Samuel Zimmerman was an American and came to Niagara in 1842.
Zimmerman made his fortune as a contractor on projects such as the Second Welland Canal and the building of the Great Western Railroad from Hamilton to Niagara Falls. He was also a primary supporter of the first railway suspension bridge to be built.
By 1856, Samuel Zimmerman was the most important citizen in newly created Village of Clifton, as one of founders.
Zimmerman had purchased extensive tracts of land in the Village of Elgin and the Village of Clifton.Within 15 years of arriving in Niagara, Zimmerman a cunning financier/businessman and became one of the richest men in Upper Canada.
Upon the death of Captain Crieghton, the owner of most of the area known as the centre, his wife sold the property to contractor/financier Samuel Zimmerman.
Zimmerman retained the name of “Clifton” for the fledgling village which he had purchased and promoted. He had the Erie & Ontario Railway routed through his subdivision.
Zimmerman created an estate property along the south side of Ferry Hill (Clifton Hill) that he called “Clifton Place”. On his estate, Zimmerman undertook to create many gardens and several large fountains. He planned to build a mansion that he hoped to live in once it was completed. His estate was bounded by Clifton Hill, the Niagara River, Robinson Street and Ferry Road[Victoria Avenue]. Today this property is owned by HOCO (Harry Oakes Company).
In May of 1855, Samuel Zimmerman opened the first bank in the area. It was called the Zimmerman Bank. The bank was incorporated under an act of Parliament. This bank was located on the corner of Bridge Street at Clifton Avenue. This building also served as the Customs House and Post Office.
The first buildings that Zimmerman built on his estate were four gatehouses. Each gatehouse was large enough to be a home in itself. A gatehouse was located at each of the four entrances to his estate.
The Clifton Gate House was the last of four such gatehouses built by Samuel Zimmerman in 1856 to face each of the four sides of his 52 acre estate.
Zimmerman built a large stable for his horses and carriages of imported English yellow brick. The stables continued to exist until the mid 1950’s when the new Park Motor Hotel (Comfort Inn) was built.
Next, Zimmerman began working on plans for his mansion which he called “Clifton Place”. His mansion was estimated to cost $175,000.
Samuel Zimmerman saw only the foundations of his mansion built before he was killed on March 12th 1857 in the Desjardins Canal Railway accident. Zimmerman had been in York (Toronto) that day and was on his way home when an axel on the railcar of the train snapped as it was crossing the swing bridge over the canal. The train derailed and plunged into the canal killing 59 persons including Samuel Zimmerman.
The day Samuel Zimmerman was buried was declared a formal holiday in the Town of Clifton.
Zimmerman’s estate was taken over by the Bank of Upper Canada which went bankrupt several years later. The Zimmerman Bank was changed to the Bank of Clifton.
Samuel Zimmerman had been buried in a private burial vault on the grounds of his estate. His remains were later reburried in the cemetery of the St. David’s Methodist Church along side his wife.
A large stone fountain built by Samuel Zimmerman below the moraine (now Queen Victoria Park) remains today.