At one time in Buffalo's history, the grain elevators dominated the skyline of the waterfront and served as a symbol of Buffalo's industrial importance as the largest supplier of grain in the world. The elevators also developed interesting architectural highlights such as a cupola on the roof.
The Watson Elevator was unique in that it had a slip directly underneath it allowing canal boats to dock under the bins and have the grain dropped directly into the boat's hold using only the force of gravity.
In 1843, merchant Joseph Dart and engineer Robert Dunbar built the first steam-driven grain elevator in Buffalo. Its design was later mimicked throughout the region. The elevators consisted of a “marine leg” that scooped grain from the hulls of ships into a large silo, as well as offices and testing facilities. The Watson Elevator, built in 1862, was unlike others in the city, allowing ships to dock directly beneath the silo for faster loading.