North Tonawanda, New York

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North Tonawanda is a city in Niagara County, New York, United States. The population was 33,262 at the 2000 census. It is part of the BuffaloNiagara Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is named after Tonawanda Creek, its south border. Tonawanda in the Seneca tongue means "Swift Running Water". Tonawanda Creek, which flows into the Niagara River, once had large stretches of rapids (see Rapids, New York) until it was tamed with the construction of the Erie Canal. The city also calls itself "The Lumber City," due to its past primary industry and once was the largest port on the Great Lakes during the height of the Erie Canal. Along Goundry Street are mansions built for the lumber barons, including 208 Goundry Street, called "Kent Place", designed by Stanford White. It is also home to the 2009 Class AA NYS Football Champion Lumberjacks.



North Tonawanda, New York was incorporated as a City on April 24, 1897. The first settler arrived in 1809. North Tonawanda was part of the Town of Wheatfield in Niagara County from May 1836 until its own incorporation as a City in 1897. An abortive attempt at a Village containing portions in two counties and two towns from January 1854 until April 1857, the original Village of Tonawanda, was abandoned after New York State removed the North Tonawanda component from the village. Oral history claims a dispute between merchants was the cause, but the combination of communities in two different counties and two different towns was unwieldy. North Tonawanda is on the north side of the Erie Canal/Tonawanda Creek, across from Erie County, New York and the communities of the City of Tonawanda and the Town of Amherst. The Town of Wheatfield borders North Tonawanda on the north and east; the Niagara River serves as its western border, as Tonawanda Creek is its southern border. North Tonawanda became a Village on May 8, 1865, still part of the Town of Wheatfield. North Tonawanda is the second largest city in Niagara County.[1]

North Tonawanda is known as "the Lumber City," because it was from the mid-19th century through the 1970s, a lumber transportation or forwarding center of significance. Because of the ready availability of lumber, it was the birthplace of the Herschell-Spillman Company/Allan Herschell Co., one of the leading manufacturers of carousels in America and is now the home of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.[1][2]The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was the largest musical instrument manufacturing plants in the world. The Ray H. Bennett Lumber Co., one of more than 150 lumber companies to have called North Tonawanda home, produced kit homes sold around the nation and Canada for 70 years. Richardson Boat, Buffalo Bolt, Durez Chemical, National Grinding Wheel, Taylor Devices, International Paper, Tonawanda Iron & Steel, Riverside Chemical, and hundreds of other succesfful manufacturing businesses called North Tonawanda home. The Railroad Museum of the Niagara Frontier occupies a 1923 Erie Railroad station on Oliver Street.The Riviera Theater and Performing Arts Center on Webster Street, in a restored Italian Renaissance-style building, features plays, concerts, movies and other events, and has a monthly American Theatre Organ concert provided by its 1926 "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ. The theater is one of only a handful in the United States with projectors capable of showing the nitrate film used for silent movies. The Ghostlight Theatre is a community theater in a century-old church. The former Carnegie Library is home to the Carnegie Art Center. An E. B. Green designed building houses the Buffalo Suzuki Strings Musical Arts Center. An active arts community has developed in the downtown area as well. The North Tonawanda History Museum occupies the former G. C. Murphy Co. store building on Webster Street in the heart of the Downtown Historic District.[1][3]

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