History Museum Announces Release of "North Tonawanda: Historic Treasures" Volumes I & II

For further details, please download our promotional flyer HERE (.PDF File Format).

Robert J. Clark, president, Robert L. Grosskopf, Jr., vice president, and Craig Haynes, treasurer, join with Executive Director and secretary of the North Tonawanda History Museum Board of Trustees Donna Zellner Neal to proudly announce the birth of their long-awaited two-volume book, "North Tonawanda: Historic Treasures."

The book was in process, per Mrs. Neal, who is also the editor of the book, and her son, Assistant Executive Director and assistant editor of the book, John P. Zellner Neal, since the organization began as an idea in the summer of 2003 when Mrs. Neal was a member of the first interest group discussing the establishment of a history museum IN North Tonawanda FOR North Tonawanda and ABOUT North Tonawanda.

The two Neals have been part of the Museum effort since the first Board meeting on October 9, 2003. Mrs. Neal has always been a full-time (often double-time and even triple-time) volunteer Executive Director in spite of her age and many physical disabilities and John Neal served as a full-time volunteer for the first four years, becoming a paid employee on August 15, 2007.

The book is the second full-length publication of the now nearly eight year old history museum, with the first book, "North Tonawanda: The Lumber City," having been released in November 2007. The first book continues to be available in hard copy ($35) and paperback ($30) --and should always be available because the North Tonawanda History Museum holds the copyright to all of its publications. "We are always having to re-order the first book in both paperback and hard cover," reports Haynes, "because it continues to be so popular, both for first time purchasers--and for gifts for others by first time purchasers and by those who have already read and treasured their own copy."

The new book, per the two Neals, is a totally North Tonawanda creation! Both Neals are North Tonawanda residents. The cover design is by North Tonawanda resident and Museum advisory committee member Beverly DiPalma, Vice President/Creative, Quinlan & Company. Publishing of this book, after a somewhat tumultous year of learning late in the process that a change of publishers was needed, is North Tonawanda's Pioneer Printers, Inc. "Carl P. Hoover, president and owner of Pioneer Printers is also a member of our advisory committee," says Mrs. Neal, "and he has overseen the publishing of all of our publications except our early heritage cookbook series (which also is still available and popular) and our first full-length book. The only reason Pioneer Printers did not publish that book was that they were unable at the time to do a hard cover book and we felt it important that our first full-length book be not only a hard cover version but also have a laminated cover to properly show our respect and love for North Tonawanda. In fact, we set aside the paperback copies and never made them available for the first two years, selling only the hard cover versions. We still sell many more hard covers than paperback copies. We also have never raised the price, keeping them affordable for all who want them so that they can afford multiple copies."

Research for the book began when the museum effort began, with Mrs. Neal learning to create a museum legally and also to develop one that the early supporters wanted, while modifying plans along the way as additional input came in from new people joining the museum effort. In 2006, Walter Wozniak became a volunteer researcher, also with no experience, and he continues as a valued volunteer. Although a Town of Tonawanda resident, now a Village of Kenmore resident, he has been a North Tonawanda History Museum volunteer since early 2006. Randall L. Warblow, former vice president and Trustee and now an Ex-officio Trustee and advisory committee member of the museum, with a focus on genealogy, became a museum researcher in 2009. John Neal, who has been the museum's webmaster and digital curator and IT director throughout the history of the museum, also developed into the museum's lead researcher once he became a paid employee and was physically in the museum daily. Mrs. Neal also credits her historian colleagues around the region and even in other states and countries and many museum supporters who also assist with specific research projects and, most of all, the thousands of present and past residents or members of the families of past residents who have contributed valuable information.

"We realized early on," notes Mrs. Neal, "that the volume of data we were accumulating would for the most part not be accessible to many because they wouldn't even dream of asking for such things without first knowing something about them. That is why we determined early on to preserve as much as we could in permanent form. The history of North Tonawanda is special and unique--and the richest part of it is the stories of the people who were, are, and will be North Tonawanda. We are so delighted that our supporters have realized that we accept things about living people because we will be able to preserve them for the benefit of future generations instead of having to scramble to gather it together in 50 years or so."

The title of this book came from the title given by Mrs. Neal to the museum's biennial historic homes tours, "Historic Treasures Tours." "The historic homes featured in our tours are not the only historic treasures in North Tonawanda," per Mrs. Neal. "Many no longer existing structures, such as our now lost Elks Lodge building, are also historic treasures. We believed from the beginning of our research on the city's history that Oliver Street, in particular, had the most fascinating history of anywhere in the city. It was where the working class people lived, worked, did business, and so many of the factories in which they were employed were near Oliver Street. The section on Oliver Street does not cover everything on Oliver Street--but no one will be able to read that section without coming away with a new appreciation for it. John and I were so pleased also because we were able to add a reference to the loss of Edward Wiater and the destruction of the Elks Lodge building in the copy before printing began. Our hands on approach to producing our publications on the city's history makes it possible to do things that would not be possible if we worked with more customary publishing methods. As with everything we have done in our first eight years, we have never taken the easy way or the routine way of doing things. We have always attempted to take the most effective way. We also have never allowed any obstacle to defeat us along the way. We always find a way to accomplish what we have set out to do for our supporters."

Per Mrs. Neal, the requests for written history began as soon as the idea of a museum was discussed in the summer of 2003. The requests for tours focusing on the history also were frequent and the museum developed 90 minute history walks before they even occupied their first temporary location on Oliver Street. Between the history walks and the biennial homes tours, Mrs. Neal realized that there are many individuals who cannot do the walking anymore and many who wish to enjoy the experience but don't live here anymore. That was the reason the museum has always produced a publication the continue to sell as the guidebook for the homes tours instead of just a disposable program. The guidebooks for the 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011 tours continue to be good sellers in the museum gift shop. Hence, after producing the first chronological format book, "North Tonawanda: The Lumber City," the focus turned to a street by street history.

"We had to cut out quite a bit from this book that we would have liked to include," said John Neal. "We ended up with an 800 page book in a 680 page two-volume set. We have enough copy that had to be pulled out of this one for at least one more volume, but we are working on Volume III and Volume IV of this title and haven't yet transferred what we had to regretfully pull out of Volume I and Volume II." DiPalma will produce covers for the rest of the series and they will also be printed by Pioneer Printers.

In addition to the many hundreds that were pre-ordered, initial purchases have been significant in the first three days the book has been out, reports Mrs. Neal. "It has been heartwarming to have customers come in who saw copies purchased by friends or family members who just had to run over and get their own copies. We are pretty good at remembering who is related to who but we have had many who came to buy a gift for a friend or relative who knew from our first book release to check and make sure they hadn't already obtained their own copy. We have enjoyed seeing the surprise and pleasure on people's faces as they turn to their street and either find their home or business or that of neighbors or discover a story about family members they didn't realize would be in the book. Often they didn't know the story before, either. It is those reactions and the delight and eagerness of our customers that makes the struggle to get this one out before Christmas worth all the effort. Most customers have walked out looking like they are holding a valuable prize."

Board president Clark said, "We are grateful to the dedicated museum volunteers who responded to the unheard of last minute needs of getting the two-volume sets assembled for distribution on arrival, worked on record keeping so that all prepaid orders were ready for pick up, handled the sale of additional copies and copies of our other publications, packaged and prepared for mailing the hundreds we had to get to the post office on December 23. Half of the books arrived on December 22 and our museum juggler and Executive Director managed to keep her sanity and satisfy everyone until the second half arrived late on December 23. Our thanks to the volunteers who worked with her and made it possible to be open late on the 22nd and 23rd and all day on Christmas Eve."

Now that the book is in stock, it is available for $40 for the two-volume set (tax included). The History Museum accepts Master Card, Visa Card, Discover Card and cash or check. Copies may be mailed for $6 additional.