Niagara Falls (Ont)
Niagara Falls, Ont, incorporated as a city in 1904, population 82 997 (2011c), 82 184 (2006c). The City of Niagara Falls possesses a fame and name that are based on the resplendent, world-famous NIAGARA FALLS on the NIAGARA RIVER. Growth has combined tourism and gambling with railhead developments at this Canadian-US border crossing, and in the past with manufacturing industry (including electrochemicals and abrasives) based on cheap and readily available hydroelectric power.
Development of a Tourist Haven
The earliest hotel was built in 1822 on the Portage Road overlooking the falls, and by the 1850s several small communities had developed around this scenic attraction and close to the historic site of LUNDY'S LANE, where a battle was fought towards the end of the WAR OF 1812.
The first bridge was built across the Niagara Gorge in 1848, and in 1853 the GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY arrived, establishing a railhead where the Niagara Suspension Bridge crossed the Niagara River. The Niagara Cantilever Bridge opened immediately to the south in 1883 for the Canada Southern-Michigan Central Railways, and in 1897 the Niagara Railway Arch Bridge was built under and into the suspension bridge to replace its predecessor. These bridges, as great feats of engineering, along with the scenic attractions of the river at the falls and the beginning of rail passenger excursions in 1878, brought thousands of tourist visitors to Niagara Falls.
The community of Drummondville was settled in 1800 near the future Lundy's Lane battlefield. Clifton was established in 1832 near the falls, and a third community, Elgin, grew up where the first bridge was built over the gorge in 1848. In 1856 the villages of Clifton and Elgin were incorporated as the town of Clifton, which became the town of Niagara Falls in 1881. Meanwhile in 1881, Drummondville became the village of Niagara Falls. This confusing situation ended in 1904 when the town and village of Niagara Falls were unified through incorporation as the city of Niagara Falls (pop 7000). The Township of Stamford joined the city in 1963, and in 1973 under regional government (Regional Municipality of Niagara) the village of Chippawa and portions of Willoughby and Crowland townships also became part of the larger city.
The falls became known in Europe and the United States through the paintings and writings of its many 19th-century visitors, but full-scale development of tourism ballooned only after the 1920s as automobile traffic steadily displaced the railway for incoming visitors. Drastic changes to urban form resulted: the railway-oriented downtown area declined; the tourist-commercial area of Clifton Hill closer to the falls grew; a line of hotels and motels expanded along the Lundy's Lane-Highway 20 route to become probably the longest of such strips anywhere in the world; scenic towers, high-rise hotels and tourist attractions ringed the falls; the QUEEN ELIZABETH WAY (QEW), with heavy traffic volumes from the urbanized area of southern Ontario and from the United States via the Peace Bridge, skirted the city to the west; Highway 420 fed from the QEW into the falls, where it crossed the Rainbow Bridge to link with the American Interstate highway system; McLeod Road became a subsidiary route to the falls from the QEW through residential areas to serve Marineland. The Niagara Square shopping mall (1977) and 2 casinos (opened in 1996 and 2004) placed further severe pressures on the original downtown locality.
In 1905, 3 large-scale hydroelectric plants (352.6 MW) began operations. The development of the power resource moved to the edge of the Niagara Escarpment at Queenston Heights when Sir Adam Beck No. 1 opened in 1921. Its ultimate capacity of 373 MW (now 498 MW) was enhanced enormously when Sir Adam Beck No. 2 (1223.6 MW, now 1440 MW) opened in 1954. These downstream power developments required massive diversions of water - from above the falls through a canal in deep cuts and 2 tunnels under the city, as well as the reversal of flow in the Welland River - to feed the reservoirs above the Sir Adam Beck power stations in the gorge below.
Niagara Parks Commission
In 1885 the Ontario provincial government established the Niagara Parks Commission, and the orderly, landscaped quality of Queen Victoria Park gradually replaced the jumbled carnival atmosphere and the disrupted landscape around the power projects that had prevailed previously at the falls. Extending steadily along the river precincts to the north and south, the initial 62 ha at the falls was extended to FORT ERIE by 1915 and, delayed by World War I, reached NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE by 1931. The Niagara Parkway system has expanded to a continuous extent of designed open space covering over 1600 ha between Lakes Erie and Ontario.
The Niagara Parks Commission continues to defend its remit to protect the falls area and the Niagara Parkway, although it has been unsuccessful in its attempts to prevent a "wall" of hotels overlooking the falls. It is also more aggressively promoting the tourist industry through developing world-class facilities.
Tourism and service activities predominate. The city's largest employers are the Niagara Parks Commission, Casino Niagara (1996) and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort (2004). The internationalization of the tourist economy has led to the upgrading of numerous service facilities, including the motel-commercial strip of Ferry Street and Lundy's Lane and the various interests of the Niagara Parks Commission. It has also led to the removal of an abandoned rail line through the city (for the building of Niagara Fallsview), an event welcomed by most citizens. The track that remains is the Canadian National Railway's main line through the downtown and the lines of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Norfolk Southern Corp around the city.
The manufacturing sector continues to decline but includes food and beverages, transportation equipment, chemicals and chemical products and fabricated metal products.
Attractions in Niagara Falls are plentiful, including the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory (1996) to the north on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. The Rainbow Bridge (1941) replaced the Honeymoon Bridge, at the time the longest hingeless bridge in the world, which collapsed in 1938. The adjacent Rainbow Gardens were landscaped at the same time.
In the early 1930s, Sir Harry OAKES bought the 2 largest hotels and, in exchange for land on the crest of the hill above Dufferin Island, the former hotel sites were donated to the Niagara Parks Commission. Oakes Garden Theatre, with its formal landscapes, terraces and amphitheatre, opened in 1937, and Oak Hall, now set within the grounds of a 9-hole golf course, has been remodelled as the administrative headquarters for the Niagara Parks Commission.
Since 1846, the Maid-of-the-Mist tourist boat has carried visitors past the American Falls to the base of the Horseshoe Falls, and a People-Mover shuttle now transports people along the river to Queenston Heights with stop-offs at the various attractions. Marineland features an aquarium with killer whales and other sea mammals as well as an amusement park.
Pierre Berton, A Picture Book of Niagara Falls(1994) and Niagara: A History of the Falls(1992); City of Niagara Falls Centennial Book Committee, Images of a Century: The City of Niagara Falls, Canada, 1904-2004 (2004); G. Siebel, ed, Niagara Falls, Canada (1967) and The Niagara Portage Road: A History of the Portage on the West Bank of the Niagara River (1990).