Tonawanda News

Columns

April 25, 2014

ADAMCZYK: Sheridan Drive, tell me everything

Tonawanda News — It’s a street in Tonawanda, a major one, Sheridan Drive, and the more I examine it, drive down it, study its history, the more I want to know, so if you have any idea what went on, on Sheridan Drive, ever, tell me because I want to know.

OK, that’s enough begging.

Sheridan Drive was designed as an east-west road across northern Erie County. It opened in 1925 to derision over its cost and lack of perceived need by anyone but farmers (and it was farmland it traversed, back then). It was years later that it turned into the spine of the fast-growing Town of Tonawanda.

The familiar monument to it, at Delaware Avenue, explains little: the name, the date and the identity of contemporary politicians. It is flat on top, that monument, leading to speculation it was meant as a pedestal for a sculpture, perhaps one of Army General Philip H. Sheridan, who had no connection to Western New York (a statue of Sheridan astride his horse was commissioned but erected in Albany, his claimed birthplace). Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda was actually named after Sheridan Road in Chicago, which also features a Sheridan-on-a-horse statue.

For some reason there are few buildings on this expanded-to-six-lanes road that are taller than two stories. Those taller (like the Dent Neurologic Institute) suggest the road could be lined with higher buildings, skyscrapers perhaps, and the street could theoretically be an urban canyon if Tonawanda required that many offices.

The western end of Sheridan Drive practically touches the Niagara River, so it likely was instrumental in illegal rum-running in the dark and ludicrous days of Prohibition. All that booze from Canada, arriving at spots along the river on the American side, then transported down a long, straight, flat and relatively unused road, parts of which went without lighting for years (and a photograph exists of Sheridan Drive with a sign on its grassy median, circa 1930, warning not to allow horses to graze there).

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