Thursday, May 15, 2008

Niagara Falls, Then and Now: the Eastland shed

(click on photos to enlarge!)
Below: Demolition of a storefront on north side of Victoria Ave., east of Clifton Hill, in the tourist district, taken by R. Bobak, Jun.21, 2007.
Above: same view of newly built store, Mar.31, 2008, by R. Bobak. Blondin, the tightrope walker patiently watched over the construction project.
Below: the south-east corner of Clifton St. (now Zimmerman Ave.) and Park St. in 1907, home of the Niagara Falls Record newspaper. From Niagara Falls Library Archive.Below: same view: the south-east corner of Park St. and Zimmerman Ave., Oct. 1975, from NFLA. There are two railroad bridges, one on each side of the building.

Above: same view of a now-empty corner, May 6, 2008, R. Bobak. Hard to believe that a building once occupied this little triangular lot, which backed directly onto the Michigan Central railroad line right after the tracks crossed the bridge from the States.
Below: the Eastland sand and supplies shed on the south side of Park St. between Erie Ave. and Zimmerman Ave. (Jun.15, 2004, NFLA, by Tammy Frakking). A railroad track, which had wyed off the Michigan Central mainline, once passed along the right side of this shed.
I believe this track, known as the "Mary Ann track", was the original route of the Erie and Ontario (later the Michigan Central). This is the route that went behind (to the east of) Rosbergs, and then crossed Erie Ave. just south of Bridge St., and then immediately crossed Bridge St. just west of Erie Ave. (see also here)
This then would have been the original mid-1850's route of the old Erie and Ontario, when Samuel Zimmerman converted the E and O from horse to steam-power, and also re-aligned the E and O route from paralleling Stanley Ave., bringing it closer east to where it paralleled the now-familiar Palmer-Victoria Ave. route. The chances are that this route was already here before the Canada Southern (Michigan Central) railroad bridge was built over the Niagara River in 1883, and before the Michigan Central station was opened in 1884 (see also here).
Seeing as the Michigan Central had built their own bridge in 1883, they had their new mainline tracks to the bridge wye into the original track immediately north of the new MC station, right at Queen St. (at a point about halfway between Erie Ave. and Zimmerman). This wye was along the east side of the new MC station; a later route (one which went in front of Rosbergs, along Erie - mentioned later) was built heading north from the west side of the MC station.
Prior to building its own bridge in 1883, the Michigan Central had to pay its competitor, the Great Western-later-Grand Trunk, to use their railway suspension bridge; so, the original E and O route which went east of Rosbergs and west of the Eastland Shed, was used to connect the MC line to the Great Western lines on the north side of Bridge St., and thereby to access the suspension bridge.
At some point, this track was re-routed, so that, going north from the Michigan Central station, it went in front (west of) Rosbergs, along Erie Ave., where it crossed Park St. a bit west of Erie Ave., and, after running west along Park St., eventually crossed Bridge St. right at its intersection with Victoria Ave., where it joined its competitor's tracks.
Above: same view May 12, 2008, by R. Bobak. The shed has been demolished. On the right can be seen the rear of the (now-vacant) Rosbergs department store. The main line of the Michigan Central is just to the left of this picture, and cuts across in the rearground, towards and beyond the Rosbergs building. The old Michigan Central railroad station was once just on the other side of Rosbergs (in the far right distance). It is from there that the 'Mary Ann' track wyed off the main line, crossed Queen St., went behind Rosbergs, and continued to pass by the old Eastland shed on the right (west), in the above picture.
Below: Looking east along Queen St., towards Zimmerman Ave. May 1987 (NFLA). At the right is the King Edward Hotel. In the foreground the tracks of the Michigan Central railway can be seen crossing Queen St.
Above: same view, May 6, 2008, by R. Bobak. The tracks are gone and the hotel site is now a parking lot. In the earlier 'before' shot, at the far left of the photo can be seen a light standard, and a small tree with a round protector-fence surrounding it (behind the crossing signal). In the above 'after' shot, the crossing signals are gone, but the dame light standard is still there, while the same tree has grown and is now without its protector.
Below: Looking west along Queen St. towards Erie Ave. (Oct. 1975, NFLA). Rosbergs can be seen along the right side, Niagara Falls City Hall on the left side. Note there are two sets of Michigan Central main line tracks crossing Queen St. in the foreground, closest to the bottom of the photo (this is the same location as in previous photo with the King Edward hotel, just looking west instead of east). Also note that there is a third track, seen a little higher up, which also crosses Queen St. here, but at a slightly different angle: this is the 'Mary Ann' wye track mentioned earlier which went behind Rosbergs and past the Eastland shed. There was yet another wye a little further up, at Erie St., where another two tracks crossed Queen and went in front of Rosbergs, along Erie until it swung west, cutting at an angle across Park St. To the left of the photo, where the orange van is parked, is where the Michigan Central station had stood. So this part of Queen St. once had five tracks crossing it within half a block: three tracks which ran immediately behind (east of) Rosbergs, and two tracks which ran along Erie Ave., immediately in front (west of) Rosbergs!

Above: same view, May 6, 2008, By R. Bobak. The five sets of tracks are now gone. Rosbergs can still be seen, as well as the City Hall at the left, the white-painted building opposite Rosbergs on the Erie St. side, and St. Patrick's church steeple in both shots in the distance. (update: the Rosbergs building was destroyed by fire in Oct. 2009)
Below: Before it was renovated into the King Edward Hotel, this building at the south-west corner of Queen St. and Zimmerman Ave. had originally housed a  manufacturer of accessories and mountings for carriages (still trying to find the name of the company). Later, as seen by the writing painted on the side wall, this building housed the E. J. Von Gal factory (also known as Hawes Von Gal) which manufactured hats and ladies wear; photo ca. 1914, NFLA. The Niagara Falls Michigan Central railroad station can be seen at the far right distance of the photo (which would have been at the south-east corner of Queen St. and Erie Ave). I recall hearing somewhere that this building was originally built as an investment property by none other than Samuel Zimmerman; but again, I can't find much more about it)

Above: same view, May 1, 2008, By R. Bobak. Rosbergs is in the distance on the right. The King Edward Hotel site is now a parking lot, and the Michigan Central station and the tracks are all gone.

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