We returned this week from a two week stay in Buffalo NY, the city where Jon and I grew up. As happens every summer when we return to Charlottesville from Buffalo, I feel the urge to move back. There's the lure of family, but it's not just that. Buffalo is a really great city.
Charlottesville, as we are all painfully aware, is always topping some list of great places to live. Buffalo usually places in the bottom half of these same lists. What is so great about Charlottesville? What is so awful about Buffalo? A comparison of the two cities at opposite ends of the ranking spectrum may prove interesting, although it is too much to include in a single post.
I'm assuming that most people who read this are at C'ville blogs and are already familiar with Charlottesville. Some Buffalo background:
Buffalo sits at the eastern tip of Lake Erie, where it empties into the Niagara River, in western New York, nearly a 400 mile drive to New York City. It covers a land area of 42 sq. miles with 30 sq. km of surface water as well. It is located almost due north of C'ville, at a longitude of 78.85 west of the Prime Meridian. (Charlottesville is at 78.45)
The area was settled in 1790, with the Holland Land Company buying the land in 1803 and laying out a village. The village was burned to the ground by the British, its citizens taken hostage to Montreal in 1813 during the War of 1812. Incorporated as a city in 1832, Buffalo became a major shipping city due to its location on Lake Erie and at the western end of the Erie Canal.
In 1900, Buffalo was the 8th largest city in the US, with a population of 352,387. In 1940, the population was 575, 901. Now its population is declining rapidly, down to 276,059 in 2006 and its rank is somewhere below the 50th largest city in the US. The population density is 7,205/sq. mile. C'ville's population density 4,389/sq. mile.
It's heartbreaking to see the decline of this beautiful city. With the shipping trade--19th century Buffalo was the largest grain handling port in the world--came money and there are still many old mansions to gawk at as you drive down Delaware Ave., Chapin Parkway, and dozens of other elegant streets. General Mills still bakes Cheerios down by the waterfront. I smelled the familiar scent of baking Cheerios last week when I took my son to the downtown library.