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From 1880 to Today: George Urban Milling Co.

George Urban Boulevard at Harlem Road in Cheektowaga, pictured in 1937.

Chronicles continues a weekly look back at an illustrated map of Buffalo from 1880 and examines how the features on that map have — or haven't — changed over 138 years. Click here to explore the map.

His name was forever etched into the consciousness of Western New York when the Niagara Frontier Better Roads commission suggested boulevard bearing his name cut through the farm lands of Cheektowaga to provide a direct route to Lancaster and Alden in 1924.

County crews built George Urban Boulevard between Pine Ridge and Transit roads at a cost of $625,000.

By the time the road was completed the following year, the name George Urban had been one of the leading names in Buffalo’s milling industry for more than 80 years.

In 1846, George Urban Sr. purchased land at the corner of Genesee and Oak streets, setting up a wholesale flour business. By 1881, George Urban Jr. had taken over the family business and opened Buffalo’s first roller flour mill across Oak Street from the original store. The state-of-the-art technology allowed for a much finer flour to be produced, making their Liberty Brand flour sought after for fine baking across the northeast.

“The Urbans have been associated with the milling industry since away back in the days when Buffalo was of no account, and they have helped materially in the city’s up-growth,” wrote the Sunday Morning News.

Demand grew, and so did the factory — at a much larger works along the Beltline Railway at Urban and Kehr streets on Buffalo’s East Side. That mill and packaging plant opened in 1903 to much fanfare and expectation in Buffalo.

The millworks was the largest yet manifestation of the harnessing of the electrical power generated at Niagara Falls.

“Nowhere is the art of making perfect flour better demonstrated than at the company’s plant,” said a 1910 company profile. “There the power of Niagara Falls, for hundreds upon hundreds of centuries unbridled, is put to practical use turning out the wherewithal to feed the nation. It turns the wheels which, with superhuman strength and almost human intelligence, change the wheat into the finest flour than can be found anywhere.”

George Urban Jr. was also very active in local politics. It was at an 1883 clam roast at Urban’s Pine Ridge Road estate that Buffalo Brewer Gerhard Lang made a toast to the party’s guest of honor — former Buffalo mayor and then-current New York Governor Grover Cleveland was introduced as “the next President of the United States.” The toast proved true — Cleveland was elected to the White House in 1884.

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