To some people, they're concrete and wooden anachronisms, mostly idle reminders of Buffalo's storied past as an important Great Lakes port.
To others, like the 75 people crowded into a section of the Guaranty Building on Friday night, they're an important tool for peering into Buffalo's past -- and future.
Friday night, the 11-week project to document Buffalo's grain elevators ended with a slide show, a multitude of thanks and a plea not to forget the hulking structures that still dot Buffalo's waterfront.
The grain elevators have considerable significance in a number of fields, including architecture, engineering, technology and Buffalo's role in the nation's economic development, said historian Tom Leary, one of the project members.
"Some of the things people see every day may not look as spectacular as churches, mansions and historic buildings, but the roles they play in American history and everyday life are just as important," Leary said. "We think the ordinary is no less important."
The project, carried out by four architectural specialists and three historians for the Historic American Engineering Record under the leadership of chief historian Eric DeLony, was designed to preserve the elevators' legacy in photographs, drawings and words.
The materials, designed to have a shelf life of 500 years, will be compiled and forwarded to the Library of Congress.
But DeLony had grand visions in mind when he addressed Friday night's reception hosted by the local Industrial Heritage Committee.
DeLony mentioned the possibility that Buffalo could join the growing list of areas that are creating industrial heritage corridors out of historic structures like the grain elevators.
"I see no reason to think Buffalo couldn't jump on that wave of interest," he told the crowd. "(The grain elevators) are a God-given monument, a God-given resource that with a bit of vision, planning and money could put Buffalo on the map again."
DeLony also suggested the possibility of national historical landmark status for some of the 21 remaining elevators.
"We'd like to think we're going to save all 21," he said. "That might be unrealistic, but at least we can save the original drawings."