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HAL traverses 'Nostrils of Hell'

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Tue, Oct 6th 2020 06:00 pm

The Historical Association of Lewiston’s October program is titled, “Early Days of Buffalo, Nostrils of Hell.” Michael Vogel will present this event at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in the Red Brick Municipal Building gym, 145 N. Fourth St.

Buffalo’s waterfront has a rich and colorful history, and no place on the shoreline quite matches the legendary Canal District – the spot where the Erie Canal met the Great Lakes.

The transshipment port at the foot of Buffalo’s Main Street built the city into one of the largest and most prosperous in the nation by 1900, and it developed worldwide notoriety as one of the roughest waterfronts anywhere (and a red-light district most of Buffalo called “the infected district” or, as a Christian group termed it, “the very nostrils of hell”). Not only were companies such as Wells Fargo and American Express founded on those docks as the port generated immense wealth here, but lakes sailors and canawlers – who didn’t like each other very much – also found places and ways to spend their money on less lofty pursuits.

“America’s Crossroads,” listed by one Western New York review website as one of the 10 best books on local history, tells the story of the river of immigrants who flowed through this port to settle the heartlands, and the river of commerce they sent back through Buffalo to the East Coast and the world. But it also focuses on the people who lived and worked there, from the early brawling years of the district to its later time as Buffalo’s “Little Italy” tenement district.

Lecturer Vogel co-authored “America’s Crossroads” with Ed Patton and Paul Redding. A retired journalist and editorial page editor for The Buffalo News, he has written extensively on harbor history and is president of the United States Lighthouse Society and the Buffalo Lighthouse Association, which brought the first major Tall Ships Festival to Buffalo. Vogel also serves on the board of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which runs Canalside – part of what once was the Canal District.

This community event is free and open to all. Use the north door on Onondaga Street.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all guests must wear an appropriate facial covering and practice social distancing during the presentation. Hand sanitizer will be available. There will be a 50-person seating limitation.

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