Western New York Heritage

Elk Street Series: Elk Street Market

The Elk Street Market (named because its southern boundary was Elk Street, now called South Park Avenue in this area) was established in 1845. Its other boundaries were Scott Street, East Market Street, and West Market Street. (The tower in center of image is the main market building. The shed structure in foreground is also part of the market, and was located on the other side of Perry Street which bisected the market area. See 1900 map below.) 

According to a 1901 city guidebook, the Elk Street Market was "more of a wholesale market and the largest in the city. There are probably fifty or more stalls within the market proper, the majority of which are occupied by butchers, both wholesale and retail. Outside will be found many wholesale commission men whose business places are again flanked with numerous stands, stalls, etc., where butter, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and farm produce comprise the principal goods offered for sale. In the section where the commission merchants display their cargoes of foreign fruits there is generally a scene of great activity. Saturday is the chief market day and the day when one will find most to interest him, if disposed to visit."

An image from around 1909 showing the market from Elk Street. As one 1904 postcard writer noted, the Elk Street Market was "where the nations and the odors accumulate. The present offenders are mostly Dutch and sauerkraut they tell me. But other nations with their coats-of-arms have their innings."

Market Scene, 1890's.

The same scene in 1912. Less than one block away, the New York Central Railroad constructed a food terminal in 1914, calling it the "Elk Market Terminal." Business shifted to the new terminal; the Elk Street Market burned in 1922 and was not rebuilt by the city of Buffalo. The remaining wholesale businesses in the neighborhood moved in the early 1930's to the new Niagara Food Terminal on Bailey Avenue, which today remains the area hub of wholesale food and grocery distribution.

The same scene in 1915, from the Buffalo Express. Image source: private collection.

A 1900 map of the Elk Street Market area. The highlighted buildings are the constructed city market buildings. But the open areas at right were also utilized daily for the business of the market, in addition to the neighborhood structures housing wholesale marketers.

The area of the Elk Street Market today. The center arrow points at the location of the main market building with the tower (see above images) located between Scott and Perry Streets. The building occupying the space is part of the Buffalo Sewer Authority. The left arrow denotes West Market Street; the right arrow shows East Market Street. The foreground area, now a parking lot, was the location of the shed portion of the Elk Street Market.

The Elk Market Terminal, now being transformed into upscale apartments, is located less than a block away (out of this frame to the right).

Note: References for this page include information from "Buffalo's Waterfront Guidebook," published by the Preservation Coalition of Erie County.