“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Grand Island in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Strawberry Island

Past to Present

Strawberry Island Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, January 27, 2017
1. Strawberry Island Marker
Inscription. Click to hear the inscription.  Strawberry Island formed near the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. When meltwaters broke through gracial till and created the present course of the Niagara River, gravel and sand carried downstream by river currents settled out where the Niagara River divides to go around Grand Island. The result was a 100-acre island complex that has since diminished to the islands we see today.

Strawberry Island played an important part in the history of the Niagara Frontier. Ownership of Stawberry Island changed many times and so did its size.

Did You Know? Many major buildings in Buffalo were constructed using concrete produced from Stawberry Island's raw materials.

1814. During a siege on Buffalo in 1814, British soldiers use Strawberry Island as a staging area for a planned troop assault. After invading Buffalo, the British troops use the island to regroup and await further orders.

1815. New York State purchases Strawberry Island from the Seneca Indians. Siemeon Dewitt, New York's first Surveyor General, determines the island to be 100 acres with an estimated value of $100.

1820's. Sand and gravel excavated
Strawberry Island Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, January 27, 2017
2. Strawberry Island Marker
Niagara River at right, with Motor Island in the distance and in front of the shut-down Huntley power plant on the mainland in Tonawanda.
during construction of the Erie Canal is deposited on the upstream end of the island, increasing its size to 138 acres.

1882. A local businessman builds a two-story hotel on Strawberry Island. A small canal built through the middle of the island allows guests to row boats or fish while avoiding the Niagara River currents. The hotel was demolished around 1892.

1890's. Theodore Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland fish the waters around Strawberry Island.

1912. Gravel and rock excavated for construction of the Black Rock Lock are deposited on Strawberry Island, increasing its size to 204 acres. The Border Island Company of Buffalo purchases the island and undertakes extensive sand and gravel dredging. Within one year, the island's size is reduced by half.

1926. Buffalo Gravel Corporation purchases Strawberry Island. The United States Army Corps of Engineers revokes permits for dredging due to evidence that material previously removed caused a noticible drop in Lake Erie water levels.

1938. Dredging of sand and gravel resumes, but is confined to the northwest side of the island.

1948. Dredging operations reduce the island to 36 acres.

Fearing the consequences of the island's reduction, the United States Army Corps of Engineers again halts dredging. When it resumes, a 200-foot strip between the excavation area and the island's perimeter
Strawberry Island image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, January 27, 2017
3. Strawberry Island
is required. This creates a six-acre lagoon in the island's center.

1953. The Town of Tonawanda purchases the island, now 25 acres.

1970. Decades of foot traffic, vandalism, waves, river currents, and spring ice floes reduce the island to just five acres. Concerned citizens attempt to control erosion though shoreline plantings and by pressuring politicians for action.

1980. The Strawberry Island Preservation Group is formed and obtains funding for a study to determine ways to protect the island. The study reveals that the Niagara river will break through the southwest side of the island in a few years.

1989. Ownership of Strawberry Island is transferred to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

1992. Severe December storms and record high water levels cause a 50-foot breach in the southwest shoreline. The Strawberry Island Alliance is formed.

1993-1994. Phase I emergency action repairs the breach in the southwest shoreline.

1996-1997. Phase II of the restoration involves adding stone and geotextile fabric to strengthenand stabilize key shoreline areas.

1998. New York State purchases Motor Island to ensure the protection of a large nesting colony of great blue herons and great egrets.

2001-2002. Phase III of the restoration effort involves adding stone and wetland soil to rebuild the island's long-lost east and west "arms," increasing the island's size by 3.03 acres.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Erie Canal marker series.
Location. 42° 57.551′ N, 78° 56.33′ W. Marker is in Grand Island, New York, in Erie County. Marker is on Park Road Loop at Area 3, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is on the park road that loops after passing area 3 in Beaver Island State Park. Marker is in this post office area: Grand Island NY 14072, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Did You Ever Wonder What It Takes to Restore an Island? (here, next to this marker); Recovery (here, next to this marker); Management (here, next to this marker); Island Life (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Strawberry Island (here, next to this marker); A Home for Fish (here, next to this marker); Allenton Farm/Creating Beaver Island State Park (approx. 0.2 miles away); Grover Cleveland & Grand Island/Lewis F. Allen & Western New York (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Grand Island.
Also see . . .  Beaver Island - New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. Vehicle entrance fee collected in season. (Submitted on January 27, 2017, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.) 
Categories. EnvironmentMan-Made FeaturesWar of 1812Waterways & Vessels
Credits. This page was last revised on January 27, 2017. This page originally submitted on January 27, 2017, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 207 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on January 27, 2017, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.
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