking about a mile up the Buffalo River, you'll end up in the place where the City of Buffalo started.

"The earliest history of the city you can find right here," said Gene Overdorf, tour guide for "Historic Buffalo Waterfront Tours.

The tours start at the recently dedicated Mutual Riverfront Park on the Buffalo River about a mile upstream from Canalside, right at the intersection of Hamburg and South Street, in Buffalo's historic Old First Ward neighborhood.

This is where the City of Buffalo was born-- literally the very first ward-- in the shadow of the mammoth grain elevators that helped build the Queen City's industrial base. Mutual Riverfront Park was named after the Mutual Rowing Club which was prominent at the turn of the last century.

"These guys were really good," Overdorf added, "They competed with anybody in the United States!"

A replica of the rowing club's boathouse was built on its original site, and next to it, a museum that houses the archives of the generations of families who lived here.

The idea for the museum actually came from Gene's sister Peg Overdorf. She's the Executive Director of the Valley Community Association. Both are passionate about preserving the heritage of the Old First Ward.

"There's a lot of history down here, there's a lot of great families that came from here and it needs to be documented," said Peg Overdorf.

Several generations of Buffalonians, predominantly those of Irish decent, worked in the mills scooping grain... on the rail lines, and in the shipping trade.

"They had nothing when they came here. They were at the bottom rung of the social ladder in Buffalo. And they had to claw for everything they got. And they worked their way up," Gene added.

The Museum itself houses volumes of photographs and archives that visitors can search for clues to their family's connection to "The Ward" and Buffalo's most humble beginnings.

"People have great pride about their roots from the First ward," said Gene with a smile.

"And it would be good for the neighborhood and for all of Western New York to come and see how Buffalo started!" Peg added proudly.

The Historic Buffalo Waterfront Tours take place on Mondays and Thursdays. You can get more information by calling the Valley Community Association or by going to their website.


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