Welcome to Tonawanda, New York: “A great place to work and play”.

The Name and the Water

That’s Tonawanda’s motto. Firstly, Tonawanda is an interesting name. The Erie and Neuter Indians (more appropriately Amerindians) gave it this name. It means “Land by the Waters,” though many locals will tell you that it means “Stinky Water”. This may be because the water actually stinks, or the water is just downwind from the Water Treatment Plant. Tonawanda is right on the Niagara River and is quite close to Niagara Falls. The River is the biggest tourist attraction in the area, if you could describe this area as a place tourists would even go.

Where are we now?

Tonawanda is in Western New York, and is a suburb of Buffalo, New York. It’s also just south of Niagara Falls, New York. There are two parts of Tonawanda: The Town of Tonawanda, and the City of Tonawanda. (There is also North Tonawanda, New York where the first Carousel was made, but that’s a different node)

So why are we here?

Tonawanda has some interesting history. Its strategic position on the Niagara River made an important stop for trade and commerce even before the United States was formed. Originally, the French possessed the area, but in 1759 the British captured it. The British then gave it to the United States in 1796. After half a century of trading hands like playing cards in a game of old maid, Tonawanda was ready for its big break, but first it must be burned to the ground- and the British did just that in War of 1812.

The Erie Barge Canal opened in the 1820’s; it brought rapid development as well as an increase in population. The Erie Canal helped Tonawanda grow and brought a great deal of trade to the area. The area prospered as Buffalo grew throughout the rest of the 1800’s.

As other forms of transportation became more important than the canal the area fell in importance. The decline of Tonawanda is intrinsically tied to Buffalo’s status as a major trading center; consequently, both areas lost population in the last century and both were given the affectionate title “Rust Belt City”. (Now about that stink thing- does rust smell?)


Today Tonawanda is just a nice suburb. Niawanda Park on the Niagara River is an absolutely beautiful place to walk. The river is a great place for boating, or watching sunsets. Every July Tonawanda holds Canal Fest, an average sized Carnival celebrating the Erie Canal’s importance to the area. In addition, there is a great deal of moderately priced, well maintained suburban homes. They are only about a 20 minute drive from a major urban center! Niagara Falls and Canada are also just a short 20 minute drive away.

Tonawanda’s real charm is in its proximity to so many great things…

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