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 sheer volume 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. Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Journey Behind the Falls, WildPlay Niagara, the Spanish Aerocar, and of course the Skylon Tower are a few that come to mind. However, to see the true scope of Niagara Falls, to see it in all its glory, one has got to get above it. Since the beginning of the exploration of the Niagara gorge, and Niagara Falls, man has been working to build structures that offer 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 / 56 metres
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 the monument. In 1838, an Irish Canadian rebel by the name of Benjamin Lett destroyed the monument with explosives.
On October 13th 1853, construction of the new Brock’s Monument began. It was designed by Toronto architect, William Thomas and completed in the autumn of 1856. The tower is 184 feet (56m) tall with a 235-step circular stairway up to a small twelve foot diameter observation pod at the top. It was paid for and still maintained from public donations.
MOOSE TOWER OBSERVATORY – 250 feet / 76 metres
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 housed 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 at the time. However, after a bitter court battle, the tower was dismantled and moved to St. Louis. It is also interesting to note that Marconi used the Moose Tower Observatory to transmit one of the first ever wireless messages. Imagine what the roaming charges would have been back then!
PROSPECT POINT OBSERVATION TOWER – 282 feet / 86 metres
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 observation deck was designed to be accessible from the mainland with an elevator shaft to the base of the Niagara Gorge and the now Hornblower Boat docks.
The Prospect Point Observation Tower officially opened in 1961, at a cost of $1.25 million dollars and is still in use today.
Minolta Tower (Seagram Tower) – 325 feet / 99 metres
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, making it 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.
Throughout the years, the tower has gone through several ownership and name changes. Most recently, on January 15th 1993, the Minolta Tower was sold to Radomat Holdings of Niagara Falls, New York, which also owned the Raddison Hotel and the Holiday Inn in Niagara Falls, New York. It is currently being operated as The Tower Hotel.
SKYLON TOWER – 520 feet / 158 metres
In May of 1964, construction began on the Skylon Tower measuring five hundred (520) feet tall on a site atop the moraine overlooking the Falls, between Murray and Robinson Streets 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!!)
Not only is the Skylon Tower designed to have one of the best views of Niagara Falls, but the Yellow Bug Elevators play their role as well. Each glass-enclosed elevator provides maximum sight lines as it ascends and descends at 500 feet per minute and is capable of holding up to 30 people. In addition to the elevators, this tower has two separate 662 step zig-zag staircases leading to the lowest level from 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 allows you to explore the view at your own pace. Both the elevator ride and access to the observation decks are free when dining.
The Skylon Tower is home to 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.
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 to 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. No matter where you view them from, they are always an impressive sight.