Ironton / Avenues (Neighborhood)

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Ironton / Avenues (Neighborhood)


Ironton Looking east over the Avenues from the Niagara River. 2016 Google Earth
The original village of (North) Tonawanda is centered around the Erie Canal, and ends at "Wheatfield" Street (where the town began). 

A new village forms in the 1880s in the marshy land north of Wheatfield Street, spurred by the new industrial jobs available at Niagara Furnace (later, Tonawanda Iron and Steel), the lumber docks, and later Buffalo Bolt and Buffalo Steam Pump. Populated by Poles, Hungarians and others, the village becomes known as “Ironton,” but today is generally known as "The Avenues."

A 1901 map shows what appear to be seven original avenues. The name of "Center Avenue" (the fourth of the seven) makes more sense in this context. The avenues cross Oliver and end at Dahlgren Place (those south of Center Ave. still do). Interestingly, while the map shows seven avenues, it does appear there are cluster of homes formed along what would be an eighth and ninth avenue.

Two natural features appear on the 1901 map which have since all but vanished: Pettit Creek, named after an early settler who had a log cabin near its mouth at the Niagara River near present-day Wheatfield Street in 1810; and Payne's Hill, which many old-timers described as a superb sledding location in winter. Why is there no hill there today? The earth is removed to help build the embankment for the High Speed Electric Railway Line starting in 1916.

"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.

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 ; but North Tonawanda having grown in the meantime to the old corporation limits, when the furnace was re-opened in 1889, under a new and vigorous management, this land at once became desirable.

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.


Oliver street referenced as early as 1840.

1880 Ironton Station Buffalo & Niagara Falls branch of the NYCRR according to Lippincott's Gazetteer of the World

An 1884 Educational report mentions current Ironton school in a frame house half a mile from stone 1866 school. 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." from annual report.

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.

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."