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N. Tonawanda plans joint birthday party

The 114th anniversary of the incorporation of North Tonawanda as a city and the seventh anniversary of the charter of the North Tonawanda History Museum will be celebrated together at a free public birthday party from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30 at the museum, 54 Webster St.

Awards will be presented at 2 p.m. to 84 supporters of the museum, including individual volunteers, businesses and other organizations. Refreshments will be served.

North Tonawanda was incorporated as a city on April 30, 1897, and had been incorporated previously as a village on May 8, 1865. The North Tonawanda History Museum, also called the Lumber City History Center, was chartered on April 20, 2004.

Donna Zellner Neal, executive director of the history museum and center, said the organization has more than 1,500 items on display in temporary exhibits and more than 100,000 items awaiting display cabinets or permanent remodeling for display. Neal said an additional 100,000 items are in storage.

She said the museum has established a Lumber City History Center Legacy Campaign to pay off the mortgage on its building.

"Unfortunately," she said, "we entered into a balloon payment mortgage assumption at a time when funding was easier to obtain. Almost immediately, the economy took its tumble and much outside funding dried up."

Neal said the ultimate goal is "to give North Tonawanda back its history, to provide its residents and former residents with a permanent history center and to provide the downtown shopping district and waterfront area a seven-day-a-week visitors center and the County of Niagara with a regional tourist attraction."

Meanwhile, the museum has several continuing programs.

For example, Neal said, North Tonawanda has been designated as a War of 1812 site.

"We hope to create three commemorative historical markers about the impact of the War of 1812 on North Tonawanda and need to raise $5,000 to make them a reality. We'd like to have them in place before the bicentennial celebration begins in 2012," she said.

The museum also is "documenting the story of Hannah and John Johnson, free blacks who were land owners in what is now North Tonawanda during the pre-Civil War years and until Hannah's death in 1883. We hope to install two historical markers about Hannah and John, and will need $5,000 for this project also," Neal said.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It also will be open Wednesdays from June 1 to Aug. 31.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com

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