Historic Hotels in Niagara Falls, Ontario

In 1796 there were two hotels in Chippawa, Fairbanks House and John Fanning’s Hotel.

Andrew Rorbach built the Whirlpool Inn near the mid-point between Lundy’s Lane and Queenston in 1799. The building stood until the late 20th century on the corner of Portage Road and Church’s Lane.

In 1800, James Macklem opened his own tavern in Chippawa. It was appropriately named Macklem’s Tavern. Mr. Holder had Holder’s Tavern which was located north of Usshers Creek.

The first hotels to appear at Niagara Falls were the famous Pavilion Hotel, the Ontario House, the Canada House and Wilson’s Tavern.

The Canada House was known as “Way Farers Tavern” and stood on the east lawn of Loretto Academy. In 1860, the Archbishop Lynch of the Roman Catholic Church acquired an extensive tract of land where the old Canada House stood from Peter Skinner. The former Canada House building became the first Loretto Academy.

Wilson’s Tavern was owned and operated by Charles Wilson. He purchased 250 acres opposite the Falls and in 1797 he built his tavern along Portage Road overlooking the Falls (current site of Oakes Hotel).In 1817, William Forsyth bought Wilson’s Tavern and renamed it the Niagara Hotel. In 1821, Forsyth purchased much of the land surrounding his newly acquired hotel. Forsyth enjoyed little competition until 1820 when rival John Brown built the Ontario House Hotel.

Since opening in 1820, the Ontario House, owned and operated by John Brown, stood just north of Loretto Academy. In November of 1834, Brown sold his hotel and property to Samuel Street. The hotel became part of the proposed “City of the Falls” project, being the headquaters. From 1837 to 1838, the Ontario House was used as a military barracks and when demolished in 1859.

James Forsyth had massed a large holding of land. He originally built the National Hotel on Portage Road near Lundy’s Lane. He later renamed the hotel, the Prospect Hotel. In 1799, Forsyth sold the Prospect Hotel to John Buckner. Then in 1827, John Buckner sold this hotel to Harmanus Crysler.

Throughout the years, the Prospect Hotel on Main Street had many other names. They included the Brick Tavern, Ellis House, and Ward’s Hotel. Through 1837-1838 Rebellion prisoners of war were imprisoned at the Prospect Hotel.

In 1817, the Victoria Hall Hotel was located on Victoria Avenue and the Alexandra House was located on Clifton Hill. Jim Cooper operated Knox’s Tavern located at the north end of Portage Road.

In 1822, William Forsyth tore down the old Niagara Hotel and in its place built the luxurious and large Pavilion Hotel. It was built on the current site of the Oakes Hotel. The Pavilion was a white wooden three storey structure, the largest Niagara hotel in Canada or the United States. The Pavilion Hotel’s many balconies provided an unparalleled view of the Falls.

The Ontario House Hotel was also a white wooden three storey structure with giant white pillars at the front of the hotel. It was a smaller version of the Pavilion Hotel and was located on the current site of the Marriott on the Falls Hotel. In the Fall of 1826, the Ontario House Hotel burned to the ground. It was immediately rebuilt and used the same name.

In 1832, the City of the Falls Company rented the Pavilion Hotel for five years for a rental fee of $2,000 per year. The company also rented the Ontario House Hotel and the Red House Hotel (Prospect Hotel).

In 1833, the first Clifton Hotel was built at the base of Ferry Road (Clifton Hill) by Harmanus Crysler. This large hotel became the best hotel available and the flagship of all Niagara hotels to follow.

On February 9th 1839, the Pavilion Hotel caught fire and was completely destroyed. In 1943, a new Pavilion Hotel was rebuilt, although it never regained its celebrity status.

On June 18th 1845, Isaiah Starkey became the new owner of the Ontario House Hotel and renamed it the Canada House Hotel.

In 1848, Adam Crysler became the owner of the Pavilion Hotel. It again burned to the ground on April 26th 1865, but was not rebuilt.

In 1850, The Front (Table Rock) was the location of a number of hotels. The front was the area of the current Queen Victoria Park from just north of Murray Hill to the Table Rock.

They included:

  • Museum Hotel
  • Prospect Hotel
  • Table Rock House
  • Brunswick Hotel

In order to cater to the railway passengers and tourists many hotels were built around the train station on Bridge Street.

They included:

  • Elgin House
  • Rosli Hotel
  • Windsor Hotel
  • Whitty’s Columbia Hotel
  • Buckley’s Albion Hotel
  • Suspension Bridge Hotel
  • Market Hotel

In 1885, the Niagara Falls International Camp Meeting Association opened Wesley Park. It was expected to be a huge camp ground and summer resort. The park covered  200 acres and was bounded by Simcoe Street, River Road, Roberts Street, and Stanley Avenue. Fifty acres of this park consisted of forest. 914 buildings were built on 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep lots. Within the large circle called Epworth there existed an auditorium to be used for Methodist camp meetings, missionary and temperance conventions. Wesley Park had its own post office and railroad stations. A staircase known as Pelly’s staircase was built to the base of the gorge to allow access to the rivers edge.

In 1893, the site of the Wesley Park Camp auditorium was acquired by the Niagara Falls Collegiate Institute.

In 1894, the LaFayette Hotel was built opposite the Upper Suspension Bridge just north of the Clifton Hotel.

In 1898, fire destroyed the Clifton Hotel. It was replaced by the new Clifton Hotel in 1905.

In 1925, Howard Fox opened his famous Foxhead Inn on Clifton Hill at Falls Avenue.

In 1926, there were very few hotels. The existing hotels included:

  • Clifton House
  • Alexandria Hote
  • Foxhead Inn
  • Victoria Inn
  • Niagara Hotel
  • Prospect House
  • Trennick
  • Imperial Hotel
  • Savoy Hotel
  • Windsor Hotel

The first campgrounds to appear in Niagara in the 1920’s were:

  • Niagara Falls Tourist Camp, located on the north side of Clifton Hill between the Foxhead Inn and the Alexandria Hotel.
  • Clifton Touring Camp, located on the south side of Clifton Hill on the current site of the Comfort Inn. There was also a Clifton Camp located on the north side of Clifton Hill.
  • Reinhart’s Riverhurst Inn was located on the north side of Clifton Hill between the Niagara Falls Tourist Camp and the Foxhead Inn.

At Falls View there were three campgrounds:

  1. Cataract Tourist Camp located on Portage Road at Murray Street.
  2. Scott’s Falls View Tourist Camp located on the site of the current Minolta Tower.
  3. The Rainbow Camp located at the top of Murray Hill.

On July 1st 1929, the General Brock Hotel (current Crowne Plaza Fallsview Hotel) located on Falls Avenue was officially opened. It became the first high rise hotel in Niagara Falls at 11 storeys. It  was the tallest building around. The General Brock Hotel boasted 247 bedrooms, 16 stores, 290 phones and two elevators within its 20,000 square feet.

In 1930, George Chanady built the first of the cabins in Niagara Falls. They were located on Buchanan Avenue and were named the “Maple Leaf Cabins”.

On December 31st 1932, fire once again destroyed the Clifton Hotel.

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