Unearthing Buffalo's Past While Building its Future

July 28, 2012 Updated Jul 28, 2012 at 11:29 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

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July 28, 2012 Updated Jul 28, 2012 at 11:29 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Just steps from where crews are working to recreate the historic canals along the waterfront, an archaeological dig is peeling back the layers of Buffalo's rich history, revealing a time when the city's harbor was a boom-town.

One of the reasons for Canal Side's success is its link to the city's past.

"I think it's important for people to understand how important this area was to not only Buffalo's economy but the national economy too. This really was the center of the nation's economy at one time, in the middle of the 19th century," said historian Nathan Montague, who works with UB's Archaeological Survey.

The group has been digging on a site under the skyway for a few weeks and has unearthed building materials and personal items like pipe stems.

"A collection of artifacts can tell us a story about the way people lived, the way they worked and the way they spent their times," explained Montague.

The site is open to the public on select Wednesday's and Saturday's though the month of August.

Across the street where the Memorial Auditorium recently stood, construction crews continue to work on recreating the historical canals as part of the waterfront's renaissance.

And just a block east from the dig site, is where history begins to give way to the future, as city officials prepare to select one of two proposals for the Webster Block, which will overlook Canal Side for years to come.

The city plans to decide which project will move forward by August 15, and construction could begin as soon as later this year.