Thursday, September 10, 2009

Niagara Falls Then and Now: The Queen's Hotel on River Rd.

below: looking west, into Niagara Falls, Ont., Canada, from the deck of the Fallsview (also called Honeymoon; or, also, the Upper Steel Arch) Bridge. Photo date thought to be some time during WWI. Note the Queen's Hotel at the right, conveniently across from the bridge, on River Rd. Note the Great Gorge Route streetcar tracks on the bridge. There was only one set of tracks on this bridge, as the streetcar route travelled in a loop: here the streetcars arrived into Canada from the U.S.; then travelled along the top of the ridge down to the Queenston-Lewiston Suspension Bridge, where they crossed back into the States; travelling along the river's edge along much of the American side, they slowly climbed back up to cross the Honeymoon Bridge again.
above: Sept.20, 1927 - the Queen's Hotel stands deserted as construction of the new Terminal Tower transit hub takes place next to it at the right (north) side. The Queen's was formerly called the Cliff Hotel, built by Phillip Bender in 1872.
above: Oct.6, 1927 - the Queen's Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ont. is seen under partial demolition. Note the progress of the new building to the right. (I have read in Seibel's book that the Queen's Hotel was moved from here on River Rd. in 1926 to its current site on St.Paul St. W. - but these pictures show differently. The building must have been dissassembled and actually moved from this site, very soon after this photo was taken - sometime between Oct.6, 1927 to Nov.8, 1927.
above: By Nov.29, 1927, the Queen's Hotel was clearly gone. This view looks west from the deck of the Honeymoon (aka Fallsview) Bridge into Canada. The newly-built Terminal Tower, with its lookout windows still not finished, is seen across the street at the right, just north of  the now-vacant lot where the Queen's Hotel had stood a month or so earlier. The grand Community Plate building is seen at the end of its long lawn, up the hill in the left distance; the Dominion Chain factory is in the centre-right distance. Note the Great Gorge route streetcar just arriving off the bridge into Canada from the United States!
above: Nov.8, 1927 - the Queen's Hotel was dissassembled and removed in about a month, because the structure was still partially standing on Oct.6, 1927, as was seen by the earlier previous photo. The building had stood on the now-vacant area in the foreground.
Note the crooked utility pole standing at the corner, at the center-right, with a sign on it -  this same pole with the sign can be seen in the above four photos.
In the distance, the new Tower Terminal, seen still without its roof shingles, was being built to become a new streetcar transit hub. To the right, looking north, can be seen the buildings that once fronted onto River Rd. Note signs on the Tower Terminal for Piggott Healy construction from Hamilton, who must have been the contractors for the structure.
The Piggott construction firm had done a lot of work in Niagara: they had also built the 11-storey, 260-room General Brock hotel in record time: 6 months! (opened Jul.1, 1929); they built the second Table Rock House (opened in 1926); also built the deco styled Niagara Falls Post Office on Queen St. and St.Clair Ave.(opened Jan. 1931); they built the NFCVI school in Epworth Circle in 1949, as well as the Skylon tower (opened 1965)
The architects for the Piggott-built Table Rock were Findlay and Foulis, who had not only done a lot of work for the Niagara Parks Commission, but in 1928 they also designed the 'new' Oak Hall for Sir Harry Oakes. In 1927-1928,  Findlay and Foulis also designed - and Piggott built - another Loretto convent and school in the then-outskirts of Toronto, near Yonge and Wilson. Findlay and Foulis also designed the 'new' St. Patrick's Roman Catholic School on Victoria Ave. and Maple St., in 1927; the Queen Victoria Park Refectory for the Parks Commission in 1926; and the Queen Victoria Park Administrative Building for the Parks Commission in 1927.


Finlay's partner James Foulis died in Niagara falls in 1932, at the age of 50. After Foulis' death, Findlay and Mann supervised the reconstruction of the Niagara Loretto academy after the major fire of 1938. Claude Findlay went to become president of Welland Securities (Sir Harry Oakes' private investment firm, which for a while used the 1856-built Samuel Zimmerman Clifton Hill gatehouse as their office!) and he died in Niagara falls in 1965.

above: further regarding the fate of the Queen's Hotel - the original structure of the Queen's Hotel still does exist in Niagara Falls - it is now on St.Paul Ave. The placemat ad above states that the Queen's Hotel was originally built in 1872 by Philip Bender, and was known as the Cliff House. But interestingly, it also states that the River Rd. building was disassembled in 1926 and rebuilt - yet, the previous photos clearly show that the building was still there on River Rd. on Oct.6, 1927, and it was gone by Nov.8, 1927: so the 1926 date cannot be correct. That the building was actually carefully taken apart, and not demolished, gives meaning to the Oct.6, 1927 photo, which shows that the building was being neatly stripped, instead of simply being bulldozed within a matter of hours, as it otherwise surely would have been.
above: looking to the rear of the Tower Terminal, the stub-end streetcar tracks are seen - along with a two-lane Roberts St. - going up the Newman Hill cut. The Queen's Hotel had stood next door (at the very bottom of the photo, where the line of cars are) which now seems to be a parking lot. The newly-built curving Falls Ave. can be seen running at the upper left; at the far left, out of frame, would be the front of the General Brock Hotel - which may or may not have been built yet, seeing as the date of this particular photo is not known. The Honeymoon Bridge was at the far right bottom, out of frame, just across River Rd. This photo was most likely taken from either a balcony or window of the neighbouring Lafayette Hotel (see more further below). Seeing as the Lafayette was demolished in 1934, then at least we can say that this photo is from 1934 or earlier.
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below: the Tower Terminal is complete, its popular public lookout windows installed in the tower; NFLA notes this photo as 'ca.1930'; but, by 1930, the huge General Brock Hotel (which opened Jul.1, 1929) should already have been seen looming in the background from this view, which is looking in a north-westerly direction from the entrance to the Honeymoon Bridge.
Therefore, the below photo is likely from some time prior to the autumn of 1928 (seeing as the tree is still in leaf), taken before the steel framework of the General Brock Hotel went up (construction started on the Brock in Jan.1929). The Tower Terminal was demolished in late 1940 to allow for the construction of the new Rainbow Bridge and its associated plaza. The streetcar tracks were removed from Roberts St. up the Newman cut, making way for a four-lane automobile connection to the also-new Queen Elizabeth highway! The Queen's Hotel had stood at the far left, where the parking lot is now seen.
above: Sept.11, 2009 - this is the same view as above, looking northward, standing with my back facing the river; the old Queen's Hotel and the Tower Terminal were once located in the area just at the right, where the yellow flowers are. To the far left (out of frame) of the above photo was where the grand Hotel Lafayette once stood; it was just across from where the Queen's Hotel was once located; it was torn down in 1934)
above: the turreted Hotel LaFayette, built in 1894, was also just across River Rd. from the Honeymoon Bridge. Coming into Canada over the Honeymoon Bridge, a visitor would see the LaFayette standing across the street, just to the left (south); and would see the Queen's Hotel just to the right (north) of the bridge entrance. This view is looking at the LaFayette from the north east: the bridge in this case would have been across River Rd. to the far left of photo, just out of frame. The Queen's Hotel would have been at the far right, just out of frame. Date of photo not known. Note streetcar tracks on River Rd.
above: Sept.11, 2009 - The Hotel LaFayette had stood here at the centre-left of photo, where Oakes Garden now is. The famous Clifton Hotel had been located directly next door (further to the left, south) of the Hotel LaFayette, along River Rd. (For reference, the fountain in the right foreground is the same one in the second-above previous photo) Harry Oakes bought the Lafayette, and the burned-out Clifton Hotel which had stood next door (to the left) and gifted the land to the city for this garden.
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below: Spring of 1928: looking north along River Rd., here, the (2nd) Clifton Hotel is at the left, and the Hotel LaFayette is in the distance; and then the Terminal Tower station is seen farther down. The gable of the border office of the Honeymoon Bridge is behind the trees at the right. Note the track wye of the Great Gorge streetcar route in the foreground. Right behind where the photographer was standing would have been the entrance building to the Clifton Incline.
above: Nov.1, 2010 - this is the same view as above, from the same place, looking north along River Rd. - nothing of what was seen in the 1928 photo remains standing in 2010.
above: same view as the previous 'Spring of 1928' photo, but a little closer, as referenced by the streetcar track wye which is seen in both shots. This above view is looking north along River Rd. after the (second) Clifton Hotel was destroyed by a massive fire on Dec.31, 1932; the Lafayette is seen at the far right; the General Brock hotel is seen in the center distance. Date of photo not known, most likely early 1933. The LaFayette was torn down in 1934; its lot, along with that of the former Clifton Hotel, made way for the Oakes Garden, seen previously and below:
above: looking north along River Rd. as seen Sept.11, 2009. The entrance to the Honeymoon Bridge (which collapsed into the gorge in 1938) was once just on the other side of the building seen in the right distance. Along the left, where Oakes Garden now runs, was where the Clifton Hotel, the LaFayette, the Queen's Hotel, and the Terminal Tower, had once stood.
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below: looking north-west from Clifton Hill and River Rd. at the Oakes Garden promenade. Note the Carillon under construction at the far right. The General Brock hotel is in the centre distance.
(note, the NFLA dates this photo as 1943, but, by looking at the scaffolding still attached to the side of the Carillon (at the far right), it still appears to be under construction - the same way it looks in another photo slightly further below (where the Carillon scaffolding is also seen, and which the NFLA says is from 1942); so the date of this photo must be the summer of 1942, not '43)
above: same view of the lush Oakes Garden promenade, on a quiet Sept.11, 2009. The Carillon is seen at the far right in both photos.
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below: Summer of '42 - looking south along the mid-level of the new Rainbow Bridge Plaza; Oakes Garden is in the distance. In the foreground was where the rear of the old Terminal Tower had once stood, along with the stub-end streetcar tracks.

above: same view, on a rainy July 29, 2009; a canopy now extends beyond the original round columns.
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below: Summer of '42 - looking north along the same part of the Rainbow Plaza - the Carillon is seen here under construction, as scaffolding is seen at its right side. Now, a 'new' Bus Terminal is on the upper deck at the left (no more streetcars, no more Terminal Tower). A corner of the Brock Hotel is seen at the far upper left.

above: same view; the upper deck is no longer a bus terminal, but a duty free shop for the border.
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below: Summer of '42 - looking at the new Rainbow Plaza from River Rd.; the Brock Hotel is in the right rear. This is where the Terminal Tower had once stood, with the streetcar tracks out back, which curved up and to the right, to the Newman cut.

above: Summer of '09 - same view, Aug.18, 2009
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below: Fall of 1944, view of Oakes Garden, looking north along River Rd.
Note the Clifton Gate Memorial Arch (which opened Jun.18, 1938) at the right: it had stood just to the south of the old entrance to the Honeymoon Bridge (which collapsed on Jan.27, 1938); just in front of where the Lafayette Hotel (torn down in 1934) was once located.
above: same view, Sept. 11, 2009
above: same area on a snowy Jan.8, 2009. The Rainbow Bridge is seen clearly in the upper right distance. The old Honeymoon Bridge entrance was immediately at the far side of the square building seen at the right. This was also designed by Findlay and Foulis architects in 1928 for Canadian Customs and Immigration Department.
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below: most likely spring of 1929 - the General Brock Hotel under construction in Niagara Falls, Ont., fronting onto on a newly-built Falls Ave. The Piggott construction company built the 11-storey, 260-room Brock Hotel in an astounding six months - it opened on Jul.1, 1929. The architects were Findlay and Foulis.

above: same view, Aug. 2009; now, at the left, on the former Oneida Community Plate Co. lawn, is the entrance to a casino.
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below: closer view of the General Brock Hotel being built (date must be spring of 1929); the sign notes "Open early summer 1929"

above: same view, Aug.2009
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below: a postcard view of the U.S. side of the river from Queen Victoria Park, date not known.

above: same view, Sept.4, 2009; the same tree can be seen at the left, photo by R.Bobak.
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below: looking at the reconstruction of the slope at Murray Hill, at about the time Casino Niagara's construction was ending.

above: same view, July 2009.
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below: looking at the Holiday Inn construction at the top of Murray Hill, on the north east corner of Murray St. and Buchanan Ave. (which is now called Fallsview Blvd.) Photo date not known. Murray Hill (going down) would be just to the right of photo.
below: Mar. 1966 - an earlier view of the same above corner, looking down Murray Hill - a hydro building stood on the site.

above: same view, 2009, looking down Murray St. towards Fallsview Blvd. (formerly Buchanan Ave.) It appears to be the same canopy in both views of the hotel at the bottom left.
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Older photos in this study are from the Niagara Falls, Ont. Library Archive (NFLA); the recent photos are by R. Bobak.
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