Historical Photograph Collection
Page 1


*A special thank you to
, John Guthrie and the Niagara Falls Public (Ontario) Library
for their contribution to this page


The following photographs are of  Niagara Falls during the 1800's to early 1900's.



The Clifton Hotel

1932- This is the second Clifton Hotel which was located at the corner of Ferry
Road (now Clifton Hill) and River Road. The picture is facing north-westerly.

Courtesy of John Guthrie

The site of the original Clifton Hotel remained untouched following its destruction by fire until 1905 when the Clifton Hotel was rebuilt. This five storey structure was built in a "U" shaped form at the corner of River Road and Clifton Hill facing the American and Canadian Falls.

On December 31st 1932, the Clifton Hotel was once again destroyed by fire. The fire started in the North wing and could not be controlled until most of the structure lay in ruins.

Niagara Falls businessman, Mr. Harry Oakes purchased the site of the Clifton Hotel and the Lafayette Hotel.

In 1933, Mr. Oakes traded this parcel of land (measuring 460 feet by 330 feet) to the Niagara Parks Commission for a small tract of land just above the park. The property Oakes traded for is today located along the south side of Clifton Hill.

 Oakes Garden Theatre was built as an amphitheater by the design firm of Dunington, Grubb & Stensson. The foundation walls of the old Clifton Hotel were included in the construction design.

Construction on Oakes Garden Theatre began on October 1st 1935. It was officially opened on September 18th 1937.


Fort Niagara - Youngstown, New York

Fort Niagara
in Youngstown, New York

Courtesy of John Guthrie


The history of Fort Niagara predates 1788 when the rest of the Niagara Frontier was for the most part not yet developed.

On January 14th 1679, Henry de Tonti chose this site for a fortification. In two weeks a log block house was built and was named Fort Conde.

Later in that year it was destroyed by Indians. In 1686, Frenchman, Marquis de Denonville built a new fortification at this site and called it Fort Denonville . It was abandoned in 1688.

In 1725, Chabert Joncair was allowed by the Seneca Indians to build a Magazin Royal, a Cabin of Bark. In 1726, he built a French castle or House of Peace overlooking Lake Ontario at present site of Fort Niagara.



The Upper Goat Island Rapids

the Goat Island Bridge and the north Goat Island Channel - 1890

Courtesy of John Guthrie


The picture is of the Goat Island Bridge looking north from Goat Island to the American mainland via Bath Island (Green Island). When originally built by Augustus Porter, the bridge was twelve feet wide and had a wooden deck.

This is the northern channel of water around Goat Island and is the water channel which feed the American Falls.



The Upper Steel Arch Bridge - January 27th 1938

the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (Honeymoon Bridge)
on January 27th 1938,  just before its collapse





The collapse of the Honeymoon Bridge

the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (Honeymoon Bridge Collapse) - 1938

Courtesy of John Guthrie




The twisted metal of the Honeymoon Bridge

the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (Honeymoon Bridge Collapse) - 1938





Wreckage of the Honeymoon Bridge

the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (Honeymoon Bridge Collapse) - 1938




The first photograph is a picture of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge on the same day just preceding its collapse on January 27th 1938.

The second, third and fourth photographs depict the remains of the January 27th 1938 collapse of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (aka: Honeymoon Bridge, Falls View Bridge). One photograph was taken from the American shoreline and one was taken from the Canadian shoreline and one from the river level.

The remnants of the bridge superstructure were blown apart with dynamite on February 5th 1938 in an attempt to sink them.




The two Falls of Niagara

the American and Horseshoe Falls - 1882

Courtesy of John Guthrie


This photograph of the unconstrained waters of Niagara Falls before water diversion and remedial work.  Notice the relative straight crest of the American Falls comparing them to the crest line today.

The building on the American shore is the "Shadow of the Rock" incline railway which serviced the Maid of the Mist Docks and a viewing platform for the American Falls circa: 1880.

This picture would have been taken from the deck of the original Upper Suspension Bridge.

Two special observations, the Terrapin Tower at the crest of the Horseshoe Falls has been torn down. It was built in 1833 and was a fixture for approximately 50 years. Obviously torn down before 1882.


The Upper Suspension Bridge

the Upper Suspension Bridge circa: 1895

Courtesy of John Guthrie


A classic picture depicting the Upper Suspension Bridge circa: 1895, looking west to the Canadian shoreline from the American terminus. Still the days of horse & buggy or walking.

This picture pre-dates 1896  because the building to the immediate left of the bridge is the Lafayette Hotel which is still under construction. This hotel was not opened to the public until 1896. Notice there are no windows yet installed in the hotel.

The original Upper Suspension Bridge dates back to 1869. It was destroyed on January 10th 1889 during a gale force wind storm. The wooden structure collapsed into the gorge.



The Upper Suspension Bridge

the Upper Suspension Bridge - 1897

Courtesy of John Guthrie


This is the Upper Suspension Bridge with the steel arch superstructure being built underneath the wooden structure. Construction began on the steel arch on or about May 27th 1897 and was open to traffic on June 23rd 1897.

Picture taken from the American shore looking westward into Canada.

The Upper Suspension Bridge was dismantled and  then re-erected at Queenston - Lewiston to become the second suspension bridge at that site.

The steel arch bridge became known as the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (aka: Honeymoon Bridge, Falls View Bridge). It was this Honeymoon Bridge that collapsed in 1938.




The Third Railway Suspension Bridge

the third Railway Suspension Bridge -circa 1881

Courtesy of John Guthrie


This picture is taken from the American shore looking west into Canada (the Town of Niagara Falls - 1881). It is the third Railway Suspension Bridge (now aka: the Lower Arch Bridge, the Whirlpool Bridge) located at the foot of bridge Street.

The picture can be dated after 1885 because the new Customs and Post Office building can be seen at the corner of then Clifton and Park St (it wasn't opened until 1885). Its the large pitched roof building just to the left of the bridge tower.

More and more demands were being placed onto the existing Railway Suspension Bridge that was completed in 1855. Trains crossed more frequently and became larger and their loads heavier. Soon the stresses placed upon the existing bridge structure were becoming too great and safety became a big concern.

The work of renovating the Railway Suspension Bridge was carried out by Leffert L. Buck, an American engineer who later went on to become famous for his design of great steel arch bridge which eventually replaced the suspension bridge.

The beauty of the second bridge was sacrificed for one of much greater strength. Increasing trade and commerce demanded that wood and stone be replaced with steel. Slender steel pylons replaced the thick stone towers. Steel beams and trusses replaced the wooden frame work.

The entire renovation was completed by 1886. No accidents occurred during construction and with little interruption to rail traffic.

This new structure was capable of carrying an increased load from 300 tons to 350 tons which was much more than any train and load was capable of weighing. All that remained of the second bridge was the anchorage's and cables but they too had been overhauled and improved.

This bridge continued in service for ten years, when pressure from the railway company and the economy began calling for the design and building of a more modern steel arch type bridge.



The Bath Island Paper Mill

The Bath Island Paper Mill - circa 1823 - 1885

Courtesy of John Guthrie


This is a rare picture of The Bath Island Paper Mill which was built on Bath Island (now Green Island) located in the Upper Rapids between Goat Island (then known as Iris Island) and the American mainland. The mill was built in 1823 and continued in operation until the creation of the Reservation State Park in 1885.

Prior to the expropriation of land by the State of New York for the Reservation State Park, the shoreline of the American mainland upstream of the Falls and Green Island were industrialized. The paper mill was one of these factories.

The bridge in the picture is the Goat Island Bridge which is the shorter of the two spans (from Goat Island to Baths Island). The Goat Island Bridge continues from Bath Island to the American mainland.



The first Railway Suspension Bridge

The first Railway Bridge - 1875

Courtesy of John Guthrie


The first Railway Bridge circa:1855. This bridge remained in place until 1880 when the wooden superstructure was replaced with an iron superstructure.

It was located at the present site of the Whirlpool Bridge (aka: Lower Bridge, Whirlpool Rapids Bridge) located at the foot of Bridge Street at River Road.

This photograph is looking eastward towards the American shoreline from the Canadian terminus.

In 1853, bridge designer/engineer John A. Roebling came to Niagara. Roebling was the person responsible for the building of the Railway Suspension Bridge to allow the Grand Trunk Railway to connect from Canada to the USA .

Prior to this undertaking, Roebling had built one smaller suspension bridge and five aqueducts. Roebling's plan for a suspension bridge for trains across the Niagara Gorge met with much opposition. Most thought that a suspension bridge would not be capable of standing up to the weight and stresses of a locomotive and other rail cars. Roebling was of the belief that no other type of bridge was suitable for the Niagara Gorge and that the suspension bridge was the future for long span bridges.

In 1851, with a need for a train bridge across the Niagara Gorge, rthe Bridge Company selected Roebling's original bridge design over those submitting by Samuel Keefer and Edward W. Serrell.

The second bridge had two stone pylons at each end to support the four large iron cables. The railway deck was built above the carriage floor and both were joined by a latticed truss of wood construction forming what appeared to be a long narrow cage across the gorge. A large number of guy wires from the bridge to the cliff wall were utilized to counteract the effects of the wind.

Two men died on October 10th 1854 during the bridge construction when a scaffold holding four men collapsed.

On March 8th 1855, the first locomotive named "London" crossed the bridge. It was one of the largest engines of its time, weighing twenty-three (23) tons. It crossed at a speed of eight (8) miles per hour (mph) and caused a deflection of only three and one half inches at the center of the span.

The bridge cost four hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($450,000) and became one of the worlds most famous. Over a period of twenty-five (25) years, an average of fifty trains a week crossed this bridge.

John A. Roebling later became famous in his bridge designs with his building of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Roebling died during its construction and never saw its completion.



Ice palace

the Ice Palace - circa: 1899

Courtesy of John Guthrie


This is a picture of the ice palace that was built during the 1898-1899 American Winter Festival held at Niagara Falls New York. It was built during an ice sculpture contest. 

The "Great Ice Palace" was built on the Riverway overlooking the American Falls and the Niagara Gorge. The palace was 120 feet (36.5m) wide by 160 feet (48.7m) long and was built entirely of large blocks of ice. The walls were up to 7 feet (2.1m) thick and had three ice towers built in. A 90 feet (27.4m) by 160 feet (48.7m) skating rink adorned the outside of the palace. An entrance fee was charged to enter the palace and at night it was illuminated by colorful lights. The "Ice Palace" project was financed by a group of prominent citizens.




The Historic Mill District of Niagara Falls, New York

the mill district of Niagara Falls, New York
circa: 1890's

Courtesy of John Guthrie


Niagara mills drew water from the Upper Rapids and not from the Falls. Industries continued to use water-wheels until the turbine was developed.

The only large scale development of Niagara Falls power  milling district of the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company located in Niagara Falls, New York.

The Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company was chartered in 1853.

The Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company under the direction of Horace D. Day built an open canal extending 4,400 feet long from the Upper Niagara River at Port Day leading to the mill district located downstream from the falls.

This canal was 35 feet wide and 8 feet deep. It carried water to a reservoir located just to the east of the mills. The industries tapped into the water reservoir and with a head of water only 25 - 75 feet, channeled water into their respective mills where water-wheels generated the power to drive the machinery.

Most of the machinery utilized large belts to transmit the power from the water-wheel to the machinery. Water was then channeled by short tunnels bored into the rock of the gorge water to allow its discharge into the river below.

This discharge was known as the "tailrace". Quite often the tailrace fell into the gorge from a considerable height. The tailrace discharge of the many industries became quite a tourist attraction in their own right second only to the Falls of Niagara.




The Horseshoe Falls with the Terrapin Tower Boardwalkgif (21011 bytes)

Niagara Falls
circa: 1833 - 1887

Courtesy of John Guthrie

The platform the men are standing on at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls was an extension of the boardwalk that led from Terrapin Point on Goat Island leading to Terrapin Tower (just out of site).

Notice the the mill and shanty at the Table Rock. The large building on the hill is what was to become Oak Hall and at that time was owned by Samuel Street who operated a mill at the rivers edge opposite Dufferin Islands.



Ice conditions at the Maid of the Mist in January 1938

The unusually heavy ice conditions at the dock of the Maid of the Mist - January 1938.

These same ice conditions were responsible for the collapse of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (Honeymoon Bridge Collapse) on January 27th 1938





Tugby's Store at the entrance to the Bath Island Bridge

the Tugby and Walker Variety Store, circa: 1870's-1880's. The variety store was located on the main land of Manchester (Niagara Falls, New York) beside the Goat Island Bridge leading to Bath Island. The small white house on Bath Island is a bath house for which the island was named.

courtesy of John Guthrie



Ice Conditions at the Maid of the Mist - January 1938

The Maid of the Mist Cabin located on the Canadian shoreline was destroyed by ice in January 1938. The ice jam of January 1938 was the worst on record and resulted in a tremendous amount of damage including the collapse of the Honeymoon Bridge.





The Subchaser "Sunbeam"

June 1923 - A view of the remains of the Subchaser - "Sunbeam" in the Niagara River just upstream of the Horseshoe Falls














Date last updated: February 13, 2012







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 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