Goose Island (Tonawanda)

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Goose Island (Tonawanda)


Goose Island as seen from Tonawanda Island, postcard detail, ca 1913Goose Island as seen from Tonawanda Island, postcard detail, ca 1913. In the mid-nineteenth century, Tonawanda's so-called "Goose Island" has a reputation as the part of town a fatigued, sober and lovelorn "canawler" can go to be cured of at least two of those conditions. Even decades after the Canal era, the area continues to proffer its roguish entertainments. In the mid-1930s, during Prohibition, local law enforcement organizes a series of "vice raids" on its bordellos and taverns, citing widespread lawlessness (the language in the articles is delicately vague, but offenses seem to include the venerable tandem of whoring and drinking).

"Goose Island" wasn't a real island: it was a triangular hunk of land in Tonawanda bordered by the Erie Canal, the Niagara River and Tonawanda Creek, in the area where Tops and Rivershore Drive are today (see this map). The city waterworks, factories, trains, taverns and homes all mingled here in a pre-zoning law stew.

The Historical Society of the Tonawandas reports (p. 18) that the island also hosted Gillie's merry-go-round company, Louis Philip Perew's curious Electric Man, and the Bork Hotel. (Perew and his son also owned many of the "entertainment" places).

The island is at last taken by the forces of good. The canal from Tonawanda to Buffalo is filled in around 1927, effectively reconnecting the recalcitrant island to its parent. Later, "Urban Renewal" razes all its remaining structures but the waterworks. Today the former "island" is quietly and profitably inhabited by a small plaza, a nightmarish housing project, Tops Friendly Markets and, perhaps most resonantly, the headquarters of the Tonawanda Police Department.


Birds-eye view of some of the dockage, postcard (1908).jpg

Birds-eye view of some of the dockage at Twin Cities, postcard (1908).jpg

Manhattan Street is in the foreground. Just beyond is some of that famous lumber (Dodge & Bliss and J. W Scribner are two firms who stacked it…

Portion of Harbor in Twin Cities, Goose Island, postcard (1910-06-15).jpg

Portion of Harbor in Twin Cities, Goose Island, postcard (1913-05-23).jpg

The first postcard apparently penned by someone just arriving in Tonawanda in 1910 to study as a veterinarian under the tutelage of a Dr. H. S. Wende.…