Hidden in the Harbor: The shape of the Erie Basin Marina

BUFFALO, N.Y.(WIVB) — It’s rare that in a city you’ve lived in your entire life you still can find new adventures and things to see, but that’s exactly what happened. It all started over dinner. One of my dad’s friends said, “Hey, have you ever seen the Erie Basin Marina from above?” The answer was no, so I put locals to the test to see if they ever had.

Looking at pictures from the marina above many lifelong Western New Yorkers had no idea about its unique shape. They guessed it looked like a shark, a ship, a heart, a smiley face, a diamond, a pyramid, and many more! But in actuality, the Erie Basin Marina was built to look like a Buffalo.

John Montague–founder of the Buffalo Maritime Center said,” How much it looks like a Buffalo, is a matter of taste and artistic judgement”

He said the shape all started as an inside joke between builders grasping at straws to save the collapsing Buffalo waterfront.

Montague said, “They started building in the 1950s when the harbor sort of started to vanish as an actual working harbor. Buffalo had a lot of empty docks. And this whole area here was at one time very very active. Big lakers were coming in here, there were a lot of chandory shops, all kinds of support systems for the boats. So when that virtually died, people began to recognize that this was going to change. The new world is a recreational use of the water.”

And recreational it has become. From Canalside to the Outer Harbor and back to the marina, Buffalo has become a new hot spot.

To some the shape of the marina has been kept a secret, but others, mainly boaters in the community, knew all about it. They even gave tips on the best spot to get a bird’s eye view of the marina!

Peter Smith, a boater who has launched out of the marina for years, said this, “For years I’ve known that this is shaped like a Buffalo. The best view to see this is from the top of city hall on the observation deck.”

And although shaping the Erie Basin Marina like a Buffalo may have been a cute idea, some people say it’s not the most functional.

Montague stated, “Cutting it off on the south end, allows when there is a seiche or a rise in the water, or heavy seas, the water comes in here and bounces off, like a swimming pool, bounces off one end back and forth. So there is a lot of activity, and a lot of people who have boats in the marina here, kind of complain when there is a big storm, they’re bouncing up and down.”

Even though there are some complaints, most Buffalonians seemed to love the design, Buffalo shaped or not!

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