Avenues (Neighborhood)

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Avenues (Neighborhood)


Ironton Looking east over the Avenues from the Niagara River. 2016 Google Earth
In the 1880s, new industrial jobs (at Tonawanda Iron and Steel, the lumber docks and planing mills, and later Buffalo Bolt) spurred growth in the area north of Wheatfield. Poles, Hungarians and others flocked to the new area, bringing their languages and traditions (and chickens) with them. The new village becomes known as “Ironton;” today, "The Avenues."

From the guidebook "North Tonawanda and Tonawanda" (1891):
IRONTON ADDITION.— With the advent of the Niagara River Iron Works in 1873 brisk times were anticipated and quite a large tract of land was platted into lots in that vicinity. As the furnace was discontinued in about a year, developments were practically at a standstill for more than a dozen years...
This 1875 Wheatfield map shows Ironton clearly labeled, and smattering of homes within the (unlabeled) avenues. A 1938 article claims that the influx of Polish begins in 1882 with the establishment of a John Cichoki's tavern on River Road near Wheatfield. 

An 1884 Educational report mentions an Ironton school in a frame house half a mile from stone 1866 Goundry Street School.* In 1889, Ironton Public School #2 opens at the corner of 1st Ave and Oliver Street (present-day Elizabeth Harvey Apartments / Olmsted Center for Sight).

Also in 1889, the big furnace on River Road near Wheatfield fires up again, and the adjacent marshes and former farms once again become valuable real estate. Investors jump. The 1891 guidebook continues:

It was purchased from Pratt & Jewett by Geo. P. Smith and A. J. Hathaway, Oct. 15, 1889, replatted, and Jan. 1st, 1890, put on the market. Within a year 500 building lots had been sold and 100 houses erected.

With June of the present year [1891] the Ironton Land Co. was incorporated with capital of §100,000 and everything bids fair for a prosperous career, as this is the river center of North Tonawanda corporation, and being traversed by all the rail- roads it cannot fail to secure prominent manufacturing interests.

The Ironton addition is less than a mile from the North Tonawanda City Hall. With the Iron & Steel Works, the surrounding lumber interests and the bolt and nut works of Plumb, Burdict ct Barnard, which has recently been located on the adjoining property, this section of the city will make a convenient and desirable place for mechanics and business firms. It has the water supply, electric lights, and will soon be connected by the electric street car line.

A double two story brick block for stores has just been completed on Oliver street, making a nice addition to the mercantile conveniences there, a $15,000 brick school house was erected a couple of years since, a church dedicated in August and this section has all the modern conveniences of the older part of the city.
For the numerous Polish on the original seven avenues, their church is the center of their community. OLC is established on Center Ave, exactly where the grotto is today. It is later rebuilt just south. Pettit Creek flows through the area (it will be covered).

The paving of Oliver Street being planned August 26, 1893.
A progress report about a month later. October 5 there is labor trouble between Poles and Italians.

"Ironton" (along with the villages of Gratwick and Martinsville) is incorporated into the City of North Tonawanda in 1897. The last remnant of the old village name is in its "Ironton Street," running along the west edge of the original avenues.

The upper avenues remain essentially woods and marshes until the 1940s, when settlement accelerates with the nationwide Baby Boom. The opening of the Memorial Pool in 1947


 * Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, of the State of New-York (1884, Google Books) Also has lots of details about new Goundry Street school and a brief mention of Gratwick school and enrollment figures.1890 "The village of Tonawanda is up and awake as far as educational matters are concerned. It has a progressive board of education composed of five members, all liberal men in their views. A new brick school building is nearly completed at Ironton, a suburb of the village, that would be a pride to any town."

John Carr on Facebook in January 2017: "Go back to the 1800's and my great grandfather's farm, as well as several others, was there, extending from the river inland past Payne. The house was originally along the river. Eventually the lumber yards and steel mills pushed the property, and the house back from the river to Oliver (#849 or #869). In the 1890's, after his death, the property was sold off and developed into individual housing lots. At that time the area was annexed to North Tonawanda, before that the area was part of Wheatfield. Carr Street still exists by the town pool. Many of my great grand parents children and their families had homes in the area. We see the area today pretty much as it was developed then, however modernized a bit and not the capitol of industry it was then."