Buffalo was once the booming Queen City of the Great Lakes as the nation's largest inland port. Lake and canal ships flocked the inner and outer harbors. Some described it as another city on the lake, with thousands of lights flickering on the waters of Lake Erie.
Along with numerous boats and barges, came large passenger steam ships, many manufactured in Buffalo, docking at the city's bustling waterfront. Steam ships like the Canadiana (far left in entry photo), traveled to many destinations, primarily connecting downtown Buffalo and Canada, including Crystal Beach Amusement Park.
So what happened to these gorgeous ships that once transported thousands and graced our city's waterfront? The Canadiana, manufactured in Buffalo in 1910, after ceasing operation in the 1980's, floated throughout much of the Great Lakes carelessly, with little hope of any future.
The ship went from Port Colborne to Cleveland where it finally sunk in the Cayuhoga River. It was later raised and towed back to Buffalo and dismantled on the outer harbor, which brings us to today, where all we have left is the old wheel house now held in storage. The Canadiana has died, but survived a 94-year-old life. Some images from FixBuffalo of the remains of the wheel house taken shortly after dismantling:
The plans to restore the boat were quite interesting
. They included: A major tourist attraction complete with an official Maritime Museum, a nautical restaurant, live theater playhouse, adjunct to a new convention center, a jewel of a restored harborfront setting, capable of weddings, receptions, and banquets with a setting for turn-of-the-century movies, along with many other types of interests, while being a cruise passenger ship with three hour intervals between dockings.
Unfortunately, full-funding for restoring ship was not secured. Things along the waterfront are looking brighter despite the death of the Canadiana and other historic Buffalo passenger ships. Waterfront plans are finally starting to advance. The Inner Harbor is becoming a major attraction where CanalSide
is expected to be open by May 2011.
The outer harbor still screams for development, but is showing aesthetic and access improvements. A new plan for the prime property is expected in the coming years, acting as another phase of waterfront development after CanalSide is complete. What does this mean for Buffalo cruise ships? Well, it may be time to raise awareness and work to bring back larger cruise ships. If the Canadiana were mothballed instead of scrapped, it may have a better shot today for restoration than a decade ago. The current Miss Buffalo and Spirit of Buffalo are a good start, but there may be a market for more.