Niagara Falls



July 28th 1954


a history



The following history was compiled from newspaper reports as recorded at the time by staff members of the Niagara Falls Review (Ontario) and the Niagara Falls Gazette (New York). The reports provide a uniquely detailed perspective of one of the largest rock falls ever to have occurred at
Niagara Falls and the Niagara Gorge.    



The collapse of Prospect Point
courtesy of Niagara Falls Review
Prospect Point following the massive rock slide into the Niagara Gorge.




     A Young Boy Raises The Alarm

I was 9-1/2 years old and a bit inquisitive. I enjoyed the view, but after watching lots of water going over the falls for a bit, the novelty sort of wore off for me. 

As I meandered along the Overlook, which apparently was just above the power plant, I noticed a fairly wide crack in the pavement, about 1-1/4 inches and followed it. It went quite a ways, from one end of the section to another and if I recall correctly, about 10 or so feet from the railing. This did not seem good. I pointed it out to my dad, who also became quite concerned and he notified a ranger, who took a look and also became concerned.  Shortly thereafter, it was cordoned off with police barricades and guarded by some rangers. The next day, it was gone.

I have no idea how many days this crack was there, but it was weird to be the only one who noticed it the day before it collapsed.

 I suppose had this happened today, there would have been pictures of the crack, and possibly interviews with the kid who spotted it and set things in motion and it would have gone viral. I do not know why it was not noticed by the people who worked there, but they acted immediately after they were notified. Before it collapsed, my family was quite proud of my observation, but after it collapsed, the timing did not go unnoticed, and I was a bit of a 'hero.' -

Dan Eisenstein




Thursday July 29th 1954

New Face Is Shown By American Falls

Prospect Point Has Vanished

A Pie Shaped Hunk Falls From Falls


The aftermath of the Prospect Point rock fall as viewed from Goat Island
courtesy of Niagara Falls Review
Prospect Point following the collapse as viewed from Goat Island    


Engineers and Geologists are conducting surveys today to determine whether blasting will be necessary to stall further rock falls at Niagara Falls.

A huge section of Prospect Point observation area at the brink of the American Falls - in a pie shaped section by the Falls itself collapsed Wednesday (July 28th 1954) sending an estimated 185,000 tons of rock thundering into the Niagara River Gorge.

Park officials feared that additional sections of prospect point would collapse before blasting operations could be begun.

Two sections of prospect Point were hanging precariously over the 170 foot (51.8m) gorge today. Officials estimated the new fall could send an estimated 50,000 tons of rock into the gorge.

Engineers appeared to be at a loss as to what to do about the huge pile of rocks now at the bottom of the gorge. A few have said the view from the base of the American Falls has been marred by the mass of rock. There is no indication whether the elevator to the Maid of the Mist landing at the base of the American Falls would be re-opened.

Meanwhile Park officials prepare to erect a fence around the collapsed area. A snow fence was erected temporarily to keep the curious away. Thousands of tourists watched Wednesday as the huge masses of rock tumbled into the gorge.

It is the worst rock fall here since January 17th 1931 when a huge section of the American Falls tumbled into the gorge.


A Sudden And Spectacular Face Lifting Ripped Away

A major portion of Prospect Point carved out a tremendous pie shaped hunk of the American Falls itself. Engineers from the Niagara Frontier State Parks Commission estimate the size of the rock fall as 400 feet (122m) long from the lip of the gorge - 50 feet (15m) wide and 150 feet (46m) deep. This included an estimated 20 feet (6m) off the Falls crest-line crashed to a point 70 feet (21m) down the face.


Face Lifting Is Planned For Point

Three giant boulders silhouetted against the red and blue mist of Niagara Falls last night stood as silent monuments of evolution. The boulders as huge as houses lay jumbled in a vast mass base of rocks from which they had fallen from the face in the afternoon.

The swirling mists hid the new scar on the weathered face of Niagara from the lower river. The north flank of the American Falls presented a raw and torn face to the Canadian side. Whether the changes enhances or distracts from the beauty of the Falls will be before the jurors to decide.

A face lifting may be in store for the new observation area according to Andrew M. Anderson, Executive Secretary and Chief Engineer for the Niagara Frontier State Parks Commission. He indicated that a new face would be smoothed off by engineers. A new sidewalk and guard rails would be constructed once the area is proved to be safe.

The elevator shaft and tunnel to the Maid of the Mist landing below the Falls although cracked, appeared to be in no danger according to maintenance workers. Cracks in the shaft and tunnel appeared only yesterday showed no signs of widening when checked last night. Water which had gushed from the crack earlier in the day had dwindled to a trickle.

Geologists examined the building today and it will be reopened as soon as it is declared safe.


See Rock Fall Stimulant To Tourist Trade

The rock fall from Prospect Point yesterday was viewed today as a publicity windfall to boost the tourist season. Thousands of tourists viewed the collapse from the famous section of the American Falls. millions more are expected to come and see the new look on the cascades before the end of the season.

Literally thousands of shots of the falling rock were made by expert and amateur photographers immediately after the fall. And last night, flash bulbs twinkled throughout the park on both sides of the river as tourists rushed to get pictures.

Diners in the Rainbow Room of the General Brock Hotel had a close-up of the deep hole gouged into the American cliff.

Eye Witness Accounts

Frank B. Leslie, son of W. B. Leslie of the Evening Review staff said "We were driving through the park and suddenly heard this terrible rumbling noise. we thought it must have been a large transport plane flying very low. Then when we got opposite the Refectory, hundreds of tourists were rushing towards the edge of the bank. We thought the plane had crashed in the river. I jumped out of the car in time to see the second fall of the rock. It was like an avalanche with a great slice of the cliff settling into the gorge. Clouds of dust and spray partially hid the cliff from that point."

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shuck of Paterson, New Jersey were visibly shaken by their experience. "I don't know how we got into this thing" said Charles Shuck, an aircraft engineer employed by Curtiss-Wright Company. "We came here on our vacation and stayed overnight on Tuesday in Niagara Falls, New York. We rose early this morning and went down to the river. We were there at about 6:30 a.m.. We noticed a huge crack on Prospect Point and immediately reported the matter to the uniform man sitting in an automobile."

Shuck said later in the afternoon when he drove across the Rainbow Bridge to bring his wife and year old son to Niagara Falls, Ontario he heard a thunderous noise. He stopped his car and other motorists did the same thing. A terrible jam resulted. They left for the south side of the Rainbow Bridge. "I shutter every time I think of it" said Mrs. Shuck.

Maid Of Mist Rides Out Falls

The Maids of the Mist have for generations challenged the Niagara. Yesterday, the Maid of the Mist rode out the collapse of part of their empire from a vantage point near the Cave of the Winds. Following the collapse, both of the vessels cancelled further trips for the day.

Captain Clifford Keech of the Maid of the Mist 2 explained that the vessels sister ship was at the wharf when the slide occurred. "When we were taking the Maid of the Mist 2 out at 4:50 p.m.. Three or four minutes before the rock slide. Just as I left the dock I heard quite a loud explosion but I didn't know what it was and I surmised it could have been the Falls. A few seconds after we left the wharf, I saw water gushing out from under Prospect Point 50 to 75 feet down from the top. I proceeded up river the same as usual but then when we got to about the Cave of the Winds, the rocks let go."


Friday August 6th 1954

Will Blast 80 Tons Of The Point

Another 80 tons of rock will be blasted from the face of the gorge at  Prospect Point as the Niagara Frontier State Parks Commission speeds up work to make the famous point safe.

The portion to be blasted is barely clinging to the face of the gorge and authorities want it removed before further examination of the jagged edge for cracks can take place. Work began today to remove 6 to 8 feet (2.4m) of top soil from the area to be blasted away. When the top soil has been cleared, holes will be drilled into the rock for dynamiting purposes.

Hundreds of tourists watching were keeping a close check on the elm tree. The elm tree has become almost as famous as the actual rock fall. The elm tree had survived the initial rock fall although it appears to be standing in the air.


Thursday August 12th 1954

1,800 Ton Chunk Of Rock Blasted Free Of Prospect Point

Prospect Point yielded another 1,800 tons of rock this morning when a 95 pound dynamite blast sent 2/3's of the condemned section into the gorge to join the 185,000 tons of rock that originally fell. Four hundred people viewed the blast. The famous elm tree survived again.

Immediately afterwards, dynamite experts set to work preparing for another blast tomorrow to shave the face of the gorge clear. The 900 tons of rock which failed to give way are separated from the solid footing at the cliffs edge by an 8 inch wide crack.

Harold McLain of McLain Construction said 12 holes will be drilled across the rock just ahead of the crack for another blasting.


Friday August 13th 1954

Polio Victim, Age 4 To Set Off Final Blast From Iron Lung

Prospect Point is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar and a 4 year old polio patient confined to an iron lung in California will prove it.

These developments are to bring to a close the drama at Prospect Point which began July 28th when 180,000 tons of rock fell into the gorge.

The little girl - Debbie Stone will also launch a $20 million dollar emergency fund drive sponsored by the national Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It proved to be a blessing in disguise when 900 tons of rock failed to be blasted away yesterday.

After examination by Niagara Frontier State Parks geologists and engineers, Prospect Point was deemed to be safe from any other rock falls and the elevator building was entirely out of danger.

One more blast is required and this is where little Debbie comes into the picture. Debbie is in an iron lung at Los Ranches Alamos, California. She is completely paralyzed but with her nose she will touch off the blast which will restore the solidarity of Prospect Point and give polio victims across the United States new hope for the future on Monday at 1:00 p.m.

Debbie will press her nose against a button  and telephone wires will carry her impression across the continent to a detonator at Prospect Point. As though she were standing right beside the detonator, Debbie will be detonating the dynamite.

Employees of McLain Construction Company were busy preparing for Debbie's big day. Twelve holes - sixteen feet (4.8m) deep are being drilled across the rock. They will be loaded to the top with pound sticks of dynamite.


Saturday August 14th 1954

Debbie Stone Was An Excited Little Girl

Little Debbie Stone was an excited girl. Debbie has something at stake in the fight as well. Her tiny heart cannot beat without her man-made lung. It is hoped that from the money contributed will come a chance for recovery. Another display with the theme "Don't Let The March Of Dimes Go Down The River" will see three boats launched and plunge over the American Falls. These boats will be cut loose from the Goat Island Bridge. One will contain an oversized iron lung measuring 9 feet (2.7m) long and 1 feet (0.4m) in diameter. The other two boats will contain crutches, wheelchairs and other symbols of the fight against polio. 


Monday August 16th 1954

Debbie Sends 900 Tons Of Rock Into Gorge

Little Debbie Stone detonated the dynamite charge at Prospect Point sending 900 tons of loose rock to the base of the Niagara Gorge ending a chapter in Niagara history and beginning a national funding campaign against polio. At the time Debbie set the blast off with her nose, famous pianist Liberace was at her side.

The famous elm tree has once again survived. One natural rock fall, two man made dynamite blasts and streams of water have failed to down this remarkable tree.


Wednesday August 25th 1954

Stubborn Elm Tree Falls During Wind Storm

The stubborn elm tree at Prospect Point that wouldn't finally fell at 3:26 p.m. during a powerful wind storm. The tree was subsequently retrieved from amongst the rocks at the base of the gorge and sent to a saw mill where it was cut up into small pieces to be sold for souvenirs.












Date last updated: July 13, 2019




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