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Lumber City recognizes historic lumber barons who founded the city

NORTH TONAWANDA – North Tonawanda, the “Lumber City,” was founded on the lumber mills that dotted the city and was once a busy lumber port at the nexus of the Erie Barge Canal, Tonawanda Creek and the Niagara River.

Those city founders, or “Lumber barons,” and the culturally significant homes they once lived in are in the process of being preserved through the establishment of a “Lumber Baron Historic District.”

A $3,200 cultural resource survey grant was awarded by the Preservation League of New York State and accepted by the Common Council on Tuesday. The survey must be done in advance of the city’s receiving a historic designation,

The area to be included in the district would be bounded by Vandervoort and Christiana streets, Twin City Highway and Tremont Avenue, according to Michael Zimmerman, director of the Lumber City Development Center. Zimmerman said they assisted the city’s Historic Preservation Commission in obtaining the grant.

Alderman-at-Large Robert E. Pecoraro, who lives in the neighborhood, praised the potential designation. He said after the meeting, “The city was actually built around the people that lived in these homes and these neighborhoods. They started us on the road to prosperity.”

Zimmerman said homeowners would be eligible for 20 percent state and federal tax credits if they make improvements to their house that follow historic preservation standards.

The Council also heard from Cathy Kern of Greenbrier Lane who said she has been plagued by her water main “blowing up.” She said last week was the third time it has happened in three years.

“The flood of mud was unbelievable,” Kern said. She called city crews “dynamic and responsive” but said something needs to be done.

City Engineer Dale Marshall said pipes in the Wurlitzer Park area go back to the 1950s and are made of cast iron, which heaves, especially after the tough winter. He said the only fix would be to replace them with plastic, but that is costly.

“They are already at their useful life, so it’s time to think about replacing them,” Marshall said. “But we’ve got a lot that are even older.”

The Council again heard concerns from public works employees about a contractor, Suit-Kote, that was hired to work on their streets.

Rob Stefanski of Ruie Road, who works for the city department, said the company’s employees are spreading the material too thinly and said when one resident questioned them they used vulgar language in response.

“By the end of this winter, the road will be falling apart,” Stefanski said.

The Council approved a donation from Dr. Maurice Dewey, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist, who has offered to place 19 to 20 ornamental trees, as well as soil, mulch and flowers, on city property along a 570 foot stretch of Oliver Street.

The local Boy Scouts will plant the trees and the Council agreed to use city crews to dig the holes for the trees.

The trees will be located in front of the Niagara Frontier Railroad Museum. Dewey also has volunteered to pay for the installation of a concrete pad and a sign for the museum.