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From Niagara-on-the-Lake to Old Fort Erie With Lots of Places in Between, Part One

Having explored some of the area a little bit by myself on my first day in Niagara Falls, Ontario I'd had a chance to see some very nice sites but I knew that the day that I was to spend with my Canadian blogging friend Carole and her friend Steve was going to be chock-full of all sorts of places filled with history and stories and fun. With a big day ahead of me I had no qualms about digging into and enjoying every bite of my fantastic breakfast made for me by Chef Kevin at Kilpatrick Manor as I knew I was going to need the energy. After all, I'd read enough of Carole's posts on her blog to know just how much she and Steve could pack into a single day so I knew I was going to need the energy ... and a good pair of walking shoes!

Following a round of so-nice-to-finally-meet-you hugs and a quick tour of my cozy bed and breakfast, shortly after 10:00 we made our way over towards the Niagara Whirlpool Aero Car that I had braved the evening before so that I could see what it looked like from the other side of the river. Carole and Steve both assured me that they were more than happy just to look at it and had no desire whatsoever to take a ride as both are none too fond of heights. As a former major league chicken of heights myself I wasn't going to tease them about it but simply told them that it's not anywhere near as scary as it looks ... seriously!

The Whirlpool Aero Car as seen from the other side of the whirlpool

Continuing up the Niagara Parkway we soon came across the Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station of the New York State Power Authority which was opened on January 28th, 1961 as the largest of the Niagara generating stations. Construction started on March 18th, 1957 during which twelve million cubic yards of rock was excavated, twenty men died in construction-related accidents, and two giant 24-ton trucks fell into the river below. In spite of that, the project was completed 14 days earlier than the 3-year deadline that had been imposed on the project. The power station is named for Robert Moses who was the head of the New York Power Authority and overseer of the power plant.

The Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station, a hydroelectric power station in Lewiston, New York near Niagara Falls.

Across the river from the American power plant and behind where we were standing is the Sir Adam Beck Number Two Hydroelectric Power Generating Station, one of Ontario's largest hydroelectric facilities. Work began on the massive power plant in 1948 after Ontario's need for power grew by leaps and bounds following World War II, the giant plant became operational on March 6th, 1954. Previous to that Ontario had relied chiefly on the first hydroelectric power generation station on the Niagara River that was opened on December 28th, 1921 and just up the road from where we were. Orignally known as the Queenston-Chippewa Power Plant, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death in 1950 the plant was renamed the Sir Adam Beck Niagara Generating Station Number One in honor of the man who had led Ontario Hydro with his vision of inexpensive, unlimited electric power.  In the picture below you can see part of Generating Station Number Two as it towers over the Niagara River Gorge with a view to the Queenston-Lewiston International Bridge. If the bridge looks a lot like the Rainbow Bridge down closer to the Falls that's because it's identical to it!

Side view of the Sir Adam Beck 2 Hydroelectric Power Generating Station on the Canadian side of the Niagara River which was put in service in 1954. In the background is the Queenston-Lewiston Steel Arch Bridge which is a replica of the Rainbow Bridge further up river by the Falls.

Continuing on our way we soon found ourselves at the Floral Clock which was built by Ontario Hydro in 1950 following an idea by Dr. Richard Lankaster Hearn, the General Manager and Chief Engineer of Ontario Hydro. On a trip to Scotland, Dr.Hearn visited the Princes' Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland and saw the floral clock there which he was quite impressed with. Returning to Ontario, Dr.Hearn commissioned a floral clock to be designed and constructed similar to the one that he had seen but on a much bigger scale.

The Floral Clock at Queenston was built by Ontario Hydro in 1950; the planted face is maintained by Niagara Parks horticulture staff while the mechanism is kept in working order by Ontario Hydro. The floral design is changed twice each year with up to 16,000 carpet bedding plants.

Forty-feet wide with a planted area 38-feet wide, the face of the clock is filled with 15,000 to 20,000 carpet plants twice a year in unique and intricate designs. Since 1977 the Niagara Parks Commission Parks Department has been responsible for the design and planting of the clock face while a site maintenance worker from Ontario Hydro regularly checks the clock's accuracy against the official time. Every quarter hour the clock broadcasts Westminster Chimes and is one of the most photographed attractions in the area aside from the Falls. Considering how many tourists had arrived during the short time that we were there, I'm not at all surprised!

After taking a few pictures of the Floral Clock before too many kids started climbing on it, we ourselves climbed back into the car and drove further north up the Niagara Parkway until we reached a spot high atop the Niagara Escarpment at Queenston Heights Park where Brock's Monument stands. The 185-foot stone column is dedicated to Major General Sir Isaac Brock, one of Canada's heroes of the War of 1812.

Brock's Monument is a 185-foot column atop Queenston Heights in Queenston, Ontario, dedicated to Major General Sir Isaac Brock, one of Canada's heroes of the War of 1812. Brock and one of his Canadian aides-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, are interred at the monument's base on the heights above the battlefield where both fell during the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13th, 1812.Brock's Monument at Queenston Heights Park. The present monument was rebuilt in 1853 after the original monument was bombed by a terrorist in 1840. The monument is owned by Parks Canada and maintained by the Niagara Parks Commission.Even though Canada and the United States are friendly neighbors now that wasn't always the case and especially not during the War of 1812 when control of the border around the Niagara River was in constant dispute. On October 13th, 1812 American troops crossed the Niagara River shortly before dawn with an objective of cutting off the British supply line to the west. Queenston was the northern portage point around Niagara Falls and taking the escarpment would give them a supreme advantage.

When Major-General Brock observed the build-up of troops from his post at Fort George in what was then called Newark but now is the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, he raced to Queenston in a valiant effort to retake the escarpment. While leading his troops into battle, Brock suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest and shortly afterward one of his Canadian aides-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, was also mortally wounded whle attempting to lead a charge during which his horse was shot out from under him and fell on him.

Brock's Monumnet Plaque

Following the Battle of Queenston Heights, General Brock and his aide were initially buried in the northeast corner of Fort George but shortly afterward a campagin began among prominent Upper Canadians to honour Brock whose dramatic death provided a rallying point as a symbol of Canadian independence from the United States. A 135-foot Tuscan column with a viewing platform at the top was soon built and General Brock and his aide's bodies were re-interred there.  The monument was inaugrated on October 13th, 1824.

On April 14th, 1840 the monument was seriously and irreparably damaged by an explosive charge in an attack that was presumed to have been orchestrated by an anti-British agitator and participant in the 1837 Rebellion although it was never confirmed. Brock and Macdonnell's remains were removed and reinterred in the Queenston cemetery of a local family while a campaign to rebuild the monument began immediately. Construction began again in 1853 and was completed three years later. The remains of Brock and Macdonnell were reinterred for the fourth time in the base of the monument which was officially inaugurated on October 13th, 1859 and stands to this day.

Burial plaque for Lt Colonel John McDonell and Major General Sir Isaac Brock inside Brock's Monument.

A 235-step spiral staircase leads visitors to a small indoor platform underneath Brock's statue at the top of the column which was damaged by a lightning strike in 1929. A broken piece of Brock's arm is now on display in the base of the monument.  At the top of the monument, porthole windows provide views of the surrounding Niagara region and Lake Ontario but you're just going to have to take my word for it as I didn't try climbing to the top! Carole told me that she did once and the view was gorgeous but the climb wasn't the easiest in the world as the spiral staircase is very narrow.

235 Stairs That I Didn't Climb!
Spiral staircase to the top of Brock's Monument.

Silhouette of Brock's Monument, Queenston Heights Park, Ontario.In addition to Brock's Monument at Queenston Heights Park is a 7-foot granite monument dedicated to Laura Ingersoll Secord, a Canadian heroine of the War of 1812 whose husband Sergeant James Secord was wounded by a musket ball after helping to carry Major General Brock's body from the battlefield following his fatal wound.

Later during the war, on the evening of June 21st, 1813, Laura overheard plans for a surprise attack on British troops at Beaver Dams from American soldiers who were billeted in their home. With her husband still suffering the effects of his injury at Queenston Heights, Laura set out on foot to walk approximately 20 miles to warn British Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon of the Americans' plan 18 hours after she began her trek. When the Americans attacked on June 24th, they were met by a small British force and a larger group of Mohawk Indians with the result being that almost all of the American soldiers were taken prisoner.
Monument at Queenston Heights to Laura Ingersoll Secord, a Canadian heroine of the War of 1812 who is known for warning British forces of an impending American attack that led to the British victory at the Battle of Beaver Dams on June 24th, 1813.

After walking around the grounds at Queenston Heights Park a little bit we made a short stop at the edge of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking the Niagara River and Lake Ontario so that I could snap a couple of pictures before contiuning on to the Laura Secord Homestead.

Just in case you're wondering what an escarpment is other than a pretty cool word and don't want to have to divert to look it up yourself, it's "a steep slope or long cliff that results from erosion or faulting and separates two relatively level areas of differing elevations". The Niagara Escarpment is the most prominent of several escarpments formed in the bedrock of the Great Lakes basin and runs westward from New York State through Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. The Niagara Escarpment is not a fault line but is the result of unequal erosion that occurred millions of years ago.
Marker for the Niagara Escarpment at Queenston Heights
View down the Niagara River to Lake Ontario
Until you actually stand there and look out at the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, you don't realize how high up you are but there's a definite reason the place was named Queenston Heights!

Historical marker for the Laura Secord Homestead.

Meanwhile over at the homestead of Laura Ingersoll Secord, I was learning some of the history of Canada's most famous chocolatier housewife. Originally from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Laura Ingersoll moved with her father and siblings to Upper Canada in 1795 in the hopes of her father recovering the family fortune that he had lost during the American Revolution while supporting the Loyalists. The Ingersolls opened a tavern in the Niagara Peninsula where Laura met James Secord and married him in 1797. Shortly afterward the Secords moved to Queenston and it was from this homestead that Laura began her long journey to warn the British, an act that would eventually make her a Canadian heroine.

Front view of the restored Laura Secord Homestead in Queenston, Ontario.

James and Laura lived in this house until 1835. In 1868 she died at the age of 93 and was buried next to her husband James in Drummond Hill Cementery in Niagara Falls but Laura's legacy was far from over. In 1913, Toronto businessman Frank O'Connor decided to name his new chocolate company after her calling it the Laura Secord Candy Company.  In 1969 the company bought the old Secord homestead and spent several years restoring it to its original floor plan including the original fireplaces and using authentic furnishings from the early 1800's. On the part of the homestead many thought to be the home's original summer kitchen, the company opened an annex building to sell its chocolates and ice cream while also displaying several artifacts found during archeological digs.

Side view and well of the Laura Secord Homestead.

In October 1998, the Laura Secord Candy Company donated the Laura Secord Homestead to the Niagara Parks Commission to use as a museum to ensure the Homestead's preservation and safekeeping for future generations. Visitors can take guided tours led by qualified costumed interpreters who provide information about the historic house and the history of the area. Light refreshments, ice cream, Laura Secord chocolates, and a selection of souvenirs are available in the shop next door.

From the humble home of Laura Secord, Carole, Steve, and I continued on to the more magnificent home of Alexander Hamilton, Sheriff of the Niagara District who was the fourth son of the Honourable Robert Hamilton - one of the founders of Upper Canada.

Historical marker for Willowbank, one of the finest country estates of its type in Canada.

A National Historic Site that is currently in use by the School of Restoration Arts as an educational facility dedicated to teaching arts and skills related to the restoration of historic buildings, Willowbank was designed by John Latshaw, a renowned Canadian architect and built between 1832 and 1834 from Whirlpool Sandstone. The country estate is one of the finest of its type in Canada.

Willowbank is currently in use as the School of Restoration Arts as an educational facility. The school is dedicated to the teaching of all arts and skills related to restoration of built heritage and uses historic buildings in need of restoration as the teaching venues.

Constructed in the Greek Revival style of architecture which was very popular in North America at the time, the building is characterized by the rare feature of eight hand-carved colums running its two-story full height while the front door is also considered to be a masterpiece of Greek design.

Constructed in the Greek Revival style of architecture then at its height in North America for such grand houses, Willowbank is regarded as one of the finest remaining examples of such buildings on the continent.

The estate wasn't open for tours at the time that we were there but that didn't stop us from climbing up the wide front steps and peeking through the windows! You can definitely tell that it's a restoration work in progress but it's easy to see how grand of a house it once was.

A shot through the window into the main parlor area of the mansion.

As you can also see from the base of the hill that Willowbank stands on, it's got quite the magnificent front yard which faces the Niagara River. Now there's a lawn that I don't think I'd want to mow with a push mower! The estate is named after the willow trees that once graced its grounds and I just bet that they were a sight to see.

Willowbank, named after magnificent willow trees that once graced its grounds, as seen from Queenston Street.
Provincial historical marker for Willowbank at the base of the hillside lawn.

Just up the road a bit from Willowbank at the corners of Queenston Street and Princess Street sits the Stone Cottage. The date of the cottage's origin is disputed but legend has it that it housed prisoners of war during the War of 1812 as well as illegal stores of liquor during prohibition. Located halfway between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls, the Stone Cottage is available as a rental for visitors who are looking for peaceful surroundings close to the Niagara River and not too far from the many wineries that Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for.


Speaking of being close to the Niagara River, while Carole and I were out taking pictures of the Stone Cottage we took a short walk down Princess Street to an area overlooking the river and look what we found just below us on the river! One of the Whirlpool Jet Boat areas!

Niagara-on-the-Lake location of the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours.
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, Boat #17
One of the Whirlpool Jet Boats heading up the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake
Whirlpool Jet #16

There were jet boats chock-full of people zipping up and down the Niagara River in all directions and from what we could tell they all looked to be having a grand time!

As for us, there would be no jet boat rides as it was back in the car followed shortly by another quick stop at Brock Memorial Church in Queenston built in 1879 and consecrated by the First Bishop of Niagara, Thomas Brock-Fuller, the god-son of Major General Sir Isaac Brock.

Plaque for the Brock Memorial Church
Brock Memorial Church completed in 1879 after the original building was destroyed by lightning.

On the road again and it wasn't long before we came to the Living Water Wayside Chapel located next to the A La Gallarie Bed and Breakfast set in an 1880's historic Georgian Manor.

The Living Water Wayside Chapel on the Niagara Parkway

When the little Living Water Wayside Chapel was built it was originally intended to simply be a stopover and resting place for visitors along the Niagara Parkway but according to Carole, it's become so popular that some people even get married there! I'm thinking that's got to be one very small wedding party!

Inside view of the Living Water Wayside Chapel

Before we left the tiny chapel behind, Carole made sure that I signed the guest book and then it was back on the road in search of lighthouses, old forts, and lunch at a haunted inn.  I'll be saving those goodies for my next post which I hope you'll come back and read as I continue my whirlwind tour through the Niagara region with Carole and Steve!

Comments

  1. I wonder if that thing makes as much power as hover damn in nevada/arizona... Also I would live in any of those houses. Long as I had a good fireplace and a place to pee. That one place with the 2oosome steps made me claustrophobic... I want ride in the jet Boats...Woooo Hooo... looks lovely... Nice pieces of history and to thing in those hard ass times in life people lived to 93...that is just crazy I tell ya... Thanks for the read. loved it :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would take a pass on those stairs... just thinking of it makes my leg muscles ache! That chapel is adorable! It's just the right size for a wedding as far as I'm concerned!

    A haunted inn? DO tell! :)

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  3. I'd be much more comfortable on the water than swinging over it! LOL

    Fabulous pics as always Linda. :)

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  4. I'm exhausted! ;)

    I love the aero car
    and the speedy boat

    and that shot you took looking up into the winding staircase is superb

    ReplyDelete
  5. This brings back some memories of when I visited Niagara Fall, but didn't know there was so much beauty. I needed Linda as a guide!

    ReplyDelete
  6. You saw lots of sights that we missed. Thanks for all the history and great photos. This is a must-see area. Beautiful...

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  7. I wish we were back there again, I so love that area and all it has to offer:-) So many people don't even realize all the neat places one can visit, they think it's the Falls and the museums, that's it. I spend a lot of time on the computer trying to find little known places in NF and it's always so much fun to search for them. I told Steve that pretty soon I'll run out of things to see and do over there! lol Any time you want personal guides again, just let us know:-) Loved reading this post and seeing all of your beautiful pictures of what we saw that day. xoxo

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  8. Oh how we like to make up history. The Stone Cottage was at one time a Carriage House and Barn for the Estate which stands at 57 Princess St. The Estate was there in the 20s but I really dough it pre-dates the war of 1812.

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    Replies
    1. I guess that's why they call it a legend rather than a fact - perhaps there were other buildings there before the War of 1812?

      Delete

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