Many tourists associate the area around Buffalo, New York, with nearby Niagara Falls and its astounding beauty. But travelers interested in history and urban exploration will find that this slice of upstate New York has a lot more to offer if they know where to look.
Industrial Age cities like Buffalo and Niagara Falls experienced massive drops in population during the second half of the 20th century. As people moved away from the area to either the suburbs or New York City in search of new opportunities, much of the urban core was left neglected and abandoned.
Areas that were once thriving struggled to get by and many residents left town. In their wake, homes, businesses, factories, and churches sat, waiting to be used again. Most of them were torn down in the end, but those that remain have become popular destinations for urban explorers to photograph and investigate.
Although the city is seeing a large resurgence in interest and investment, there are still plenty of examples of urban decay left to explore.
Wonderbread Factory, Buffalo, New York
Hovering above the rooftops of Buffalo's East Side neighborhood, the Wonderbread Factory has become a neighborhood icon. This 180,000 square-foot behemoth sits amongst other factories in varying states of disrepair, some used as storage facilities, others not used at all. The factory has become a particular favorite among urban explorers, mainly due to its iconic signage. Although a number of the letters are missing, it's the perfect example of an iconic structure, once employing hundreds of workers, now left to decay. The inside is still filled with dust-covered desks and many large machines, almost as if people got up from their jobs one day and never returned.
Central Terminal, Buffalo, New York
Buffalo's Central Terminal is stunning in its dominance, lurking over the city's East Side neighborhood. Standing at 17 stories in a section of town where next to nothing is more than two stories, the Central Terminal looks forever out of place. The art deco structure is comparable to New York City's Grand Central Terminal in its detail, but the notable difference is that it's been abandoned for decades. When the trains were diverted to a new route, the station was determined unnecessary and it was left abandoned.
The building is particularly popular with urban explorers for its sheer size and general accessibility. Tours are regularly hosted throughout the terminal and a number of events are hosted throughout the year. The funds raised are used to keep the building in good health until someone with a vision can bring it back to life.
Mount St. Mary's Nursing Home, Niagara Falls, New York
The massive campus of Mount St. Mary's nursing home was abandoned in 2003, in the midst of decrepit and forgotten homes. It's not so much that the building was left behind, but that the entire neighborhood was. The building gained national attention when it garnered a small amount of social media fame after an urban explorer captured the decay of the property in a host of stunning photos that were shared by a number of publications, including The Daily Mail.
H. H. Richardson Complex, Buffalo, New York
Like a real-life horror film set, this castle-like building has towered over the city since 1880. Built between famed architects Henry Hobson Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted—the man who designed New York City's Central Park—the building was originally opened as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. Patients were moved out in the 1970s to a new facility, and the original structure was left abandoned.
This building is a favorite amongst urban explorers due to the detail that still remains and the medical devices left behind. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, which has helped to preserve the premises.
Even though parts of the building are being restored and converted into new properties, the site still offers tours and events in the abandoned buildings from May until September.
Niagara Fall Police Station, Niagara Falls, Ontario
This tiny structure stands on an unimpressive side street out of the hustle of Niagara Falls, Ontario, away from the tourists hoping to snap photos of the falls. Boarded up and isolated with very few surrounding buildings, this structure offers little to suggest that it holds an impressive story. Used for many different purposes over its history, including a post office and later the neighborhood's police station, this structure once played a part in the movie "Niagara" starring Marilyn Monroe. Now, the structure is far from the Hollywood backdrop it once played after sitting empty and abandoned for nearly 40 years.
St. Ann's Cathedral, Buffalo, New York
St. Ann's Cathedral is also located in the East Side neighborhood of Buffalo, which was hit particularly hard by population decline in the 1950s and 1960s.
This ornate church was originally constructed in 1878 for the large population of German immigrants that resided in Buffalo at that time, and soon became one of the largest churches in the United States. Due to fewer worshippers and changing demographics, the cathedral was shut down by the diocese in 2011. Parishioners rallied together to fight to keep St. Ann's open, appealing directly to the Vatican. However, it was decided that the church would remain closed and any sacred artifacts inside would be removed.
Toronto Power Generating Station, Niagara Falls, Ontario
The gorgeous Beaux-Arts design of the Toronto Power Station on the Canda side of Niagara Falls makes this abandoned building look much more regal than it actually was. Built in 1906, it was simply a power plant. The station ceased operation in 1974 as it was determined that the water farther downstream could be used to generate more power and a new plant was built.
Due to its historical significance and incongruous design, the station was designated a National Historic Site of Canda and is owned by the Niagara Parks Commission.
The Toronto Power Station is worth a visit for travelers to Niagara Falls, both for its important place in the town's history as well as its architectural grandeur.
Grain Silos, Buffalo, New York
The massive grain elevators that line the outer harbor of Buffalo are one of the most important historical structures of the city. When the Erie Canal opened in the 19th century, Buffalo flourished and provided grains to large parts of the country. These silos and the jobs they created largely contributed to a booming economy in Buffalo. New waterways eventually diminished their importance, however, and the grain silos were eventually shut down.
The massive factory sat unused and in disarray for decades, alongside many other abandoned buildings in the area. However, community enthusiasm and some outside investment turned this neglected site into a popular cultural center. Silo City, as it's now called, hosts art exhibitions, musical concerts, and other live performances throughout the summer. Visitors can explore Silo City via land, water, or air by joining a walking tour, renting a kayak, or even flying through on a zipline. Restaurants and breweries along the water offer stunning views of the plant.
Silo City is an inspiring example of how dilapidated buildings from the past can be preserved and repurposed for the present.