Welcome to Clifton Hill - The Street of Fun at the Falls

Welcome to the Clifton Hill Tourist District. This area includes Clifton Hill, Falls Avenue, Victoria Avenue, Center Street and Bender Street.

Today Clifton Hill is the vibrant and colourful heart of the amusement and entertainment center of Niagara Falls. It consisting of many museums, restaurants, attractions and activities for all ages. It is the second busiest tourist sector next to the majestic Falls of Niagara themselves.

At night "THE HILL" as it is known to the our many citizens and visitors, becomes a hub of nightlife activities consisting of pulsating sounds of music and a magical world of sparkling and glittering lights.


Clifton Hill - an historical view

Clifton Hill
an historical view
courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library




Clifton Hill - an historical view

Clifton Hill
an historical view
courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library




Clifton Hill - an historical view

Clifton Hill
an historical view
courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library




Clifton Hill - a history


The history of Clifton Hill has roots dating back to 1782.

As early as 1832  the initial portion of the Village of Clifton which was laid out in streets and building lots  by land owner, Captain Ogden Crieghton, a British Army officer. He gave his future settlement the name “Clifton”. The name Clifton was derived from the town of the same name in England.

Ferry Road (now Clifton Hill) was a primary street of Crieghton's urban plan.

Captain Crieghton purchased this property from the family of Phillip Bender family. They had acquired this property in 1782 as part of a United Empire Loyalist (UEL) land grant. This land is today is commonly referred to as “the Center”. It encompasses a major portion of the primary tourist core in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

In 1833, the first Clifton Hotel was built at the base of Ferry Road (Clifton Hill) by Harmanus Crysler. This large hotel became the best hotel available and the flagship of all Niagara hoteliers to follow.

Clifton Hill was known as "Ferry Road" since 1834, when small rowboats were utilized to transport people across the Niagara River between Canada and the USA.. This would remain the only method of International transportation until 1848 when the first International Suspension Bridge was completed. Ferry Road provided the primary access route to the edge of the Niagara Gorge and the ferry service below.

There were very few buildings along Ferry Road (Clifton Hill).  A small school house occupied the south side of the road for a brief period of time.

In 1842 financier, Samuel Zimmerman created an estate property along the south side of Ferry Hill (Clifton Hill) that he called “Clifton Place”. On his estate, Zimmerman undertook to create many gardens and several large fountains. He planned to build a mansion that he hoped to live in once it was completed. The estate of Samuel Zimmerman occupied the entire south side of Ferry Hill (Clifton Hill) and was bounded by the river, Murray Hill and Ferry Road (Victoria Avenue). Today this property is owned by HOCO (Harry Oakes Company).

While building his estate, Samuel Zimmerman lived in Captain Creighton’s tiny Clifton cottage which stood near Ferry Road leading to the current Maid of the Mist dock. 

In 1856, the Village of Clifton became large enough to warrant a post office.

In 1856, the Village of Clifton and the north end Village of Elgin were amalgamated to become the Town of Clifton.

The only building in the area of "the center" on Ferry Road was the Clifton House Hotel (at the base of the hill)  and the Erie & Niagara Railroad Station (at the top of the hill).

In 1898, fire destroyed the Clifton Hotel. It was replaced by the new Clifton Hotel in 1905.

The first buildings that Zimmerman built on his estate were four gatehouses. Each gatehouse was large enough to be a home in itself. A gatehouse was located at each of the four entrances to his 52 acre estate. 

The Clifton Gate House was the last of four such gatehouses built in 1856. 

Zimmerman built a large stable for his horses and carriages. The stable was constructed of imported English yellow brick. The cost of the brick for this building alone was $18,000. The stables continued to exist until the mid 1950’s when the new Park Motor Hotel (Comfort Inn - Clifton Hill) complex incorporated a section of the stable wall into the hotel structure.

Next, Zimmerman began working on plans for his mansion which he called “Clifton Place”. His mansion was estimated to cost $175,000.

Samuel Zimmerman saw only the foundations of his mansion built before he was killed on March 12th 1857 in the Desjardins Canal Railway accident.

Zimmerman’s estate was taken over by the Bank of Upper Canada which went bankrupt several years later. His estate was put up for sale.

United States Senator John T. Bush of Buffalo, New York bought Zimmerman’s at the bargain price of 25 cents on the dollar. Bush bought Clifton Place and the Clifton House along with the adjoining properties.

John T. Bush completed the mansion that Samuel Zimmerman envisioned. The Bush mansion contained a great hall measuring 16 feet wide and 90 feet long running through the center of the main floor. The main floor consisted of five large rooms and a kitchen. The second floor consisted of five huge bedrooms. The third floor consisted of a theatre complete with a stage. A solid walnut winding staircase allowed access to the various floors. During construction, six thousand (6,000) board feet of black walnut was used. The doors were ten feet high. Three hundred tons of flat stone went into the walls and hand cut limestone went into the stone trim.

The view of Niagara Falls was available from the many windows on the upper floors, the balconies and from a little stone turret built into one wing of the mansion. To reach the turret, one had to climb out of the window and walk across the slate roof.

Originally the mansion was heated by large fireplaces however in later years it was heated by two large furnaces. Lighting was originally by oil lamps and but was later converted to electricity.

Senator Bush and his family lived in the mansion for the next 50 years.

Following the death of Senator Bush, his daughter Miss Josephine Bush continued to live in the mansion until 1927. In 1928, Miss Bush sold the Bush Estate to Harry Oakes (Welland Securities).

In the 1920's tourism began increasing exponentially.

Niagara Falls Tourist Camp was opened by Charles Burland. It was located on the north side of Clifton Hill between the Foxhead Inn and the Alexandra Hotel. The camp was across from the Alexandra Hotel (current site of the Comfort Inn).

Earl McIntosh opened two campgrounds. His Clifton Touring Camp was located on the south side of Clifton Hill on the current site of the Park Motor Hotel (Comfort Inn). McIntosh also opened his Clifton Camp located on the north side of Clifton Hill.

In 1925, Howard Fox opened his famous Foxhead Inn on Clifton Hill at Falls Avenue. The Inn was a subsidiary of the Clifton Hotel.

Reinhart's Riverhurst Inn was located on the north side of Clifton Hill between the Niagara Falls Tourist Camp and the Foxhead Inn. 

For several years after Welland Securities purchased the Bush estate, two of the gatehouses were used as private residences. In 1937, Welland Securities began using the Clifton Gate House as their general office. After some time, the Clifton Gate House was utilized an antique gun museum and later a souvenir store. 

The mansion was left vacant for ten years when Harry Oakes (Welland Securities) announced it would be torn down. Despite a public outcry to preserve the mansion, it was completely demolished by June 1st 1937.

Of the four gatehouses, the Queen Victoria Park house and Robinson Street house had been removed long ago. By 1937, only two gatehouses and the stable remained standing.The Victoria Avenue gatehouse was demolished in the mid-1950’s. 

In the 1950’s, the land on the south side of Clifton Hill nearest Queen Victoria was offered to the American Government to build a new American Consulate however this offer was never acted upon. The land was later sold.

In the late 1950’s, the Park Motor Hotel (currently the Comfort Inn) and the Fallsway Hotel (currently the Quality Inn) were build on a large portion of the former Bush estate. Harry Oakes owned the Park Motor Hotel and the Fallsway Motel was separately owned. The Fallsway Hotel was later purchased by Harry Oakes (Welland Securities). Both hotels continue in operation today.

In November of 1965, the 109 year old Clifton Gate House located on the south side Clifton Hill between the Park Motor Hotel (Comfort Inn) and the Fallsway Hotel (Quality Inn) was demolished to make way for a two storey building worth $170,000. This building today houses the Hollywood Wax Museum.

Clifton Hill has with the passage of time continued to evolve and has been transformed into the hub of the tourist district second only to the Falls of Niagara  themselves. This movement continues to this day. Clifton Hill Tourist District is the heart of tourist entertainment at Niagara Falls.   




Clifton Hill - an historical view

Clifton Hill
an historical view
courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library




  Neon Lights of Clifton Hill   Neon Lights of Clifton Hill

  Neon Lights of Clifton Hill   Neon Lights Of Clifton Hill

Neon Lights Of Clifton Hill Tourist District








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Date last updated: August 25, 2014




The following locations and facts about them are but a few of many famous sites & attractions to be found in Niagara Falls. The best of it is FREE to see...so think of Niagara Falls when planning your next vacation. If you have questions of a current or historical nature about the Niagara Falls area or suggestions feel free to e-mail Rick at:










The Street of Fun at the Falls