History of Niagara Falls Tourism

Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library

The history of Niagara Falls Tourism is fascinating! Historic photos and postcards of Niagara Falls Canada show Niagara Falls history in all its glory.

Do you wonder what travellers of earlier generations saw and did when they came to Niagara Falls Canada on holiday?

I’ve always had a fascination with the history of travel and leisure. Whenever I’m in an antique shop I go right to the box of antique postcards and see if I can recognize any of the shots. Recently I found a great web site with old postcards and photos of Niagara Falls Canada!

Vanished attractions

The collection includes photos of tourist attractions that have vanished, like the Antique Auto Museum (a humble blot on the landscape), as well as Barnett’s Museum, a very imposing-looking place that operated from 1888 to 1958. I like the way Barnett’s looked: very over-the-top Victorian!

Another interesting and poignant picture is the one of the “Burning Spring Wax Museum The Day After The Fire”. Can’t imagine any of the contents survived that… (Unfortunate name too.)

And I just love the “Falls View Observation Tower and restaurant and Old Burning Spring Souvenir Shop”. The so-called “observation” tower looks to be only about three stories high. Imagine what a tourist of that era would say if they time-travelled into the present and saw the Skylon Tower or the Niagara SkyWheel!

Old pictures of places we still know

The web site also features photos of places that we still recognize in some form or another, but are all part of Niagara Falls history too. Some examples include Clifton Hill, the Great Gorge Boardwalk, Queen Victoria Park restaurant (“refectory” as it was called back then), Oakes Garden Theatre, Table Rock House, and the Maid of the Mist boat ride. There's even a couple on their 1944 Niagara Falls honeymoon taking a horse and buggy ride carriage over the Rainbow Bridge (ok, some things never change!).

Some of the prettiest photos include the ones of the Spanish aero cable cars, including a coloured one dated 1928. (Must have been hand-coloured?)

There are some non-Niagara Falls cards in this collection too, like Bathing at Crystal Beach, a nearby destination that was a favourite with my family when I was growing up. The odd thing is that in the oldest pictures of this now-vanished Ontario amusement park everyone is dressed in formal attire! The men are in suits and TIES and the ladies in dresses, skirts, jackets and hats. How things have changed.

If you want to explore the history of Niagara Falls tourism, here’s the site address (the link opens in a new window so don’t worry, you won’t lose your place here… and come back soon!): Historic Niagara Digital Collection - from the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library

Another great place to explore the history of tourism in Niagara Falls is the Niagara Falls History Museum at 5810 Ferry Street in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It has hundreds of artifacts from days past.

Niagara Falls History Museum

Ontario Travel Secrets > Ontario Cities > Niagara Falls Vacations > History of Niagara Falls Tourism