In 1870, Patrick Kane opened a bar on this
wedge-shaped plot and, in 1874, built the structure above to be a bar and
boardinghouse. Kane was part of the "saloon boss system," by which
access to waterfront jobs was controlled by bar owners.
Kane allotted jobs to men who rented his rooms, ate his food, and drank his alcohol. During the heyday of Buffalo's shipping and milling industry, places like the Harbor Inn prospered, attracting single men into their 'system.'
The building was designed to exactly fit the sharply angled corner it occupied. Local historian Tim Tielman calls its style, "commercial Italianate." The detail above, with its two cast-iron Corinthian columns, was likely the original entrance to the building. Eventually, the Harbor Inn was purchased by Charlotte Salkey in the early 1950's and then by her brother Edward Malloy and his wife Julie in 1975. Their clients were truckers instead of dock workers until business dwindled and the Malloys sold the building in 1995 to Carl Paladino's Ellicott Development Company.
Mr. Paladino later stated that he had intended to restore the building for the heritage tourism expected at such time that a planned industrial Heritage Trail was opened.
Only one operating bar remains in Buffalo that was part of the "saloon boss system." It is the Swannie House, at 170 Ohio Street.