Buffalo's Waterfront: A Guidebook
According to the current owners, the Swannie House was first opened as a bar in the 19th century by the Swanerski family under the name "Swanerski House" (the building dates from 1892. Ethnic tensions between the majority Irish and East Europeans were high in the First Ward at the time, and the owners thought it prudent to modify their name to Swannie.
At the time, the first floor served as a tavern, the second as a boarding house for ship captains and their officers, and the third (the attic) housed seamen of lower rank. The letting of rooms above taverns was common at the time.
The tavern, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Ohio Street, has a vivid past. Records show James Swannie, sailor and saloonkeeper, operated next door since at least 1882. Noted author and Buffalo native Robert Dooley mentioned the tavern several times in his fictional accounts of life in the First Ward.
In 1983, Timothy and Marlene Wiles purchased the historic tavern. The building was in great need of restoration. The floors of the tavern were replaced with those from the old Plaza Suite Restaurant, a 1970s landmark atop the M & T Bank building.
During exterior rehabilitation, a new coating of paint threatened to obliterate a large painted sign from the waterfront's heyday advertising Kentucky whiskey. The firefighters aboard the fireboat Cotter, docked in a slip across Michigan Avenue, managed to convince the owners to restore the sign instead.