Canalside excavation digging up pieces of Buffalo history

Jun 10, 2013

Along with the hundreds of events planned at Canalside this summer, visitors have a chance to learn more about life in the early days of Buffalo. An archeological dig is underway in one of the oldest parts of the city.

Just across Main Street from where the new HARBORcenter is going up, archeologists, historians, and grad students are digging down for artifacts that tell Buffalo's story.

"We are halfway between the harbor and the canal. So this area right here was very busy after the canal was built up until about 1900. They would unload the ships that came from all over the Great Lakes. They would hold their product here and then transfer them to canal boats and they would go to points east," says Nathan Montague, a historian with the University at Buffalo's Archeological Survey.

Montague says says the excavation will go about eight feet deep.  

"This is also a very heavily trafficked area for immigrants and emigrants. People moving from the east...would make their way down Main Street to get on ships to head out to the west."

But Montague points out Canalside is one of the first areas settled when the Village of Buffalo was laid out.
He says diggers could find artifacts from as early as the late 1700s - 1790s.

Initial work last week uncovered a foundation and bricks from a building Montague says was likely demolished in the late 1940s. He also worked on an excavation in the area last summer.

"We found bottles, building materials, nails, tools...pieces of toys," he says.

Along with telling Buffalo's story, Montague says the main goals is to educate people about archeology.    

"People can come down, see how archeology is done, talk to the archeologists, [and] talk about even other projects that we've done."

The excavation schedule is available on line at canalsidebuffalo.com.