Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Niagara Falls Then and Now: the Clifton Gate Memorial Arch; Buildings lost, buildings found (PART FOUR)

below: looking north at the Clifton Gate Memorial Arch in Niagara Falls, Ont. (photo date unknown; by the looks of the cars, probably mid-1960's) The Sheraton Brock Hotel (originally General Brock Hotel; now Crowne Plaza) is at the left; the Carillon is seen at the right; further to the right, just out of frame, would be the Rainbow Bridge. A corner of Oake's Garden is just at the bottom left.
above: same view, Jul. 2009 - the Arch was located in the centre foreground, where the grassed median is, just before the square-sculpted trees in the centre. Note that those are the same two trees which are seen in both above photos. Click on photos to enlarge!
below: As of Mar.2011, these two trees are still there; the trunks are worn and gnarly, and the one on the right has had some trunk repairs, but, they're still the same two trees! The view below looks south along River Rd.: the Arch had stood beyond the trees, just past the walkway on the median. The deco-styled Parks Commission building (now a food concession stand) is at the left, sitting on the edge of the Gorge. The mist of the Falls is in the distance.
below: Jun.18, 1938 - the Clifton Gate Memorial Arch seen wrapped just prior to its official unveiling.
Note the deco-styled Parks Commission building at the far right. At the left, (mostly hidden behind the Arch) is seen a bit of another building perched at the edge of the Gorge: this had been the gatehouse for the doomed Honeymoon Bridge, which had collapsed into the Gorge five months earlier! The actual entrance to/from the bridge had been just to the left of the gatehouse (in this photo, hidden behind the Arch) .
above: the same view in Feb.2011 - the Arch had stood at the centre-left, where 'X' is marked, on the median; the square-shaped trees are at the far left. The former Honeymoon Bridge gatehouse is gone, its site now a nice viewing area. [haven't yet found when the old gatehouse was demolished, but it was gone by Jun.1944, as seen in a photo further below] The same deco Parks building is still there, now serving as a candy shop.
below: Mar. 1968 - newsclipping from the Niagara Falls Review, looking south, showing the Memorial Arch under demolition. Note the Skylon in the distance.
above: Jul. 2009 - same view as above, looking south along River Rd.; the Arch was once located just after the trees where the grassed median now is. The deco Parks building is at the left.
above: Feb.27,1968 - looking northward at the demolition of the Clifton Gate Memorial Arch; the Carillon is seen in the distance.
below: from MJ Wilkins book Ontario, date unknown - the Memorial Arch (at the centre left) can be seen in context to Oakes Garden, which is at the centre right, and to the square deco-styled Parks building to its left. The square-shaped trees can also be seen in the median. Seen along the bottom-centre-left was the bus terminal at the border, which was the top level of the Rainbow Plaza. This photo was taken from up in the Brock Hotel - a part of its parapet is seen at the bottom right.
above: Jul.14, 2009 - same area, taken from the vantage point where the bus terminal used to be; Oakes Garden is at the upper right - this is where the old Clifton Hotel once stood.
The Memorial Arch had stood in front of the Parks Commission building which is seen in both above shots, hugging the cliff edge. (btw, what's with the broken, crappy looking tables here?!? This is for tourists? really?)
Note that just to the left of the Parks building is where the main entrance once was to the Honeymoon Bridge (also called the Fallsview Bridge; also called the Upper Steel Arch Bridge). This bridge was built here in 1897-98, and collapsed into the Niagara River on Jan.27, 1938, after river ice knocked the bridge off its footings (see more here).
The Arch was officially opened on Jun.18, 1938 by Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King. It was planned to be located at this spot, not only to provide a dramatic entrance along a newly-widened River Rd. to Victoria Park; but that it would also have been immediately visible, to their left, to people who were entering Canada across the Honeymoon Bridge. But, of course, the bridge fell into the river in January 1938, as the Arch was being constructed. It is certain that for some months prior to the collapse, people crossing the bridge did see the Arch, but, as it was still 'being built'. (Pictures of the River Rd. area taken just after the Honeymoon Bridge collapsed clearly show  that the Memorial Arch was pretty much already completed as of Jan.1938; see also here)
Demolition of the Arch began after the tourist season of 1967 was over, into March of 1968, as the earlier photos show. The reason why this Arch was torn down, only after barely 30 years, is interestingly murky - (see:
below: June 1944 Magna Carta Day parade; the Arch is seen along River Rd. at the upper right. By this date, the former Honeymoon Bridge gatehouse was gone, replaced with the viewing area, which is still there today
above: same view, July 2009; angle-parking for cars is still there. The Rainbow Gardens are at the bottom right, Oakes Garden is seen at the far upper right. Although nowadays these two areas are considered as being virtually the same; the Rainbow Gardens were a separate project, built after the Oakes Garden was completed. The Rainbow Gardens were created after the unforseen Honeymoon Bridge collapse, during the massive rebuild of River Rd. at this spot, as the new replacement Rainbow Bridge was being built.
below: 1927 - this photo was taken from the deck of the Honeymoon Bridge, and looks in a south-westerly direction along River Rd. The second Clifton Hotel is seen along the right. At the centre-left distance can be seen the stone pillars of the Mowat Gate, which had once acted as the official entrance way into Queen Victoria Park, when the Gate, as seen below, was still located at River Rd. (In 1936, the  Mowat Gate was disassembled from its original River Rd. location (where it was built in 1907), and moved a hundred feet or so to the west, where it now stands at Falls Ave.)

above: Mar.2011 - this is the same location, still looking in a south-westerly direction along River Rd.
At the far bottom-left of the photo was exactly where the entrance to the doomed Honeymoon Bridge had once been; in the center-left was where the Honeymoon Bridge gatehouse had stood; and at the upper left is the Parks Commission building. This area is now a viewing area offering a panoramic view of the Niagara River Gorge. Across River Rd. is Oakes Garden: this is where the Clifton Hotel had once stood. At the center of the photo, where the grassed median now is, was where the Clifton Gate Arch had stood. The two old trees which once co-existed alongside the Arch are seen at the far right.

above: (photo date not known) a view of the second Clifton Hotel, seen from the south-east. River Road, running along the gorge, is at the right; note the American Aluminum Co.'s large square chimneys seen at the far right, on the U.S. side of the river. Note the Mowat Gate at the near right, in its original 1907-built location, and how close the Gate is at this time to the edge of the gorge; the Mowat Gate was moved and rebuilt in 1936, and is now a little farther west up Clifton Hill, at Falls Ave.
The Clifton Hotel seen above was the second Clifton Hotel built on the same spot - this one was built in 1905, and burned to the ground on Dec.31, 1932.
The original Clifton Hotel (once owned by railway-builder Samuel Zimmerman) had been built on this same site in 1833 and opened in 1835; it burned down on Jun.26, 1898. (also seen the date of the fire as as May 1898!!) The ruins remained on the site for some 7 years until the new hotel was built.
below: Sept.18, 1937, the opening day of the Oakes Garden Theatre.
The second Clifton Hotel was not rebuilt after its fire and its site was redeveloped into Oakes Garden. The land where the second Clifton Hotel had stood (along with the land just to the north of it on River Rd., where the Lafayette Hotel had stood) was bought by the famed Harry Oakes and traded to the Parks Commission for other land on the south side of Clifton Hill. Oakes also gave the NPC a 5.5 acre strip of land which ran along the Niagara River between Chippawa and Usher's Creek,
The Oakes Garden construction began Oct.1, 1935. In the right distance is seen the General Brock hotel, which was opened Jul.1, 1929. The Community Plating Co. building (built 1926) is seen in the centre distance. In the left distance is the sign overtop the Foxhead Hotel.

above: same view on Jun.4, 2009 - this is where both versions of the Clifton Hotel had once stood, in the foreground; this is now Oakes Garden. The former General Brock hotel, now the Crowne Plaza, is still seen at the far right. The Community Plating Co. is long gone, replaced by hotels, a tower (former Oneida, former Kodak, tower) and a casino. (btw, in the middle of summer, where are the tourists?)
below: (ca.2004, photo by. R. Bobak) - very long steel columns are being installed through a parking structure behind Casino Niagara, to create supports for a new waterpark over top the parking structure. Note the Casino tower at left, and Skylon Tower in the far centre distance.

above: same view - a waterpark is now on top of the garage, seen Jun.11, 2009. Only a tip of the Casino tower and its flagpole is now visible from this same vantage point. The Skywheel is now seen in the right distance, under the new pedestrian skywalk. To the left is a corner of Planet Hollywood.
below: (date unknown) The old "Steam Heated, Air Conditioned" Hollywood Motel in Niagara Falls, Ont. once stood at 668 Bender St., at the south-west corner with Falls Ave. - now, really, what are the chances that decades later . . .

. . . at the SAME corner (Falls Ave. and Bender), a Planet Hollywood would be built ?!!
(above: Jun.29, 2009; the waterpark is seen at the left)
below: looking up Centre Street from Victoria Ave., at the top of Clifton Hill. The Niagara House hotel is at the left. (photo date unknown)

above: Jul.14, 2009 , same view. The same building is still at the left.
below: the Bargain Outlet souvenir shop (located on Centre St., just west of Victoria Ave. on the north side) underwent a storefront facade renovation:
above: the Bargain Outlet as it was on Jan.27, 2009, prior to renovation.
above: May 13, 2009 - the former brick facade was removed, exposing the old steel support beam and interior walls.
above: May 26, 2009 - new steel beam supports are installed.
above: Jun.9, 2009 - scaffolding in place
above: Jun.22, 2009 - three round top windows have been installed; masons are laying new brick.
above: Jun.27, 2009 - brickwork is done, finish trim is next. At the top of the roof is a new soffit overhang.
The older photos in this essay are from the Niagara Falls, Ont. Library Archive. The recent photos are by R. Bobak
See more in this series at Niagara Falls Then and Now, Buildings lost and found, PART FIVE
Thanks for visiting Right In Niagara!

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