Western New York Heritage

Harbor Inn: South Buffalo - Chicago & Ohio Streets

Image source: Library of Congress.

Image source: private collection.

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.'

Image source: private collection.

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.

Photo, November 2004.

Mr. Paladino had the building demolished on March 29, 2003, after the city issued one of its notorious "Friday afternoon" demolition permits which, because of their speedy issue, bypassed review by city agencies and, particularly, the Preservation board. Mr. Paladino defended his decision by declaring that the insurance liability had grown too great and the Inn's vacant status had resulted in numerous break-ins and a deteriorating condition. The city vowed a permanent end to "Friday afternoon" permits and to require a proper review of all such requests by the appropriate city offices.

Only one operating bar remains in Buffalo that was part of the "saloon boss system." It is the Swannie House, at 170 Ohio Street.