What does a city in Western New York on the eastern tip of Lake Erie, and a central Canadian city on the Prairies 1,000 miles away to the Northwest (as the crow flies) have in common? Turns out, quite a bit actually.
This post is meant to be just for fun – so please humor me with the following comparison between them:
A comparison of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Buffalo, NY
-Both extremely important cities in the early 20th century
Winnipeg, 3rd largest city in Canada, 1911 with a population at the time of 136,000
Buffalo, 8th largest city in the Unites States, 1900 with a population at the time of 352,000
-Both were rail transportation hubs for grain and goods of all kind, and manufacturing hubs that produced a diverse array of goods
-Winnipeg – home to Canada’s Grain exchange (agricultural exchange), was a huge railroad hub between Ontario and the West.
The city has a grand Beaux Arts train station: Union Station
built in 1911 (still in use by VIA rail).
-Buffalo – Grain elevator invented here in 1842. Was huge grain storage and milling production center (with General Mills being one of the remaining production facilities). In 1911, Buffalo was the 2nd largest railroad terminus in U.S. after Chicago
Winnipeg is known for having many parks for its residents to enjoy. Assiniboine Park
(283 acres when built, now 1100 acres) is an oasis in the city, created by Mr. Frederick G. Todd, former worker and understudy of Frederick Law Olmsted. The park includes Winnipeg’s zoo, and has been home to “Shakespeare in the park” productions in the past
Buffalo – Frederick Law Olmsted built the main city parks and parkway system including the city’s jewel, Delaware Park (350 acres). Delaware Park also includes the Buffalo Zoo, and features “Shakespeare in the park” in the summer
The (arguably) largest concentration of Wealthiest citizens and some of the most expensive city homes surround these parks.
Winnipeg is known for having an amazing elm tree canopy. Buffalo was once as well, but unfortunately a good percentage of Buffalo’s elms have been decimated by decades of Dutch elm disease.
Both cities have grand architecture from the heyday of the late 19th-early 20th century. Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District
has ~150 heritage buildings, many with beauti
ful terra cotta façades
dating from the 1880s-1920s. Buffalo’s grand architecture forms a spine on Main St. with the rest spread throughout downtown (although “urban renewal” destroyed a good portion)
Both cities have large population of people with Eastern European backgrounds
Winnipeg (CMA-2006 data) has a huge pop. with Ukrainian background ~16% or 110,000
Buffalo (Erie county) has a huge pop. with Polish background: ~19% or 173,000
Buffalo ranked 77th for urban areas with Jewish population 13,000
Winnipeg ranked 78th with Jewish population ~13,000
Both Winnipeg and Buffalo have a large amount of Queen Anne and Victorian-esque homes, and other types of similarly styled homes comprised of 2-3 storeys on narrow lots. Also both have decent amounts of smaller worker cottage homes. A difference here is that Buffalo houses typically have driveways whereas in Winnipeg, rear lane-ways providing access to a garage is common.
Multi family structures % of total units
Buffalo (using Erie county for data) ~36%
Winnipeg’s Corydon Ave
with its plethora of shops, restaurants, bars and idyllic residential cross streets looks similar to Buffalo’s Elmwood Village, with a touch of North Buffalo thrown in, as Corydon is Winnipeg’s “Little Italy”.
Winnipeg’s Osborne Village with its concentration of residential high-rises including the city’s tallest residential tower
would have Buffalo’s Delaware District as kind of its peer, although none of Buffalo’s current residential towers reach the height of Winnipeg’s.
Both the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres are small market teams with some of the most dedicated fans in the NHL.
Same goes for football: Winnipeg-Blue Bombers, Buffalo-Bills both have die-hard fans (although Winnipeg’s team actually wins championships, albeit in a much smaller league, the CFL).
Both cities have a reputation for long, cold, winters and a hearty, tough population that is accustomed to this long season. Although Winnipeg is (usually) colder owing to its more northern location, and Buffalo is much snowier thanks to the “Lake Effect” of being on the eastern end of Lake Erie.
Both cities have reputations for having higher crime rates than average for their respective countries, unfortunately. In Winnipeg, the North End
suffers from immense poverty and blight, with a disenfranchised Native population. While in Buffalo, its the East Side that is in a similar, if not worse, predicament with blight, poverty, urban prairie and a disenfranchised African American population. Buffalo has a higher crime rate
overall, which unfortunately is true of most American cities compared to Canadian “peers”.
Both have 2 decently sized public universities
Winnipeg – U of M (Manitoba), mostly suburban setting with smaller urban campus, with ~29,000 students. U of Winnipeg, urban campus with ~10,000 students.
Buffalo – SUNY Buffalo aka UB – mostly suburban setting with a smaller urban campus, with ~29,000 students. Buffalo State, urban campus with ~11,000 students.
Both cities are known for “punching well above their weight” in regards to theatre offerings, and the arts in general. Buffalo has a well known Philharmonic orchestra (BPO), and art museum, Albright-Knox, while Winnipeg is known for having world-class ballet (the real kind, not the Niagara Falls, Ontario “Canadian ballet
” heheh). Also the Winnipeg Art Gallery is Canada’s oldest civic gallery and contains a massive collection of Inuit art.
Buffalo (bison) as an icon
In Manitoba, bison once grazed the Prairie by the thousands, so bison or “buffalo” are an icon in the capital city of Winnipeg. Inside the Manitoba legislative building there are 2 bison statues
seemingly protecting this house of provincial government, and the University of Manitoba has a bison in its crest
and as its team mascot. Buffalo, NY of course uses its animal namesake as an icon practically everywhere in the city/metro, from City of Buffalo street signs to bike racks to businesses, merchandise, UB’s mascot, etc.
Winnipeg, being the capital of Manitoba, is actually growing in population (it gained ~45,000 people from 2001-2011), while Buffalo is unfortunately still stagnant (Buffalo-Niagara Metro), with the city of Buffalo population still noticeably declining, albeit much slower than in the past.
Both Winnipeg and Buffalo are much maligned and the butt of many jokes in their respective countries, but both cities have an ongoing resurgence in their respective Downtown cores. The renewal is occurring in part due to new housing in apartments/condos and other activities (hockey, theater, festivals, etc.). This is attracting new residents, shops, restaurants and bars, thus making both city’s cores stronger by the year. In Buffalo, development in Canalside along the waterfront is well underway, which is in the process of creating a new vibrant area with hotels, a children’s museum, the mixed-use “hockey heaven” HarborCenter project, and new restaurants/shops for residents and tourists alike to enjoy. In Winnipeg, the return of the Winnipeg Jets to downtown is attracting investment to the core. On the popular riverfront area known as The Forks the new $300+Million Canadian Museum of Human Rights is currently under construction with an anticipated opening date of 2014. The CMHR will be a showpiece national museum and will attract many thousands of people a year. While Buffalo and Winnipeg may not be actual sister (or twin) cities, one thing is for certain: both of their futures look a lot brighter than they’ve been in decades.
While Buffalo and Winnipeg may not be actu
al sister (or twin) cities, one thing is for certain: both of their futures look a lot brighter than they’ve been in decades.
Lead image – Wikipedia – Winnipeg’s Osborne Village with city’s tallest residential building, 55 Nassau (358ft)
Inset image: Google streetview of a nice street just off Corydon Avenue (Crescentwood neighborhood)
Panoramic image: Winnipeg in 1907 showing streetcar line
Interesting tidbits: At Buffalo Sabres games, Labatt Blue is served to Sabres fans, while in Winnipeg at Jets games they serve Budweiser! Labatt’s flagship beer “Blue” was actually named after Winnipeg’s Blue Bombers CFL team. Labatt USA is headquartered in downtown Buffalo.