Boathouse Park, Weatherbest Slip

Dublin Core


Boathouse Park, Weatherbest Slip


Boathouse Park PHOTO: Dennis Reed Jr. Around the junction of Tonawanda Creek and the "Little River" three small slips cut into the land. The slips were dug in the 1870s to accommodate Great Lakes and other vessels necessary to North Tonawanda's world-class lumber industry (Buffalo News, 2006). Great piles of lumber towered around them.

That lumber industry, as residents know, eventually moves elsewhere. By the 1950s* dozens of private boathouses occupy the area. The city owns the property; the boaters own the structures, pay taxes on them, and lease the land annually.

In 1965 the city of North Tonawanda sells the land to the boathouse owners at their request, only to have the sale almost immediately deemed illegal by Mayor Durkee, and nullified. Still, the annual lease continues.

In the 1970s the boathouse residents' status becomes contentious when the county health department threatens to fine the city steeply for the effluvium the boathouse residents are releasing into the Little River. The city threatens to evict tenants, to stop renewing leases, and—at the nadir of the clash—to turn off water service to the area. After all, the city argues, the lease does not permit use of the boathouses as living quarters. The park residents' right to enjoy the waterfront property at the exclusion of all other city  residents is also called into question.

One mayor wants to evict the tenants and turn the area into a carousel park. In the 1980s developer Wilbur Holler wants to turn the area into townhouses. None of these plans is successful. In 2008 a row of boathouses is demolished, as they are built over a city sewer. But in 2021 the community appears to be all but intractable.

*It is unclear how long the structures have been there; a similar slip at Gratwick (since demolished for the wastewater plant) appears to have had boathouses since at least 1905.


Boathouses caught in tide of controversy, article (Buffalo News, 2006-05-07).txt

Historic boathouses and day cottages that range from the rustic to the charming, beloved by their owners and coveted by some others, are the embers of…