Niagara Falls History - Railroads, Industrialization & the Tourism Boom
The region began the slow process of rebuilding, turning Queenston into a bustling community, and Chippawa into the centre of distilleries and factories. By 1820, tourists began returning to the Falls of Niagara. A number of hotels were built in the coming decade at the present site of Queen Victoria Park opposite the Table Rock, and in 1833 the first Clifton House was built.
In 1815, the Seneca Indians sold their rights to Grand Island to the State of New York for $11,000. Buckhorn Island and Beaver Island were subsequently sold to the State of New York for $1000 in cash and $500 per year. By 1818 an Iron bridge connected Goat Island and Bath Island, opening them up for industrial uses. By 1824, Grand Niagara (soon to become the Village of Manchester) had become known as a mill town.
In the 1820's, a stairway was built down the bank at Table Rock and the first ferry service across the lower River began. By 1827, a paved road was built from the ferry landing to the top of the bank on the Canadian side, making this a prime location for hotel development and the Clifton was built there, for which the Clifton Hill is named.
Between the late 1700s and the middle 1800s, boats were the main way to get to Niagara Falls, and by 1896, three boats plied the route between Toronto and Queenston. The first Welland Canal was completed in 1829, connecting Lake Ontario with Lake Erie.
Throughout the 1830's and 1840's, Manchester (NY) was a tourist hamlet with 20,000 visitors a year by 1838. The 1840's heralded the arrival of two daily steam powered trains between Niagara Falls and Buffalo. By 1841, a trip from New York City to Niagara Falls took only forty-eight hours, with a train speeding along at 16 miles per hour (shaving several weeks off the trip). By 1850, 80,000 people were visiting Niagara Falls annually and the population of Manchester grew to just under 3,000 people.
The first railroad in Upper Canada opened in 1841 with horse-drawn carriages running between Chippawa and Queenston. In 1854 it was converted to steam and relocated to serve what was to become the Town of Niagara Falls.
In 1855, the Government of Upper Canada took over all the properties along "the front" In1856, the Village of Elgin & the Village of Clifton were amalgamated and became known as the "Town of Clifton". In 1881, Parliament of Canada changed the name of the Town of Clifton to "Town of Niagara Falls". In 1882, Drummondville became the "Village of Niagara Falls". And in 1904, the Town of Niagara Falls and the Village of Niagara Falls were amalgamated to form the "City of Niagara Falls"
In 1853, the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company was chartered to use its water build an hydraulic canal, 35 feet (11m) wide and 8 feet (2.4m) deep to transport water from the Niagara River above the Falls to mill sites below the Falls. The canal construction was completed in 1861, and in 1875, the first wheels began turning in the new powerhouse. By 1881, the power company had built a small generating station to provide electricity for the village of Niagara Falls and to power several of the mills. This power plant quickly became a tourist attraction
In 1855, John August Roebling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, built the Niagara Railway Suspension Bridge, the first bridge of its type in the world.
In 1859, the area of Prospect Point Park was known as White's Pleasure Grounds. This was the starting point of Blondin's first wire walk across the Falls, and attracted 863,000 visitors in its 8 years under private ownership. In 1885, the State of New York created the New York State Niagara Reservation Park and acquired Prospect Park.
More history of Niagara Falls