Historic Postcards Reveal Colorized Images of a Bygone Buffalo

April 3, 2023 • By Brian Hayden

Tucked away in our museum’s archives are a collection of thousands of postcards that depict rare, colorized images of a bygone Buffalo.

The Buffalo History Museum has been adding to its collection of 9,000 postcards for generations, according to Library Director Cynthia Van Ness. Before every home in Buffalo had a telephone, postcards functioned as the text message of the day: a quick, nimble way to communicate a note back when mail carriers delivered in both the morning and the evening. Buffalo widely adopted postcards as a form of communication during the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, and continued everyday use of them until household telephones relegated them to the role of vacation souvenirs decades later. Many of the postcards printed and sold across Buffalo depicted colorful illustrations of the city and its architecture, parks, neighborhoods, businesses and attractions.

Today, these historical postcards provide a window into a time period when Buffalo neared the apex of its population and economic influence. They are some of the only colorized illustrations of landmarks and industry otherwise lost to history. Step back in time and explore some of the postcards in our collection that depict the Buffalo and Niagara Falls of yesteryear. You can purchase some of our postcard images in our picture store, or make an appointment in our library to view the entire collection.

Lost Landmarks

Downtown once featured a thriving public market along Chippewa Street in the shadow of St. Michael’s Church. The site of the Chippewa Market is now a parking lot.

Did you know that Tonawanda once had a racetrack? The Kenilworth Racetrack was located just off of Kenmore Avenue, near Niagara Falls Boulevard, and operated from 1902 to 1908.

The Broadway Barn, where the city stores its plow equipment, was once an entertainment venue known as “The Auditorium.”

The German Insurance Building in Lafayette Square is the present site of the Tishman Building and the Hilton Garden Inn downtown.

This postcard depicts the city’s former water intake in the Niagara River. You can see the ruin of this structure today near the Peace Bridge.


Former Transportation Routes

Did you know that a former railway through the Niagara Gorge connected Niagara Falls and Lewiston for decades? The Great Gorge Railway operated from 1895 until a rock slide destroyed it in 1935.

A suspension bridge connected the United States and Canada prior to the construction of the present-day Lewiston Queenston Bridge.



Historic Industry

This early 20th century postcard depicts the Niagara Falls manufacturing plant that made Shredded Wheat cereal.

This postcard shows the expansive campus of Buffalo’s former Larkin Soap Company, including the now-demolished administration building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Unique Architectural Features


These postcards depict spotlights shining at night off the tops of the Rand Building, City Hall and the Electric Tower.


Bygone Streetscapes


Downtown Buffalo has evolved substantially over time. These postcards show what two major downtown intersections, Lafayette Square and Shelton Square, looked like a century ago.




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