Sunday, November 29, 2009

Niagara Falls Then and Now, Buildings lost, Buildings found (PART EIGHT)

below: looking in a south-westerly direction at the curve, seen along the bottom, of Victoria Ave., at Hunter St., which is in the centre distance. The NFLA notes that this photo is from Sept. 1966, but also - erroneously - claims that this is '80 Bridgewater St. in Chippawa' -which it isn't! The Michigan Central/New York Central/Penn Central tracks are seen in the far left, and in the left distance the Minolta Tower can be seen.
above: Oct.21, 2009 - same view, the Supertest gasoline station is now a hotel parking lot; the building with the long block wall which ran along Hunter St., seen earlier above, has been torn down, as was the great looking Victorian mansion behind it; now a hotel occupies the site.
below: date not known; this view is of the same area as above - the Supertest gas station site is seen at the bottom left, but in this view, it is a BP gas station. The Sheraton Motor Inn buildings at the bottom are still there in 2009, now the open internal areas are covered in skyroofs. At the bottom left, Victoria Ave. can be seen curving on its way towards Clifton Hill, and also can be seen stretching north into the distance, towards Bridge St. Two sets of Michigan Central railroad tracks can be seen along the bottom; to the right the tracks headed through a residential area along Palmer Ave., then shortly would have crossed the Michigan Central bridge over the Niagara River to the U.S. This photo was taken from the former Oneida/Kodak/Maple Leaf Village tower, now known as the Casino Niagara tower, and now closed to the public. below: a NFPRR streetcar crosses the Bowman Creek Ravine Bridge, at some point prior to 1903.

above: ca. 1900 - another view of the same trestle, as Niagara Falls Park and River Railway car 38 travels over the Bowman Ravine.
This ravine below the bridge was slowly filled in with tailings from the construction of the Canadian Niagara Power Co. electric generating station pits located just above Niagara Falls. The ravine was filled by 1903, at which point the bridge was completely buried in the fill. In the above photo, stone is already seen dumped at the bottom left. To the right this ravine was filled in, now the Niagara Parkway runs there, as well as part of the golf course. To the left the ravine is still open, dropping quickly and directly to the cul-de-sac of the Niagara River's famous Whirlpool Basin.
above: Jul.30, 2009 - same view where the Bowman Ravine Bridge once was. The same stone bridge abutments can still be seen in the grass at the bottom left.
above: Jul.30, 2009 - the steel rivetted beams of the buried Bowman Ravine Bridge still protrude through the grass. Where the streetcar tracks once ran is a now a bike path, following the old track right of way. In the distance from here, there are markers showing where the abutments were at the other end.
above: a historical marker about the buried Bowman Ravine railway trestle and buried gorge of a pre-glacial river which once ran here.(click any photo to enlarge!) The inscription reads: " The cut stone markers are the ends of a buried steel trestle that carried the tracks of the Niagara Falls Park And River Railway. It spanned the ravine created by Bowman's Creek, which eroded the soft glacial debris of the buried gorge of a pre-glacial river. This buried gorge extends west 3.2 km (2 miles) to the Niagara escarpment at St. David's."
It is an interesting point of geographical history to note that a former "pre-glacier river" ran here, which pre-dated the present Niagara River. The Niagara River, such as it was at the time, spilled out into the precursor of what is now Lake Ontario, somewhere in the area of St. David's, Ontario - quite a distance from where it spills into Lake Ontario today, at Niagara On The Lake. 
Somewhere not too far up the old Bowman ravine, there was a waterfall along Bowman creek called the "Harvie" falls, I cannot find any info on its exact location or details on what it looked like, or what the height was, but in all likelihood it was removed during the massive construction in the area  of the Beck Hydro tunnels. The Harvie falls, along with the Bowman Ravine, have vanished with the construction of the power plants, yet, they were still extant probably until the Bowman trestle was filled in around 1900.
looking at a 1901 map of the Whirlpool area, showing the actual course of the Bowman Creek (marked "A")
 It appears that the head of the creek started in the vicinity of Stamford Green Dr., just east of Dorchester Rd. It appears that it crossed St. Paul Ave.between Stamford Green Dr. and Brock St.
If one stands at the T-intersection of St.Paul Ave. and Brock St.(shown in the red circle), a drop in elevation can clearly be seen on both roadways. The southern edge of Stamford Presbyterian church's cemetery (which fronts onto the north-side of Brock  St.,and which shows a slope running along Brock St., is indicative of a probable location of a creek bank.
Heading towards Dorchester Rd., all surface traces of the creek have since been lost under subsequent subdivision housing development. There is also a clear slope seen in the area along Dennis Lane, which drops in elevation eastward from St. Paul Ave., another indication that a creek may have flowed in this vicinity. Heading east towards the Whirlpool, again, there seem to be no surface evidence remaining of the Bowman Creek bed, it being lost in a mix of subdivisions and industrial hydro development. I wonder if portions of the creek were canalized over the years by the local municipality (....and /or by the province, through Hydro?) and fed into the city's sewer or drainage system, or whether the creek was just randomly filled in, piecemeal, as developments took place? Clearly, these creeks still existed in 1901!

Also, interesting to note, is that the Bowman Creek is shown on the map with 2 tributaries!
The first tributary seems to have run westward from a point just south of where the streetcar trestle crossed the ravine. It is shown crossing Stanley Ave., and its head appears to have originated in the vicinity of  today's MF Ker park, although no sign of this tributary remains.
The second tributary ran northwards off the main creek, and its head would have been in the area which is now the hydro canal feeder area; again, no physical sign exists of this tributary, as the landscape of this area was massively reshaped for the hydro water supply tunnels and the reservoir.
There is a creek shown which I highlighted as "B", but I have not been able to find out what that creek was.
The other creek I highlighted as "C", was Colt's Creek, which still exists as Colt's falls and drops into the Whirlpool gorge, but the actual creek itself is no longer  visible on the surface.
The large green circled area is approx. where the Queenston quarries were, and the blue circle shows approx where the hydro reservoir now is. The part of Portage Rd., which is seen in the 1901 map heading diagonally towards the village of Queenston, has since been truncated, because the reservoir was built on where the original road once ran.

above: aerial view with the red circle showing the same area in both above photos, and the red line showing approx. where the Bowman Creek once ran. The blue circle shows the top end of  Colt's Creek, below which is Colt's Creek falls, dropping into the Whirlpool (this creek appeared on the previous above 1901 map as creek "C") . A portion of Colt Creek's surface ravine is still visible near the T-intersection of Victoria ave. and the Niagara Parkway, but the Colt Falls still exists (on a seasonal basis) and is mostly now fed from an underground pipe, showing that this creek must have been re-engineered and canalized. We saw in the 1901 map that Colt's creek headland was quite a distance westward, starting somewhere in the vicinity of Portage Rd. and Thorold Stone Rd., and we also see that it had a tributary which stretched in a south-westerly direction. Again, little to no surface evidence is left of those creeks.
below: date unknown - looking along Falls Ave. through the Mowat Gate at the Foxhead hotel in the left foreground. Clifton Hill runs across in front of the Mowat Gate. At the right can be seen the corner of Oakes' Garden, which was officially opened Sept.18, 1938, dating this photo from the late thirties on. The General Brock Hotel is in the distance.
below: 1980 - same view as above, looking through the Mowat Gate, as a crew works on a pipe which crossed Falls Ave. The Foxhead, in the distance, is now a high-rise. Note below, to the left of the new Foxhead, that there is another building with an 'olde-tudor' facade still standing; this was also part of the old Foxhead; the same building is also seen above at the far left.
click on photos to enlarge!
above: Nov.3, 2009 - same view as both previous shots. Through the Mowat Gate in the foreground, the Foxhead is now seen reclad and has had additional stories added.
Note the same tree (seen to the right and above of the black garbage-can which is at the left of the above 2009 photo) is also seen in the 1980 photo: it's the tree with the two unmistakable really close vertical trunks at the left.
If you look just to the left of that tree in the 1980 shot, you'll see there was another large tree standing beside it; now, if you look at the 2009 shot, that tree is seen cut down - the tree stump is still visible (just to the left of the garbage can). I saw that tree being cut down in December of 2008, it was a huge oak. These two trees were certainly already standing in that earlier-above Foxhead photo from the late thirties/early-forties; they were there, just out of frame to the left!
below: a closer view of the ye-olde-tudor styled Foxhead, with the Mowat Gate now behind the photographer; Clifton Hill runs up to the left and down to the bottom right; Falls Ave. runs into the distance. The General Brock Hotel is seen in the upper right distance. Date of this photo not known. At the far lower right, along Falls Ave. in a lot behind the Foxhead, can be seen the oval sign of an Esso gas station. Note the building at the far left, with the 'olde-tudor' facade, was also part of the Foxhead, but it was still standing after the part of the Foxhead on the corner was demolished for the high-rise, as seen in the 1980 shot previously above.

above: Nov.3, 2009 - the same view, same corner!!
below: Nov.3, 2009 - looking along Victoria Ave., between Centre St. and Walnut St., which is in the left distance. In the right distance is the Sheraton hotel which was seen earlier, in the third photo from the top. Along the right, where the pathway now is, was where the Michigan Central tracks once ran.

above: same view as previous photo as Niagara Falls' streetcar tracks were being removed from Victoria Ave. In the far right distance (where the Sheraton would later be) was the Dominion Chain factory and smokestack. Note that the streetcar tracks ran right on Victoria Ave., note also how much much higher the railroad bed was, compared to the reconstructed area today. At the left along Victoria Ave., where the jumble of hotels is seen today, was a long, idyllic picket fence, and probably, houses. (Date of photo not known, quite possibly is from 1948, see further)
below: May 6, 1948 - looking along Victoria Ave., between Magdalen St. and Centre St., as the streetcar tracks along Victoria Ave. are torn up. In the rear can clearly be seen the original old Samuel Zimmerman-built stables which remained after Clifton Place (the Bush Estate mansion, see here) was torn down in 1937. These stables were later incorporated into a part of the Comfort Inn hotel.
(The stables, built by Samuel Zimmerman in 1856, were torn down in the late fall of 2015, when the entire HOCO Comfort Inn hotel complex was demolished)
In the background can be seen boxcars, a gondola car, and a caboose on what was once Samuel Zimmerman's Erie and Ontario railroad (later becoming the Canada Southern later Michigan Central later New York Central later Penn Central). To the right, the tracks veered off to head towards the Inspiration Point lookout station below the Loretto academy.
[Though this can't be seen in the photo below, behind the sign at the right, behind the earth berm, the railroad track at around this point wyed into two lines: the main line went past the Loretto; the other line continued as a spur (curving in a wider south-westerly arc than the main line) heading towards Clark Ave., which it crossed and headed to Salit Steel, on the north west corner of Clark Ave. and Robinson St. I'm not sure when this Salit spur line was abandoned, probably in the 1970's, when Salit moved.]
The "frog" switch on the streetcar tracks (seen at the bottom of the photo below) led to a very short stretch of parallel track. This second track ran alongside the main track, along Victoria Ave., from (as seen in the photo blow) a point just before Magdalen St., and then quickly merged back into the main track just before where Victoria Ave. turned the corner into Ferry St. This short stretch of doubled tracks allowed streetcars to pass (jump, as in frog!) each other in opposite directions, on what was otherwise a single-track route.

above: same view, 2009 - a part of Zimmerman's stable is still seen here (obscured at this time behind the trees in the centre). The 1856 built Zimmerman stables were completely demolished in Oct. 2015.To the right, stores now have been built on the long, thin wedge of land between Victoria Ave. and the old track right of way which was seen behind the "Team Tracks" sign in 1948.
Older shots in this essay from the Niagara Falls, Ont. Library Archive, NFLA. Current photos copyright by R.Bobak
See more of this series at Niagara Falls Then and Now, Buildings Lost and Found, PART NINE
Thanks for visiting Right In Niagara!


Unknown said...

Mr. Bobak -

I am a graduate student at the University of Toronto studying the area. I am trying to locate Bowman Ravine more precisely on a map. If you could provide any assistance, please contact me at

Thank you,

Nicholas Gosselin

R.Bobak said...

The Bowman Ravine was located in the area of what is today a T-intersection where Whirlpool Rd. meets the Niagara Parkway. The ravine basically sloped into the north-west rim of the upper Whirlpool Basin. Today, a golf course sits on top of where the ravine ran, and slightly further north of the golf course, are the outlet tunnels which supply the Beck hydro station. The location of the buried streetcar bridge is marked with a historical plaque along the pathway which runs beside the Niagara Parkway, alongside the rime of the Whirlpool basin.

Unknown said...

My name is Richard Bowman and if I remember correctly Bowman Ravine was named after someone in my family. I seem to remember something regarding a farm in connection with the Ravine but I could be wrong. I will pass on any information I dig up. I will soon be moving out on my own for the first time in my life after being with and taking care of my dad for the last 15 years or so. It's the best for both of us to get our own places. And I will be quite bored and have a lot of time on my hands so I'm going to start doing a geneology family history kind of thing and maybe put it into a book or something.