The History of the City of Tonawanda

The City of Tonawanda is located in Western New York alongside the Niagara River and Erie Canal, and boarders the Town of Tonawanda to the south, east, and west, with borders to North Tonawanda north of the Erie Canal.


1803 - Henry Anquish was the first known person to settle within the present day boundaries of the City of Tonawanda. Three years after his arrival, he opened a tavern.

1813 - A blockhouse which was built before the War of 1812 on the south side of Tonawanda, was burned down by the British and their Indian allies. They then destroyed virtually everything along the Niagara River with the exception of one house, belonging to a Mrs. Francis.

1823 - Albert H. Tracy and Charles Townsend purchased land, laid out a village and streets. It was named the "Village of Niagara" and shortly thereafter was changed to the "Village of Tonawanda"

1825 - The Erie Canal was officially opened and stimulated settlement in the Village of Tonawanda since it allowed people to easily move west.

1829 - A home was built by Benjamin Long at the mouth of Ellicott Creek where it meets Tonawanda Creek. The Long Homestead has since been fully restored and is open to the public as a historic site.

1850 - The village's first newspaper was published. It was named "The Tonawanda Commercial."

1867 - The first cargo of lumber for distribution was received on the docks of the village. The Canal brought with it the prosperity of the lumber industry. In fact, at the turn of the century, Tonawanda and its neighboring city North Tonawanda, were the largest lumber suppliers in the world. This boom of the lumber industry can be accredited to the East Boston Timber Company, which opened in the Tonawanda area in 1833.

1876 - J. S. Bliss and Co. began a shingle business. They were the second largest manufacturer of shingles in the world.

1903 - Tonawanda was incorporated as a city, its first Mayor being Frank Alliger.

1917 - The New York Central Railroad was persuaded into rerouting its tracks in Tonawanda. This opened up Main Street and gave way to the emergence of several offices and stores in the area.

Today: The Tonawandas' having lost their industrial roots, the area thrives as a tourist attraction including the Erie Canal, historic Riviera Theater, the Hershell Carrousel Factory Museum, the Long Homestead, as well as several waterfront parks overlooking the mighty Niagara River and the Erie Canal.

For more information on the Erie Canal Click Here

Click here to see some old canal side photographs & postcards of the City of Tonawanda.  If you have any old City of Tonawanda Photographs you wish to have added to the website, email



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