The Hydraulics, The Larkin Soap Company, and Larkinville: 1827 through Today
The neighborhood surrounding Larkin Square has seen many transformations as Buffalo’s first business district.
In 1827, the Buffalo Hydraulic Association was established, along with the construction of the Hydraulic Canal, Buffalo’s first source of industrial waterpower.
By 1832, the neighborhood was a thriving mill district with a sawmill, gristmill, pail factory, shoe last mill, hat factory and brewery all powered by “The Hydraulics.”
In 1876, John D. Larkin, manufacturer of Plain and Fancy Soaps, began making soap in a small factory building at 663 Seneca Street. The J.D. Larkin & Co. continues to be a pioneering company in direct sale from manufacture to consumer. In 1885, Elbert Hubbard devised this “Larkin Idea” as a marketing principle for the company.
By 1901 there were 87 retail businesses on Seneca St. between Larkin and Smith Streets. Today, many of these warehouses and building still stand and are undergoing restoration by Larkin Development Group and other local developers.
In 1902, the Larkin Soap Company began construction on the Larkin Powerhouse, which included the tallest smokestack in the City of Buffalo standing at 275 feet.
In 1906, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Larkin Administration Building opened. Sadly, the Western Trading Corp later tore this building down in 1950.
In 1912, the construction of the Larkin Terminal Warehouse was completed.
In 2002, Larkin Development Group acquired the Larkin Terminal Warehouse building at 726 Exchange Street. This was the start of significant redevelopment underway in the Larkin District neighborhood.
From 2002 to today, Larkin Development Group has continued to acquire buildings and property with a goal of creating a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.
In 2012, Larkin Square opened along with The Filling Station restaurant, which is housed in a former 1930s-era Larkin Company filling station. Larkin Square was designed to be an inviting and uplifting community gathering space where the public is welcomed to a series of popular events, including Food Truck Tuesdays, KeyBank Live at Larkin, the Larkin Square Author Series and other special events.
In 2014, the Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant and Brewery opened at 716 Swan Street, an 1890’s era building.
In 2016, Buffalo Distilling Co. opened in the LDG renovated 1890s Duchmann building.
In 2017, the Swan Street Diner opened at 700 Swan Street, a 1937 Sterling Co. manufactured diner. Formerly the Newark Diner, fully restored and moved to Larkinville.
We have great appreciation for historian Chris Hawley for his extensive research on the histories of The Hydraulics and Larkin Soap Company.