Niagara Falls | A History With a View
There are tons of Niagara Falls attractions to entertain tourists: casinos, amusement parks, restaurants and more. However, at the end of the day the real draw to Niagara has always been the breathtaking views of the Falls. From the jagged raw power of the American falls to the brilliant cascade of the horseshoe falls on the Canadian side, tourists can always get an eyeful of one of nature’s best shows.
Over the years, attractions have been added to give tourists unique and exciting vantage points of the falls, from the Maid of the Mist, to the platform behind the Falls. However, to see the true scope of Niagara Falls glory, one must get high…above the Falls. Since the beginning of the exploration of the Niagara gorge, and Niagara Falls, man has been working to build structures offering breathtaking views far above the falls. The following is a brief history of some of those monuments and how they came to be.
BROCKS MONUMENT – 184 feet (56m) tall
In 1824, the first monument memorializing British Major General Isaac Brock was erected at Queenston Heights. The white limestone tower was 65 feet (19.8m) tall and. The bodies of Major General Brock and his aide de camp Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell were entombed at the base of this tower. In 1938 the monument was destroyed by explosives set by Benjamin Lett, an Irish Canadian rebel.
On October 13th 1853, construction of the new Brock’s Monument was begun. It was designed by Toronto architect, William Thomas. It was completed in the autumn of 1856. The tower is 184 feet (56m) tall and inside has a 235 step circular stairway to a small twelve foot diameter observation deck/pod at the top. It was paid for from public donations.
MOOSE TOWER OBSERVATORY – 250 Feet Tall
In 1888, a two hundred and fifty (250) foot tall steel tower was built on the top of the Tower Hotel on River way on the American shore overlooking the American Falls near Prospect Point. The tower which had several elevators, a seldom used stairway and three viewing platforms at differing heights. This was by far the tallest and most beautiful structure ever built in Niagara Falls until that time. However after a bitter court battle the tower was dismantled and moved to St. Louis. It is also notable that the tower was used by Marconi to transmit one of the first ever wireless messages.
PROSPECT POINT OBSERVATION TOWER – 282 Feet Tall
In the Fall of 1958, construction began on a two hundred and eighty-two (282) foot tall steel and glass observation tower at Prospect Point overlooking the American Falls. The tower was designed as an observation deck which was accessible from the mainland and an elevator shaft to the base of the Niagara Gorge and the Hornblower Boat docks.
Construction cost $1,250,000 and the tower officially opened in 1961. It is still in use today.
Minolta Tower (Seagram Tower) – 325 Feet High
On March 15th 1961, construction began on the Seagram Tower. It was completed on June 1st 1962 at a cost of $1.2 million dollars. The tower was developed on a 1.8 acre site on the top of the moraine overlooking the Horseshoe Falls (area known as the Fallsview Tourist District).
The tower would measure three hundred and twenty-five (325) feet tall. The tower was six hundred and fifty-five (655) feet above the base of the Horseshoe Falls. The top of the flag pole is nine hundred and thirty-two feet above sea level.
Over the years the tower has gone through several ownership and name changes and most recently On January 15th 1993, the Minolta Tower was sold to Radomat Holdings of Niagara Falls, New York. The new owners were Dragan Matovic and his brother Nick Matovic. This company also owned the Raddison Hotel and the Holiday Inn in Niagara Falls, New York. The Minolta Tower is currently in service as a hotel.
SKYLON TOWER – 520 Feet Tall
In May of 1964, construction began on the Skylon Tower measuring five hundred (520) feet tall on land atop the moraine overlooking the Falls of Niagara between Murray Street and Robinson Street in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Property for the project was leased from Mr. George Sainovich and the New York Central Railway. A portion of Warren Street, a City of Niagara Falls right of way was leased for 99 years at a cost of $500 per year (What a deal!!)
Each elevator which is capable of holding 30 people is glass enclosed to provide maximum sight lines as it ascends or descends at 500 feet per minute. Each elevator is painted bright yellow and are very visible. In addition to the elevators, this tower has two separate 662 step zig-zag staircases leading to the lowest level on the globe at the top of the tower. (I think I’ll take the elevator)
The Skylon tower features an arcade, boutique shopping mall and a 360 degree revolving restaurant that hosts both a fine dining restaurant and a family friendly buffet. The tower also boasts an observation deck that is free when dining at one of the two restaurants.
The Skylon tower boasts one of the most breathtaking views of Niagara Falls and is an excellent place to witness both the seasonal fireworks and the “illuminated” falls which are visible at night during the summer months.
An interesting fact about Skylon is during 1999, at least five persons have parachuted from the observation deck of this tower to the ground below in an activity known as “Base Jumping”. Again…we think we’ll take the elevator.
Niagara Falls has always been a place where people have come to see a breathtaking display of mother nature’s power and beauty. Over the last 150 years, man has aided that display by building structures that give onlookers new and exciting vantage points to view the falls. Structures will continue to get taller and more impressive, but the real gem of Niagara Falls will always be the Falls themselves…and no matter where you view them from, they are always an impressive sight.