Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas

The Tonawandas

Past, Present & Future

Welcome to the Tonawandas

The cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda are fondly referred to as the “Twin Cities” and are the “Western Gateway to the Erie Canal”.

Located at the conjuncture of the Erie Canal and the Niagara River, the Tonawandas were the home to countless workers who built the Erie Canal, as well as Dock Wallopers who worked in the five miles of lumber yards that once lined the banks of the Niagara River.

Now our communities welcome visitors to enjoy its many attractions. The Tonawandas are a perfect tourist destination. For boaters, there are numerous marinas. Take a leisurely ride down the Erie Canal, or enjoy the fast paced water of the Niagara River. Gateway Harbor Park, on the canal between both cities, offers overnight docking for a fee. While there, enjoy live concerts every Wednesday throughout the summer, Artisan Night and Food Trucks on Thursdays and much more. Don’t forget Canal Fest, an amazing and famous annual festival!

Two hundred years ago, this area of Western NY was a land of vast forests and beautiful waterways. The only inhabitants were the Iroquois Indians and a few brave traders. It was the Iroquois who named this area “Tonawanda” after the “Swift Running Water” of the Tonawanda Creek.

Settlers began to arrive in the early 1800’s and formed the various settlements which later became the Tonawandas. The area has experienced many changes in it’s economy since then, going from farming and lumber to heavy industry throughout the years.

Because of the birth of the Erie Canal, the area saw a rapid growth in population and jobs. In 1890, the Tonawandas became the largest lumber port in the country.

As the lumber supply in the area decreased, other major industries began to move in due to the extensive water frontage and good labor supply.

During the 1970’s, the area saw a significant decline in the economy due to the great “Rust Belt” depression that hit all of the major industrial cities in the northeast. The Tonawandas have now turned things around and the economy is beginning to thrive once again.

Because of the central location to major cities in the US and Canada, the area is becoming the location of choice for many high tech industries. Focus is also being placed on the historical value of the community which has increased tourism.