NT historic district named to National Register

Members of the North Tonawanda Historic Preservation Commission were successful in having homes within the city's Sweeney Estate Historic District placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a federal list of homes, buildings and structures deemed noteworthy due to their historic nature. 

After several years of work by the North Tonawanda Historic Preservation Commission, the Sweeney Estate Historic District has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While this is not the first historic district in North Tonawanda, it is the first to be added to the National Register, which is the federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings and structures deemed noteworthy for their historical significance. 

Supporters of the registry effort originally intended to call the area the Lumber Baron District. The name was changed to reflect the original ownership of the parcel, James Sweeney. The Sweeney Estate Historic District is known for having developed over several generations of management by the Sweeney Family Estate. The district was home to North Tonawanda’s wealthiest residents by the late 19th century. During the early 20th century, they were joined by middle-class homeowners. In addition, the district includes several of the oldest homes in North Tonawanda, with many of them dating from the 1870s to the 1930s.

Members of the city's historic preservation commission worked on the registry project with the support of grant funds obtained by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The funding allowed them to hire kta preservation specialists, an historic preservation consulting firm, that surveyed more than 470 properties in the district in November 2018. The boundaries of the district are Division Street to the east, Oliver Street to the west, Thompson Street to the north and Tremont Street to the south.

Kristin Derby, co-chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, said a variety of architectural styles helped make the district a prime candidate for placement on the National Register. 

“North Tonawanda escaped a lot of the demolition during urban renewal in the early 1960s and ‘70s,” Derby said. “And, because of that we have so many different types that exist in this little neighborhood. Originally, this was one plot of land that became subdivided and you can see the transition of the timeline of development. All the different Victorian styles can be seen there. There’s humble worker cottage styles, Italianate, and the Queen Anne, which is what everyone thinks of when they think of a Victorian.”

Derby said all property owners with contributing buildings within the district have been notified by mail and will be eligible to access state and federal tax historic tax credits as a result of the district's placement on the National Register. Information sessions about how property owners can participate in the program are being planned for this fall.

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