Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Old YMCA on Fourth Ave. demolished

below: July 5, 2010 - the former YMCA building on Fourth Ave. (Niagara Falls, Ont.) in the process of demolition - much of the rear part has already been torn down. This view looks at the building from the north-east; Fourth Ave. is in the foreground.
above: same view, July 13, 2010
below: Jun.30, 2010 - looking northwards at the old YMCA; Fourth Ave. is to the right

above: Jul.5, 2010, same view - the pebble-stone exterior has been pulled off the sides, revealing an older brick structure, which had been built in the 1950's as a rec centre for Cyanamid employees; in the nineteen-sixties, the Y moved into this building and added on facilities over the years. In Sept. 2005, the Y moved from here to their newly-built MacBain centre across town.
above: same view, still on Jul.5, 2010, later in the day - the front facade is down
above: same view, July 8, 2010
above: same view, July 13, 2010 - the roof membrane hangs over the remaining building edge. The newly-opened Gale Arena can be seen in the rear.
below: same view, Jul.20, 2010, the former YMCA is gone.
below: a satellite view of the same area - the YMCA is seen at the bottom left, Fourth Ave. runs just out of frame along the bottom; the former NS&T streetcar line right-of-way, which once connected Niagara Falls with Thorold, Welland, and St.Catharines, is seen at the far left. At the right is the partially-remediated site of the former Cyanamid plant

above: same view, the former YMCA is at the bottom left; now the Gale Arena four-pad rink is seen under construction on the former Cyanamid lands - see also here.
below: Apr. 1972 - working on the swimming pool at the Fourth Ave. YMCA, photo from the Niagara Falls Library; in the left distance is part of the Cyanamid factory.

above: Mar.20, 2009 - this is the same brick wall as seen in the previous photo; the pool addition, which was under construction in the last shot, is seen built at the rear.
below: the Niagara Falls, Ont. YMCA's 'first' building was this one, which was on River Rd., at a point just slightly north of the Whirlpool Bridge. Not sure exactly where it stood on River Rd., compared to today - where the Customs depot is, or possibly a bit further north, towards where the Hampton hotel is. Also the orientation of the building is not quite clear.
This photo below is from the Niagara Falls Ont. library digital archives, but this photo's date is not given with the accompanying library notes. This building, according to the library info, was built in 1898 and was demolished in 1936, and had been part of the "railroad dep't" (which can be seen on the banner at the top of the left gable).
Strangley, I have seen this same photo [in a 2009 "Celebrating 150 years, YMCA of Niagara, 1859-2009" newsletter] dated as being from 1894 - yet the library's info stated that the building was built in 1898...(!)... so, there's some discrepancy there.
This YMCA building was built in conjunction with the Grand Trunk Railroad (which later became CN) and the Town so that railway workers had a place to rest and cleanup during layovers (and be removed form the temptations of vice!) It had a library, a gymnasium was on the second floor, and in the basement, a bowling alley and shuffleboard.
The YMCA's web site says that the Y came to Niagara Falls, Ont. first in 1889 - so I wonder then, where the actual "first" location was, seeing as this building didn't open until 1898.
Maybe the library is referencing this 1898 building as the "first" insofar as it was purpose-built, instead of perhaps, converted from some other use in a previous location?? I wonder, then, where the YMCA had been located in Niagara Falls, Ont. between 1889 to 1898?
The YMCA's 150th anniversary newsletter noted that the Fort Erie YMCA was established in 1905 (it was also a 'Railway Y') and that the Welland YMCA was established in 1907 at the Model School on Dorothy St. at Hellems Ave. The St.Catharines YMCA was founded in 1859, in rented premises at 25 Hainer St., with druggist James Mills acting as the first president.
I wonder also whether the timing of the demolition in 1936 had anything to do with the old Whirlpool Rapids Incline (which must have been practically right across the street, slightly north, from the YMCA, on the cliff-side of River Rd.) being rebuilt into a new elevator-operated facility, also in 1936? (see also here)

above: the now-vacant Customs compound lot facing onto River Rd. This was approximately where the old YMCA had once stood, on a slight rise just about where the present storage buildings are.
Looking at the previous older photo of the Y, it is not clear which way this building was oriented:
Possibility #1 (ruled out):
Did the wide-front of the building which we see in the old photo face east? (ie, the wide-side would have been parallel to River Rd.)
If so, then Bridge St. would be slightly to the left (south) out of frame; the train station would be in the left distance, behind the trees, and the roundhouse would be behind the building, where the smoke from a steam locomotive is seen at the right. The smoke seen at the left of the photo would be from a locomotive most likely stopped at the station on Bridge St. The site of today's Hampton hotel would be to the right.
Possibility #2 (ruled out):
Looking closely at the fuzzy photo at the end of this post, it does look as if the YMCA had been situated with its wide-side being perpendicular to River Rd., which means, in this case, that the wide-side view we see in the old photo could be either the north or the south face of the building.
If the wide-side view in the old photo was facing north, then the elements seen around the building would change: Bridge St. would now be behind the building, as would the mainline tracks; the train station would be kind of behind the building, to the right; the smoke at the left would be from a train just coming off the bridge; the smoke at the right from a train leaving the station; the roundhouse would be to the right of the photo (ie, to the west of the building)!
[In the right distance, behind the Y building, there is an advertisement, which looks like it says "President Suspenders" and the phrase "sold everywhere"; this ad would have been easily seen by passengers from the trains. There WAS a "Dominion Suspender Company" in Niagara Falls - and they DID carry a "President Suspenders" brand. The factory was built in 1885, located on the east side of what was then Clifton Ave. (now known as Zimmerman Ave.) between Queen St. and the MCR tracks. The founders and co-owners of the Dominion Suspender Co. were William Lowry Doran and his brother Charles. In 1886, William Doran built a Queen Anne home (now 4851 River Rd.) which was essentially three short blocks away from his own factory.]
Possibility #3: (most likely)
The last possibility is that the wide-side of the old YMCA building photo was facing south (parallel to and facing the tracks). This would mean that the large stairs seen at the right would have faced east (onto River Rd.) and, that the advertising seen in the right rear would have been on some kind of building slightly further to the north, along River Rd. (somewhere near where the Hampton hotel now is).
With this third scenario, the smoke at the left can still be explained as coming from an engine, but in this case the engine would have to be near the roundhouse. The smoke at the far-right, though, is harder to explain - this could not be from any train, since in this scenario, there is no possibility that any railroad track could have been there, near River Rd. (...although streetcar tracks did run along River Rd., the cars were electrically powered); so the smoke seen at the right may actually be from some kind of factory chimney.

So, which way did that old Y face: I think that #3 describes the location.
If you compare the next-below photo to the previous close-up photo, you will see the same features in both photos:
- the dimple-peaked large gable at the left;
- the smaller gable in the middle; small-dormer windows in the top floor at the right;
- the long porch seen along the right; and the path which is seen leaving the porch at an angle into the field.
Not only do the elements of the gables line up the proper way in both photos, but, the well-worn pathway from the porch is seen leading off into the field at the same angle as well, in both photos. So, it makes sense then, when you look at the below aerial photo, that the well-trodden path is clearly seen running in a direct angle from the Y's large front porch to the bridge underpass - this of course would have naturally been the quickest and safest way to walk to Bridge St., on the other side of the tracks. 
below: in this undated (but obviously pre-1936) great aerial photo, the Railroad Y building can be seen still standing! (It's the building at the left marked Y) 
The Whirlpool Rapids Incline (marked I) can be seen a bit to the north of where the Y stood; obviously, there was no elevator yet: the incline itself is clearly seen.
Just to the south of the Y is the Lower Arch Bridge (marked W) which today is known as the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge.
E marks the (now-demolished) Elgin Hotel, which had stood on the south-west corner of Bridge St. and River Rd., next to today's Simon's restaurant.
The other amazingly interesting thing about this photo is that it shows THREE bridges here crossing over the Niagara River!!
The 1897-built Lower Arch (aka the Whirlpool) Bridge is there; also the  brand-new 1925-built Michigan Central Railroad bridge is there (marked MCR); AND, the old MCR Cantilever Bridge is also seen, as it was being demolished (marked C) !!
The old MCR Cantilever Bridge (which had been completed in Dec.1883 - see more here) is seen with its center span already removed, and, with its cantilever already removed from the American side (at the right); whereas on the Canadian side the cantilever is still seen overhanging the river off the main piers. Note that the shadow of the Cantilever Bridge seen on the river surface only goes halfway across the river!
The 'new' MCR bridge was completed in 1925, and the old Cantilever was taken apart soon after - so this fantastic photo, in which we see all three bridges, as well as the 'Railroad YMCA', was most likely taken in late 1925, or early 1926. (click on photos to enlarge!)

Y - the old Railroad YMCA, Niagara Falls, Ontario, located on River Rd., slightly north of the Whirlpool Bridge
E - site of old Elgin hotel, south-west corner of Bridge St. and River Rd.
C - original Michigan Central Cantilever Bridge (opened 1883) seen partially demolished
MCR - new MCR bridge, opened 1925
W - Whirlpool Bridge
I - Whirlpool Rapids Incline, replaced by an elevator in 1936
Above older photos in this study from the Niagara Falls, Ont. Library digital archive.

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