Tonawanda's Main Street area is a unique downtown community that features destination shops and businesses at the foot of the historic Erie Canal Waterway. The Tonawanda Main Street Program is focused on enhancing the outstanding strengths of the community. The program welcomes residents and visitors alike to join in the ongoing resurgence of the area and see the many advantages the City's Main Street area has to offer.
Traveling north on Tonawanda Main Street brings you directly to the historic Erie Canal waterway at the convergence with Ellicott Creek and the Niagara River. This picturesque waterfront is easily accessible to the public and features the Tonawandas Gateway Harbor waterfront park. At the park you can relax and listen to local concerts, get out on the water and rent a water bike or kayak or enjoy a boat ride along the canal. You can even imagine what the canal was like in the 19th century at the Benjamin Long Homestead, a fully restored, preserved, maintained house museum of the Historical Society of the Tonawandas.
The City's waterfront location is tied to its identity, in fact local historians believe that the origins of the name Tonawanda means "swift water." The significance of the water is a defining feature of the development of the downtown. With the natural harbor of the Tonawandas, the lumber industry flourished in this area. By 1825, with the opening of the Erie Canal, other industries recognized the advantageous location here and spurred the development the downtown community. Today the existing historic downtown buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century reflect Tonawanda's heritage as an Erie Canal community. More information about the history of Tonawanda can be found at the Historical Society of the Tonawandas located on Main Street in Tonawanda.