courtesy of Lewis Buttery
The Buttery Elevator
The Buttery Elevator was owned and
operated by John Milton Buttery.
In 1869, the Buttery Whirlpool Rapids Elevator was built approximately 1,700 feet north of
the Railway Suspension Bridge (currently the Whirlpool Bridge) along the American bank of
the Niagara Gorge. It was built directly opposite the Canadian Whirlpool Rapids
boardwalk and elevator. The Buttery Elevator was powered by a water wheel at the bottom of
the gorge at the famous Whirlpool Rapids. This elevator provided members of the public
quick and easy access to the base of the gorge and several observation points at differing
heights from which to view the mighty Whirlpool Rapids.
With the coming of streetcars in 1883, the summer tourist crowds at the
falls visited the Buttery Elevator that allowed visitors to take an
elevator to the base of the Niagara Gorge to view the mighty Whirlpool
Rapids. In those days there was no gorge road or electrical line along
the American or Canadian cliff. In later years, streetcars were run
down to the Buttery Elevator. The Buttery Elevator continued under
family control until 1895.
John Milton Buttery
Buttery was a man of engineering talent. In 1839 he was in charge of
building a canal at Joliet Illinois. He was also associated with Capt.
W. Kline in building a railroad to the Village of Lewiston and he was
connected with the railroad work between Lockport and Niagara Falls.
In 1847 he assisted in the creation of a telegraph line between the
cities of Montréal and Québec in Canada. In 1853 he was the overseer on
the Lewiston Railroad cut known then as the "throughout".
In 1856, John Buttery became a
resident of the former Village of Suspension Bridge. His familiarity
with the scenic features of Niagara led him to locate his home on the
high bank of the river on the north side of the street now called Chasm
Avenue. From 1862 to 1869 this beautiful scenic spot on the gorge known
as Buttery's Whirlpool Rapids. It was there that he built the world
famed buttery whirlpool elevator in 1869.
John Milton Buttery came to Lewiston from Homer, Cortland County in
Mrs. Buttery was born Priscilla Nichols in Roxberry, Orange County,
Vermont on March 26, 1813. In 1817 at the age of 3 years old, she and
her family moved to Niagara taking up residence near the beautiful home
of the Buttery's, and in 1820 moved to the town of Lewiston.
In 1835 John Buttery married Priscilla Nichols on April 7th. During
their marriage they had seven children: three daughters - Sarah, Addie
and Lillie and four sons: John, Robert, Wilbur, and Earl.
John Milford Buttery died April 29, 1872, but members of his family
continue to operate the elevator until the construction of the gorge
railroad ended its usefulness.
Mrs. Priscilla Buttery continued to operate the Buttery Elevator for
most of her life. She died at her home in the 75th year of her age in
The family was buried in the Buttery family plot at Oakwood Cemetery.
Early Niagara Tourism
During the period of 1833 -1900 there were two methods by which to view
the falls and rapids: there were these three observation towers there
were a number of elevators. Later an incline railway built near Prospect
Point carried tourists to the rivers edge that they might view the falls
from the lower level.
There were at least a half dozen elevators, staircases, and inclined
railways to the base of the gorge and rivers edge.
There were two rival elevators at the Whirlpool Rapids, one built in
1869 and operated by John M. Buttery under the name of the Buttery
Elevator Company. In 1891, they lobbied to have the Village of Niagara
Falls grant the Niagara Falls Street Railway a franchise to extend its
tracks to a point near the elevator. Sheldon and Hawley, owners of the
Manning elevator, a rival of the Buttery Elevator Company, strenuously
objected to this because it would be of much greater benefit to the
Buttery Elevator Company. The dispute ended in the courts. The electric
railway was eventually extended to the whirlpool.
Another elevator with an odd name of "Hopsock" descended into the
Niagara Gorge at the back of the Spirella building. It was an octagonal
building on the river's bank.
Another elevator was located back of
Witmer's Flour Mill.
April 9th 1893
On April 9th 1893,
one of the most notable improvements in the facilities for sightseeing
are those now being made by the Buttery Whirlpool Rapids Company. This
company is expending about $35,000 in putting in a new double elevator
and erecting a new building at the top of the bank, which will be the
largest and finest along the river. The elevator is 237 feet in length
and lands passengers at the water's edge where a magnificent view of the
great whirlpool Rapids it is obtained. The building at the top of the
bank to be used as a bazaar etc. is 121' x 88' and is two stories high
with a cupola and turrets. The contract for doing all the important work
is in charge of Alderman John E. Noblett, and it is expected the
elevator will be ready for use June 1st 1893.
Tragedy at the Buttery
On July 14th 1893, a terrible heart rending accident happened this
morning at the Buttery Elevator down at the Whirlpool Rapids by which a
bright little boy aged between four and five years lost his life in a
most unfortunate manner. He
plunged through a seven inch space between the elevator and the shaft
wall and fell 200 feet to the solid rock below. His body was fearfully
mangled and about every joint in it was broken-sorrowful ending of a
trip to the falls. His parents were grief stricken.
The little boy's name was Franklyn Ferrier, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John
W. Ferrier of New York. The family arrived here on Wednesday evening and
took rooms at the Imperial Hotel and were to stay a week or more. They
were accompanied by their two sons Franklyn, the one who lost his life
today and Willard, aged seven years who was with them when the terrible
This morning Mr. and Mrs. Ferrier thought they would go down to the
rapids and take the boys along to see the sights. They boarded a car
about 9 o'clock and went down to the Buttery Elevator. The party had
just walked into the elevator car on invitation of the boy in charge
when suddenly without warning little Frankie, as his parents called him,
disappeared down through an opening on the river side of the car. The
little fellow had been the first to enter the car door and had walked
across to a window in the shaft on the other side of the car. He was
evidently going to take a look out of this when he stepped into this
opening between the car and the side of the shaft. The car had no door
on it on the riverside and no protection. The child disappeared without
a cry or sound and was dashed down the shaft a distance of 200 feet to
the stone flooring beneath. A moment before he was running about full of
life and vigour with his little toy gun in hand. In another instant he
was a bleeding shapeless mass on the elevator shaft bottom with his
little gun still in his crushed fingers and his hat laying beside him.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferrier and little brother and companion were grief
stricken. The parents were not permitted to see the frightful mangled
form of their loved one. Warner and Hurst, the hotel proprietors were
notified and Mr. William Hearst hastens to the scene of the accident. He
procured a carriage and had the father mother and brother driven to the
hotel where Mrs. Warner assisted by her housekeeper Mrs. Swinton
administered to Mrs. Ferrier in her distracted and grief stricken
Mr. Hearst took charge of the remains and turned them over to Coroner
The opening through which the little fellow dropped is between six and
eight inches wide. The elevators were put in by the Howard Iron Works of
Buffalo who never sent the doors to the side of the elevator through
which the boy walked. It was never dreamed that a person could fall
through so narrow a space especially as it is on the side that the
operator of the elevator stands well at work. However when the accident
occurred the operator of the elevator was not in his usual place. The
elevator is one of a few in the city that is unusual and regularly
inspected by the American Casualty Company of New York, and their
representatives inspected it within the last two weeks and pronounced it
in good condition. Immediately after the accident occurred the elevator
for people had a plank placed over the hole through which the boy fell.
When officers of the company heard of the accident they were fearfully
shocked and representatives hurried to tender their condolence to the
sorrowing parents. To Coroner Walsh they gave orders that the very best
treatment should be given the body and ordered a metallic casket for the
In a later interview with Mr. Ferrier, he stated that after the accident
happened some of the employees of the elevator turned on him and told
him that he was to blame for the accident and that he should have had a
hold of the boys hand. He thought that this was hardly the kind of
treatment a father afflicted just as he had been should receive. The man
who addressed him, he considered very brutal.
An Electrical Revolution
On June 8th
1895 the Niagara Falls & Lewiston Railroad Company purchased of the two
remaining elevators on the American side. A revolution in summer tourism
all along the Niagara River was taking place due to the expanding use of
construction of the Niagara Falls & Lewiston Railroad, which has which
has been pooh-poohed for years, is a bigger thing than even some of its
friends imagined and as noted above this road in connection with the
Buffalo & Niagara Falls Electric Railroad will virtually revolutionize
and greatly augment, undoubtedly, the summer business.
Van Horn, Secretary of the Niagara Whirlpool Rapids Elevator Company, in
an interview stated that he expected that the railroad company would
close up and probably take down the elevator which it has purchased from
him. He thought, however, that the incline between the bridges would be
run by the company. The business could be handled at this elevator or
incline and at the Buttery elevator which is already in the hands of the
company. The elevator of the Niagara Whirlpool Rapid Elevator Company is
located where there is a perpendicular bank and the railroad cannot pass
along there without either tunnelling behind the elevator or taking it
away. The latter will probably be done, as it would not be likely to pay
the company to run all three of the elevators. Mr. Van Horn suggested
that it would be a good idea to take his elevator out and locate it at
the whirlpool. All the important points could then be reached by
elevator. At present there is no way of reaching the whirlpool.
1895 the Niagara Falls and Lewiston Gorge Railroad was opened as far as
the Buttery Elevator.
Fire Destroys the Buttery Elevator
On April 22nd 1901, the last vestige of the old and historic Buttery
Elevator at the north and of Niagara Falls disappeared last week when
the remains of the structure were entirely consumed by fire.
Several months ago the gorge railroad company which owns both the
Buttery and Van Horn elevators announced that as those buildings were
deemed insecure in dangerous, they would be torn down. Since then
workmen have been engaged in taking out the most valuable timbers such
as could afterwards be used. The work on the buttery elevator having
been completed it was decided to destroy the remainder of the structure
by fire. A pile of combustibles placed at the bottom was ignited
and soon the flames shot upwards in developing the whole structure. The
fire was observed by some person above who at once turned in an alarm.
This brought to the firemen to the scene, but they departed on learning
that the old structure had been designedly set on fire. Within an hour's
time it was entirely consumed.