If you were to ask the average Buffalo resident to name a landmark in Erie County, most people would name somewhere in the city. While the city does contain many historical landmarks, the rest of Erie County also has plenty of its own. Evan Wright, who is the Community and Academic Engagement Manager at the Castellani Art Museum, spent three year as Director of Operations for the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and currently works with the Historic Preservation Commission for the City of Niagara Falls. Wright recommends several visit-worthy historic locations around Buffalo. Here are five to explore!
1. Das Haus Museum Niagara Falls
Celebrating the early Prussian immigrants who settled, Das Haus Museum in Niagara Falls is part of the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York. In the 1840s, hundreds of Prussian Lutherans settled what was then the Niagara frontier. An original 1843 cabin, part of Das Haus remains preserved as part of the museum complex. Visit Das Haus May through October on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm. There is no charge for visiting; however, a donation is encouraged. Guided tours are available upon special arrangement. Please contact (716) 795-2890 to schedule your tour.
2. Roycroft Museum East Aurora
This museum is a tribute Elbert Hubbard, who founded one of the most successful Arts and Crafts communities in the country on the museum site. The museum was donated to the Aurora Historical Society in 1985 by Gladys Schiedemantel, Elbert’s wife. The building contains a vast array of books, furniture, and oil paintings, all in the Arts and Crafts tradition. All tours must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children, and all children under 12 years old are free.
3. Buffalo Niagara Historical Village Amherst
This historical village will take visitors on a journey back in time to life in the Buffalo area in the 1800s. Established in 1972 by the Town of Amherst, the village moved to the current 35 acre site in 1976. The village contains over 40,000 artifacts, the Niederlander Research Library, and exhibits that rotate throughout the summer. The museum is open every year from May to October, and admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children.
4. Graycliff Derby
This historic house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and located on Lake Erie in the town of Derby, is a gem among the numerous buildings designed by Lloyd Wright in the Buffalo area. Graycliff was built over a five-year period, and it was originally intended to be the summer home for Buffalo entrepreneur Darwin Martin and his wife, Isabelle. The couple lived there until 1943, and it was passed down to a group of Roman Catholic teachers and fell into disrepair. In 1997, the Graycliff Conservancy bought the house, restored it to its original condition, and opened the house to the public. The conservancy still owns the house, and gives tours from 10am to 4pm every day except Wednesday.
5. Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Historic Center Niagara Falls
Opened in 2018, the NFURHC gives visitors a historical perspective on the role that the Niagara Falls and Buffalo area had in the emancipation of African Americans. The center contains many stories of how runaway slaves traveling on the Underground Railroad would go through Niagara Falls and would then escape via boat towards Canada and freedom. This is told through guided tours of the center and permanent exhibits located in the center.
Located in the 1863 U.S. Customs House next to the Niagara Falls Amtrak station, the center opened in 2018 after 11 years of planning by many residents of the Greater Niagara Falls area, some of whom now work in the historic center. The center is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 5 pm. It costs $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, students and those with military ID, and $6 for children 6-12. Children 5 and under are free. Visit the center’s website, www.niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.org, for more about the center.