Introduction to Amherst, New York
The town of Amherst is located in Erie County in the northwestern corner of New York State. It is a suburb of the city of Buffalo, which is situated about 10 miles to its southwest. Amherst is bisected by New York State Highway 5, which runs through the town. It is surrounded by several other highways, including Interstates I-90 and I-290; U.S. Route 62; and State Highways 33, 78, 240, and 277.
The first component of the town of Amherst was the village of Williamsville, which had its beginnings around the turn of the 18th century. Williamsville, which derived its name from one of its first settlers, Jonas Williams, was the area's first settlement because of its location on the main road to Buffalo and also because of its proximity to Ellicott Creek. The Creek was of great importance to early settlers because its waterfalls were utilized to power mills for sawing corn into cornmeal, wood into lumber, and wheat into flour. In 1818, the town of Amherst was officially created and was named for Sir Jeffrey Amherst, an English lord who was a former Commander-in-Chief of the British troops in America. The new town was made up of the village of Williamsville along with several small hamlets (including Snyderville, Eggertsville, Getzville, and Swormsville). The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 spurred more settlement and ushered in a period of growth for Amherst, which by mid-19th century had become a prosperous farming community. By the 1920s, farmland had already begun to be sold to make way for subdivisions and housing development. Today there are only a few farms left in Amherst, most of them in the northern section of the town near Tonawanda Creek. Rapid population growth in recent decades due to the town's proximity to Buffalo has resulted in more houses, highways, schools, shopping centers, and recreational facilities.
Attractions In and Around Amherst
The crown jewel of Amherst from a cultural and historic point of view is its museum. The Amherst Museum is dedicated to preserving and communicating the history of the town with exhibits depicting 19th-century life on the Niagara Frontier. Included are historic homes, churches, one-room schoolhouses and exhibits on local history, textiles, and the Erie Canal. In the category of performance arts, the town takes pride in the Amherst Symphony Orchestra. Dance aficionados can learn the history, etiquette, costuming and steps of a very specialized type of dancing from the Victorian Dance Society, which offers lessons in dances popular during the years 1837-1901, including the Spanish Dance, Waltz, Quadrille, Virginia Reel, and many others.
The town's proximity to the city of Buffalo affords visitors the opportunity to take in the attractions of that city as well. Some of the more notable places of interest in Buffalo include the following:
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery: A world-class gallery featuring thousands of exhibits housed in a Greek Revival building with 18 dramatic marble columns on its facade.
- Graycliff: A 1927 home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his most generous patron, industrialist Darwin D. Martin, is set on a 70-foot cliff overlooking Lake Erie.
- Buffalo Museum of Science: Features over a dozen interactive galleries.
- Buffalo Zoological Gardens
- Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum
- Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park
- Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens
- Buffalo Zoological Gardens
- Buffalo Lighthouse
Buffalo is also an active sports town, boasting three major-league professional franchises. The Buffalo Bills are a longtime staple of the National Football League (NFL) and the Buffalo Sabres are a mainstay of the National Hockey League (NHL). Also in town are the Buffalo Bandits, a member of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). The city also has a professional minor league baseball team; the Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons, who play in the International League, are the Class-AAA affiliate of Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians.