Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Professor of History

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

History, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Jean Richardson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Department Home page

First Reader

Jean Richardson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Second Reader

Kenneth Mernitz, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History


The City of Buffalo in 1880 was a densely developed city of 180,000 people. Its success was built upon reducing the friction of space between it (and its Great lakes hinterland) and the Atlantic seaboard, first with the Erie Canal, then with railroads. Within the city, people walked or used carriages or streetcars pulled by horses on iron rails. Freight was moved mostly with horse and wagon. These were centripetal forces, concentrating people and economic activity in an ever-denser core as the city grew. Changes to this landscape began to be seen in fundamental ways in the early 1950s, and could not have happened without great and sustained state and federal funding for land acquisition and clearance for highway and “Urban Renewal” projects. This destabilized the city in ways still being felt. Thousands of people and many hundreds of businesses were forced to move (or close). An especially significant building type—the small mixed-use building with commercial space on the ground floor and semi-public or residential uses above—was demolished by the hundreds, fracturing the contiguity that is a necessary component of high-quality urban space. Subsequent construction, when and where it occurred, was not supportive of pedestrians or public transportation. Consequently, Buffalo has seen a stark decline in its spatial quality over the last 60 years, with ramifications for its economic competitiveness and quality of life.