Niagara Gazette

Columns

November 4, 2013

HIGGS: Moving on to landmark churches

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Standing as tall and erect as the day it was dedicated is the former Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church and school at 1417 Falls St. No longer used as a place of worship it has taken on another role in our community which will be discussed later. I usually start at the beginning as that is where much of the history of a great number of our Polish immigrants lies. Like many of other European descent they came to find a better life and settled in Niagara Falls in the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s. Ames found records about Frances Ignaszewski who may be considered the first Polish immigrant, and, who along with many others found employment in the East Side in what became known as Tunnel Town.

Niagara Falls was probably the first area to speculate on the use of the natural scenic wonder to generate power and to bring it to fruition with the construction of the Edward Dean Adams Plant and the great tunnel and canal system for this plant. It was here that a settlement of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe settled and lived in tents and/or shacks near the Adams Plant. At the time “Tunnel Town” as it became known, consisted of a six-by-three block area, and carried a connotation of a place of squalor but later was considered the “second largest percentage of foreign born residents in the state, with 40 nations represented.” according to the Kempfer Report, a study published in 1943 by the New York State Adult Education Department. “The Evolution of an Ethnic Neighborhood That Became United in Diversity: The East Side, Niagara Falls, New York 1880-1930” is a fascinating dissertation written by local author and historian, H. William Feder and contains these and many other interesting facts from our early times.

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