Category: Niagara Falls History

Daredevilry, Rescue And The Family That Couldn’t Escape The Niagara Falls

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The NPR show (from WBUR in Boston), Only a Game, had a repeat of this segment this past Saturday. I didn’t hear it the first time, but heard it on Saturday. It is a neat history of Red Hill and his family.

William “Red” Hill Sr. was born on Oct. 27, 1887 in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His career saving lives began when he carried his 4-year-old sister, Cora, out of their family’s burning home. For his bravery, he was awarded a medal from the Royal Canadian Humane Society. He was just 9 years old. But it was in the perilous waters of the Niagara River, not fire, where he saved the most lives.

The ‘Canada first’ legacy of John A. Macdonald

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Not really an article specifically about Niagara Falls, but it does get mentioned…

From the Hamilton Spectator:

In light of the furor to remove John A. Macdonald’s name from public institutions and bar his visage from the public square, it might be prudent to relate this serendipitous anecdote from our city’s rich history…

By the late 1870s The United States had begun its journey to create an imperialist state, cancelling the free trade treaty of the 1850s. “Reciprocity” had been a boon to Hamilton’s first mass transit enterprise, The Great Western Railway. Rail laying equipment, iron rails, steam-powered shovels and even locomotives had streamed across the recently built suspension Roebling bridge at Clifton Hill on the Niagara River, without interruption or inspection.

From preserving the past to embracing the future

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From the Niagara Falls Review:

When the Victoria Avenue branch of the Niagara Falls Public Library was built in 1974 it included the Sir Harry Oakes Room, an area filled with local history books and other paraphernalia.

Forty years later, the collection was relocated to a larger, climate-controlled area of the building in order to preserve the historic items.

Library staff soon realized the empty space would make an ideal location for a new digital media lab.

“As the library moves forward in the 21st century, we have identified the need and demand for improved technology access and training,” said Alicia Subnaik Kilgour, CEO and chief librarian.

“Our feeling was that we really wanted to empower the community by focusing on content creation.”

Over the past few months, the room has been transformed into the new Oakes Room Media Lab.

HIGGS: More about hotels and a tourist home

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From the Niagara Gazette:

Visitors to the city of Niagara Falls usually came by train in the early years when railroads were the main conveyance for tourists. However, you could not be in a hurry to reach your destination as travel by rail during 1800 for example was very slow. It probably took at least 10 days to get from New York City to Niagara Falls but this was almost cut in half by 1830. Imagine stepping off the train at the depot on Falls Street during the late 1800s and met by transport to your hotel , probably one of the notable hotels of the day. Ladies dresses of the day had a bustle and usually three of four underskirts. And her shoes would be what we now refer to as “high button shoes.” Gentlemen wore a frock coat and a top hat to look his best.

Ontario’s Niagara Parks celebrates 80th Anniversary of Oakes Garden Theatre

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From a Niagara Parks Commission press release seen at Niagara at Large (from September 18):

In a ceremony held today, The Niagara Parks Commission was pleased to rededicate the awe-inspiring amphitheatre, Oakes Garden Theatre, in celebration of the venue’s 80th anniversary.

Oakes Garden Theatre and its associated Rainbow Gardens are outstanding examples of design and architecture created to specifically act as a dramatic gateway to Canada. Influenced by the City Beautiful architectural movement of the mid-20th century, the venue was first opened to the public with an original dedication ceremony held on September 18, 1937.

HIGGS: Niagara Falls hotels through the ages

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From the Niagara Gazette:

Never let it be said that you could not get a room when visiting Niagara Falls during its early years before it was a city. There were 70 hotels and saloons listed in the Town of Niagara alone. This was before Niagara Falls was a city. Names we probably never heard of, such as the American Hotel at Niagara and Fourth streets, which was razed in 1929. The American Hotel in Suspension Bridge Village was removed May 18, 1887 and another American Hotel during 1878 was in Lewiston, built in the 1830s and burned in 1893 and rebuilt as Cornell House in 1894. I am not listing them all – only the ones I was able to find some items of interest on them.

A sportscaster who specialized in fantasy

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This is kind of a random article that came across my news feed about Bill Stern, a sports broadcaster from the 1940s. I have no idea if this particular story is true, but a Philadelphia Enquirer story shares the following…

In 1946, Stern told the story of millionaire Harry Oakes. Decades earlier Oakes had been a hobo. De-training in Baltimore, he found a $1 bill. About to use it for food, he remembered hearing about a local orphan who pined for a baseball bat.

Oakes bought the bat for the youngster and soon left town on a journey that led to his discovery of an untapped Canadian gold mine.

“And that young orphan’s name was … Babe Ruth!”

Of course, Harry Oakes’ name is all over the city of Niagara Falls as well!

The history of Chippawa

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From the Niagara Falls Review:

History came alive Sunday as Sherman Zavitz, the city’s official historian, hosted a walking tour of Chippawa.

Before a crowd of 80 people, Zavitz said the area was first mentioned 339 years ago, even before there was a town.

On Dec. 7, 1678, Louis Hennepin, a missionary and explorer, became the first European to view the mighty Niagara Falls.

“He was awed by the spectacle,” Zavitz said. “He later wrote in his diary the falls were a vast and prodigious cadence of water falling down in an astonishing manner.”

That night, Hennepin and his company set up camp alongside the Welland River, in an area now known as Kingsbridge Park.

The walking tour focused on the history of the area on both sides of the river, commonly referred to as Chippawa Creek.

YESTERDAY AND TODAY: Bridging the Niagara Gorge

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From the Niagara Falls Review:

The first bridges across the Niagara River (first for pedestrians and carriages, later also allowing for railroad traffic) opened in the late 1840s and early 1850s. They were a good distance away from the Falls, crossing the Niagara Gorge where the CN crosses today at the eastern end of Bridge Street in Niagara Falls.

The success of those first bridges in that area led to a desire to have similar bridges much closer to the Falls. So it was that in 1867 work began on the first bridge that would cross the Gorge further south, two miles closer to the Falls.

That first Falls View bridge was a suspension bridge that lasted from 1867 to 1889. It was finally blown down in a storm in January 1889, but within five months it was replaced by a second Falls View suspension bridge.

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