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

Continuing on my whirlwind tour of the Niagara Falls area with my Canadian friends Carole  and Steve, after we had reenergized ourselves with a very tasty lunch at the Olde Angel Inn in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake we climbed back into the car once again and made our way northwest towards St. Catharines and the lakeside community of Port Dalhousie. We were about 6 months too early for the International Chicken Clucking Championship which takes place there every January and raises money for local charities but that's okay as there were several other places that Carole wanted to show me in the area.

Port Dalhousie's former small jail house built in 1845 now turned watering hole!

The first was the former Port Dahlousie jailhouse that was built in 1845 and reported to be one of the smallest in Ontario. The building is now part of a local watering hole and it looked like it would be a nice place to stop and have an ice-cold Molson but alas, it was quite closed while we were there. That's okay, though, as the main reason we were in St. Catharines was just a few steps away from the former jailhouse and it was something that appealed to me a lot more than a cold ale.

A father and his daughter enjoy a ride on the Port Dalhousie Carousel

At Port Dahlousie's Lakeside Park, young and old can still ride an antique carousel for just a nickel - a nickel! One of the largest and best remaining examples of a caruosel built by Charles I.D. Looff -a master carver and builder of hand-carved carousels and amusement rides in America - Lakeside Park's carousel was built between 1897 and 1903 in the Looff Factory in Brooklyn, New York and moved to St. Catherines in 1921 from its earlier home at an amusement park in Scarborough, Ontario.

On the beach at Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, you can still ride the carousel for a nickel. This antique carousel is one of the largest and best remaining examples of a Looff menagerie carousel. Four rows deep with 69 carousel animals including jumpers, standers and a gigantic lion, goats (prancers), giraffes, and camels.

The Lakeside Carousel - officially known as the Looff-Illions Lakeside Park Carousel which is open from May 20th to October 10th - is one of approximately 350 antique hand-carved carousels still operating in North America and is one of only nine in Canada. Considered to be fairly unique in size, the carousel has four chariots and 68 carousel animals four rows deep consisting of horses - both jumpers and standers - goats (known as prancers) giraffes, camels, and one gigantic lion.

The majority of the animals on the carousel are Looff originals but due to theft and a fire that occurred in the 1970s, several "new" horses were purchased to complete the merry-go-round menagerie. The new additions consisted of 26 horses carved by Marcus C. Illions, a master carver from the early 1920's, along with an additional seven that were acquired from the New York company of Herschell-Spillman.

This antique carousel is one of the largest and best remaining examples of a Looff menagerie carousel that is four rows deep with  69 carousel animals including jumpers, standers and a gigantic lion, goats (prancers), giraffes, and camels.
One of the carved Coney Island style animals on the Port Dalhousie Carousel that was built in 1903 by the Charles I.D. Looff Company of Riverside, Rhode Island.
A carousel horse on the Port Dalhousie Carousel.
A giraffe on the Port Dalhousie Carousel.
The majestic lion on the Port Dalhousie Carousel

The majestic lion on the Lakeside Carousel is one of only five existing Looff lions in all of North America and is even more unique in that he is the only one that has his head turned to watch onlookers as he circles by. I've gotta admit, if I wasn't a sucker for the horse that go up and down as the ride goes round, I'd take a spin on this handsome lion!

After Carole and I went for a ride on the carousel (and really now, at just a nickel a ride why did I only go around once??) we took a walk over to the beach so that Carole could dip her toes into the waters of Lake Ontario and I could take pictures of a couple more lighthouses.

Beach-goers enjoy Lake Ontario at Port Dalhousie's Lakeside Park.

Port Dahlousie, as the northern terminus from 1829 to 1932 of the Welland Canal - a 29-mile ship canal that enables ships to ascend and descend the Niagara Escarpment and bypass the Falls - had two lighthouses: the Front Range Light that was built in 1879 ...

Port Dalhousie Front Range Light located at the end of the marina pier was built in 1879.

... and Rear Range Light that was built in 1852. Fire destroyed the original Rear Range Light so it was rebuilt in 1892 and then rebuilt again in 1898 when the second light was destroyed by lightning. In 1932 the Welland Canal's northern terminus was moved to Port Weller and Port Dahlousie's importance was diminished. In 1968 both lights were automated and twenty years later in 1988 the Rear Range Light was deactivated completely.

Port Dalhousie Rear Range Light was built in 1898 and is now deactivated.

It being a fairly warm Friday afternoon in July there were a good number of people out enjoying Lake Ontario including a couple people on jet skis as well as a few sailing boats here and there.

Having some fun on Lake Ontario.

A sunny Friday in July on Lake Ontario at Port Dalhousie.

No time for us to relax on the beach and work on a tan, though, as we had more places to see before the day was over! It was back in the car for us as we drove from St. Catherine's back over to Niagara for our next stop at the Warner Cemetery that's located on the east side of the Queen Elizabeth Highway.


Knowing that I spend a lot of time in old cemeteries here at home, Carole thought that I would find the Warner Burying Ground interesting as it contains the oldest tombstone in existence in Ontario. The 200+-year old stone is part of the restored Van Every family plot that has been enclosed by a 2-foot wall of red sandstone that is capped with graystone. The old headstones have been built into the interior face of a wall so that they are preserved from damage.


The oldest headstone in the burying grounds which is pictured to the left reads:

"McGrigery Van Every
Born April ye 27th 1723
Departed this life
Sept ye 15th 1786
Mary Wilcox his wife
Born April ye 29th 1736"

McGregory Van Every, originally from New York and a member of the Butler's Rangers - a British Unit headquarted at Fort Niagara during the revoluntionary period - was the founder of the Van Every family in Canada.  The Van Everys were an  early United Empire Loyalist Family who had moved to Canada like so many other Loyalist families at the end of the Revolutionary War.

Rev. Warner served in Butler's Rangers during the American Reolution and settled in Niagara shortly after the corps was disbanded in 1784. Converted to Methodism, Rev. Warner became the leader of one of the earliest

Christian Warner (1754 - 1833), for whom the cemetery is named, was a Sergeant in Butler's Rangers, a Methodist Class Leader for 45 years, a Captain of the Lincoln Militia in the War of 1812, and one of the founders of Methodism in the Niagara District. Also from upstate New York, Warner brought his wife Charity and two children to Canada in 1783 or 1784 and made his home not far from what is now the Warner Burying Ground.  The cemetery is still an active cemetery and was quite well kept though I'm not too sure how restful it is what with the QEW running directly next to it!

From the cemetery we continued on our way down Warner Road just a bit to the site of the "Screaming Tunnel" which is a small limestone tunnel that runs beneath the track bed of what was once the Grand Turk Railway. The tunnel, constructed in the early 1900s and measuring 16-feet high and 125-feet long, has often been mistaken as a railroad tunnel but was really constructed as a drainage tunnel and as a way for farmers to transport goods and animals safely underneath the railroad tracks.

The Screaming Tunnel is a small limestone tunnel, running underneath what once was the Grand Trunk Railway lines, located in the northwest corner of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

What makes this tunnel a popular "tourist attraction" is a local legend that claims that the tunnel is haunted by the ghost a young girl who died within its walls after she had escaped from a nearby farm building with her clothing ablaze. There are several different takes on the legend - one is that the girl was set on fire by her enraged father following a nasty custody dispute and the other is of a young girl who is raped inside the tunnel who then has her body burned by the rapist to destroy any evidence.

A local legend recounts that the Screaming Tunnel is haunted by the ghost of a young girl, who after escaping a nearby burning farm building with her clothing ablaze, died within its walls.

All of the variants of the legend have one thing in common though - it states that a wooden match struck within the tunnel will produce the sound of a young girl's dying screams and that is what gives the tunnel its name.

The Screaming Tunnel derives its name from a claim that a match struck within the tunnel's recesses will produce the sound of the young girl's dying screams.  Lots of people check that claim out!

From the looks of the floor of the tunnel, a lot of people have put that legend to the test but we didn't as none of us happened to have any wooden matches on us. Oh darn the luck!


It should also be noted that the Screaming Tunnel was used in the filming of 1983's "The Dead Zone" (the movie that I mentioned in my post about Niagara-on-the-Lake) as a place for Christopher Walken's character to seek temporary refuge. I guess I need to go back and watch the movie to see if he tried lighting any matchsticks while he was hiding there!

One of the locks located on the Welland Canal, a ship canal in Canada that extends 27 miles from Port Weller, Ontario, on Lake Ontario, to Port Colborne, Ontario, on Lake Erie. As a part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, this canal enables ships to ascend and descend the Niagara Escarpment and to bypass the Niagara Falls.

After walking through the tunnel a time or two and taking plenty of pictures but not having any matches to light to check out the legend of the screaming, it was time to hit the road again and head south towards the other side of Niagara Falls and Fort Erie on - what else? - Lake Erie! Along the way we passed over the Welland Canal and I managed to catch a quick shot out of the passenger window of one of the locks. Tourists can go visit the locks and watch ships go through but that was going to have to wait for another trip as we still had lots to do on our agenda and waiting for a ship to come through the locks wasn't on it.

Historic plaque marking the site of a former ferry crossing where hundreds of escaped slaves experienced freedom for the first time.

Arriving down in the Fort Erie area we stopped along Niagara's Freedom Trail at the site of the former ferry crossing from Buffalo, New York to Fort Erie which was almost the last stop on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves during the mid-1800s. Ferry business declined after the Peace Bridge opened in 1927 and the last ferry to Fort Erie set off on September 2nd, 1950.  It doesn't look like it was too far across from where we were to Buffalo but it's definitely not a distance that I would have wanted to try to swim!

The view to Buffalo, New York near the former ferry crossing in Fort Erie.

Speaking of the Peace Bridge, it sits at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River just about 12 miles upriver from the Falls. The bridge consists of five arched spans and was built from 1925 to 1927 with the bridge being opened to the public on June 1st, 1927.

The Peace Bridge is an international bridge between Canada and the United States at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River, about 12.4 mi upriver of Niagara Falls.

The official opening ceremony was held on August 7th, 1927 with approximately 100,000 in attendance. The grand opening festivities, which were attended by The Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) alogn with numerous other dignitaries, was made available to the public in the first international coast-to-coast broadcast which reached an estimated 50 million listeners.  Apparently it was a pretty big deal!

Another stop along Niagara's Freedom Trail was Bertie Hall which was built in 1830 by William Forsythe Sr. who was a well-known smuggler. Built in the Greek Revival style and with a main entrance facing the Niagara River, Bertie Hall was the third stop on the Underground Railroad. From 1828 to 1865 it was believed that runaway slaves from the United States passed through Bertie Hall on their way to freedom in Northern Canada. A mysterious tunnel is said to have led from the river's shore to the building's basement for the runaways to travel unseen and even though local legend supports the claim, no tunnel has been found to this date.
Bertie Hall, built in 1830 by William Forsythe Sr. who was a well known smuggler in the area, served as one of the principle landing areas for Blacks that crossed into Canada to escape the slavery of the United States.

Historic plaque for Bertie Hall used as a safe house on the Underground Railroad.

Owned by the Niagara Parks Commission since 1981, the building used to house the Mildred M. Mahoney Doll House Gallery which held the world's largest doll house collection with 140 houses dating from 1780 to 1995. The gallery was opened in 1983 and once attracted upwards of 4,000 visitors a year but in recent years it fell on hard times and the contents were auctioned off after the gallery closed. It is hoped that Bertie Hall won't sit vacant for too long but apparently it's been that way for over a year now.

Iron marker at Bertie Hall located on the Niagara Parkway in Fort Erie, Ontario.

After walking around the grounds of Bertie Hall a little bit, we decided to find something to eat at a local Wendy's before going over to Old Fort Erie where we were going to go on a Ghost Walk.  I had read that the fort offered Ghost Tours on Friday evenings and knowing that Carole and Steve had been on quite a few other Ghost Tours, I thought that might be the perfect way to wrap up our evening.

Buffalo, New York in the evening as seen from Fort Erie, Ontario.

Located across from Buffalo near the shores of Lake Erie, the current Old Fort Erie is not the original Old Fort Erie as that fort was built in 1764 and located on the water's edge, below where the current fort is located.  That fort got damaged by the harsh winter's so it was decided in 1803 that a new fort would be built on the heights above the original fort.

Fort Erie was the first fort built in Ontario by the British in 1764 during Pontiac’s Rebellion.

The plan for the new fort called for it be much more formidable and built of Onondaga Flintstone which was abundant in the area and had originally been used by the Iroquois people for tools and weapons.

View of the garrison at Old Fort Erie.

When the War of 1812 broke out, the fort was still unfinished and it passed from being in the possession of the British to the Americans and back to the British before attempts to rebuild the fort began.  The fort had been partially dismantled by the withdrawing British forces and Canadian militia before the Americans had taken it over.

The Monument at Old Fort Erie was originally erected in the ruins of the fort in 1904 and now stands over a mass grave that was uncovered during the fort's restoration in 1937-1939. Here lie the remains of 150 British and 3 American soldiers, killed during fighting here in 1814.

On July 3rd, 1814 the Americans returned and once again took control of the fort.  On August 15th, the British attempted a four-pronged attack on the fort in order to recover it but the Americans met them with a good defense and when an explosion occurred in the North East Bastion, all hope of a victory was lost along with the loss of over 1,000 troops. On December 5th, 1814, the Americans withdrew from Fort Erie but not before destroying the fort and leaving it as the bloodiest battlefield in the history of Canada.

In 1937 reconstruction of the fort to its 1812-1814 status began and on July 1st, 1939 Old Fort Erie reopened under the ownership of and operation by the Niagara Parks Commission.

The Outer Gate at Fort Erie consisted of large wooden double doors with iron studding and reinforcements.

As we waited outside the massive gates for our Ghost Walk guide to arrive, it dawned on me that the War of 1812 was really quite a significant event for Canada.  I honestly don't know why it had never occurred to me before that but it was the first time I had ever been someplace where we as Americans had been the aggressors.  I honestly didn't feel really good about it but there's no changing history - it is what it is and we can only hope that we learn from it and not make the same mistakes twice.  Still, I knew that I was standing on what was considered hallowed ground and it was with reverence that I entered the fort once our guide arrived and gave us instructions.

Our tour guide for the evening's Ghost Walk arrives.

My first thought was that the gentleman standing before us who was going to lead us through the fort had stepped out of the pages of a Dickens novel and that he would have fit in perfectly on the Salem Trolley's version of "A Christmas Carol"! Turns out that he did a great job on the walk though I really wanted to steal his hat!

Our guide tells us what to expect on our evening's walk through the old fort.

As we walked through the various rooms of the garrison and our guide told us one ghost story after another it got darker and darker outside.  Pictures were obviously going to be tricky as our guide had explicitly told us not to use flash in any of the rooms while we were in there.  Because of that, the two pictures below that were taken in the Commander's Quarters have a rather ghostly look to them as they were long hand-held exposures that obviously shook a little bit.  Still, I rather like them and think that they had to the story of our Ghost Walk!

A slightly
A hand-held long exposure lends a ghostly glow to the Commander's Quarters at Old Fort Erie.

After we were done in the kitchen, the thought occurred to me that I could probably get away with a little bit of flash photography once everyone else was out of the room. After all, our guide had said not to use a flash during his talk as it was generally blinding but without him there ... why not?

Artifacts in the kitchen at Old Fort Erie.
The fireplace in the kitchen at Old Fort Erie.
Artifacts and displays in the former storage room at Old Fort Erie.

As you can see by the above pictures of both the kitchen and the supply room, once I was able to use a flash, the ethereal look to the picture wasn't there and it looks like a regular old room!  Aw ... Still, the stories that our guide told were interlaced with historical facts so it made for an interesting evening even if we didn't experience anything out of the ordinary beyond the bites of mosquitoes who had decided that we made for a good buffet!

The International Peace Bridge at night.

At the end of our ghost walk it was time to head back up towards Niagara Falls but on the way I got Steve to stop so that I could take another picture of the Peace Bridge - this time illuminated.  Speaking of illumination, Steve asked if I would like to go back over to the Falls so that I could see them close up from Table Rock.  As I hadn't gotten to that point the night before, he said that it would be interesting for me to see exactly how close visitors can get to the Falls.  Being that it was close to 11:00 Steve said that he thought it would be easier to find a parking place close to the Table Rock Centre and if not, he would drop Carole and I off and drive around a bit until we were ready to leave.

The Falls Incline Railway, originally known as the Horsehoe Falls Incline, was built on the Canadian side of the Horseshoe Falls in 1966.
Entrance to the Falls at Table Rock in Niagara Falls.It was really too good of an offer to pass up so after driving through Clifton Hills and the crowds of people who were out and about on a lovely Friday evening, we found a parking space quite close to Table Rock Centre. On our way to the Falls we passed the Falls Incline Railway which has been in operation since 1966 and provides an easy way for tourists to go between the Fallsview attractions and the entrance to Table Rock Centre. At only 190 feet per minute it's the slowest incline railway in the world but it sure had to beat climbing back up the steep hill after walking around down at Horseshoe Falls!

Niagara Parkway at night as the lights illuminate the Falls.

As they had been the night before, the Falls were illuminated courtesy of the Niagara Falls Illumination Board but this time I was seeing the water and the colors close up and I do mean close up!

Horseshoe Falls illuminated at night.

In the picture above you can just about make out the railing to the bottom right of the picture and beyond that the edge of the Falls.  Yes - you can get really, really close and to be honest, it's somewhat on the scary side.

The Canadian Falls illuminated on late Friday night.

Where we were standing we weren't getting drenched by the ever-present mist that was blowing towards the statue of Nikola Tesla again but I think my palms were breaking out in a bit of a cold sweat as I stood so close to the power of the 174-foot waterfall and felt the ground trembling beneath my feet.

The view of Horseshoe Falls from the Table Rock Center.

It was definitely beautiful but it was also pretty terrifying when you got right down to it and I just couldn't for the life of me figure out why people felt the need to climb up on the rails to get a better view.  Hello? How close of a view do you really need?

Water rushed over the Canadian Falls at night.

To see the Canadian Falls up close and illuminated really was the perfect ending to my day exploring the beauty and the history and the mystery of the Niagara Falls area with Steve and Carole.  I can't thank them enough for all of the places that they took me and all of the things they showed me just in the course of about 14 hours.  Yes, it was a long day but it was so much fun and I'm sure that I got to see places that the average tourist never even hears of! Add on the fact that by the time I got to Kilpatrick Manor I was totally wiped out and had one of the best sleeps ever, I'm all for doing it again sometime!  I'm sure I can talk Carole into coming back down from Sudbury and playing tour guide again if I ask nicely!

Even though I showed you a lot of them, if you are interested in viewing more pictures from my travels with Carole and Steve, please visit my SmugMug page! For my final post on my travels to the Niagara Falls area, I'll finally cross back over to the other side and show you the American view of the Falls. It's nice but honestly, the Canadian side really IS nicer!


Comments

  1. I can remember how loud the falls were... and the mist... but it is so beautiful!

    That gentleman sure looked his part.

    And that carousel is just beautiful! A nickel a ride is a bargain!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was a great nickel's worth! I love the camel and the giraffe.

    Great 'ghostly' pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love carousels and this one is a beauty

    all your shots are wonderful

    my nickel is in the mail :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, what a full day you had! Love the ghosty out of focus photos! I could do without the really close up part of viewing the falls considering my height-o-phobia!

    Lynda and Rick WERE planning to taking Miss Aria to the zoo today so she could ride the Carousel, which she absolutely loves better than anything at the moment, until Lynda discovered over the weekend that the carousel would be closed. They would sure ride many many many times for a nickel! They decided it would probably be best to not go rather than have her be so upset about not being able to ride the Carousel. Sometimes you must take the path of least resistance!

    Did you save your ticket? :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm leaving you more than a nickle. Just saying. How fun and what rich history. You should have taught history. You would have been perfect.

    Have a terrific day. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yes, why didn't we go on another carousel ride?? lol I remember the first time I went, Steve had bought me 5 tickets and I used them all up:-) I've so enjoyed reliving our day together through your pictures and it truly amazes me how much we saw and did! lol You're right, the average tourist doesn't get to see what we saw that day so consider yourself special! hehe Our ghost walk guide sure did look like someone out of a Dicken's novel:-) Anytime you want us as your tour guides, just say the word. We're heading back there on the Sept. 24-25th weekend so need to find a few things new to us...getting a bit harder to find, though! lol xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  7. Carole, I get the feeling that you'll definitely find some new places to go and if not, I like reliving some of the older places through your blog, too! Have you been over to the American side to see Fort Niagara? I bet that would be nice! And you could always be brave and go on the Aero Car! NOW that would be something new for you two!

    Thank you again for hauling me around and showing me so many of the wonderful sites in the area, I enjoyed every single minute of it and that's probably because you and Steve are such fun to be around! I don't care how nice an area is, if your tour guide sucks then the tour sucks!! This tour definitely did not suck, I just wish we'd had another day together so you could have showed me Lundy's Lane and some of the other places I know we missed!

    As much as I loved it up there, I know I'll be back sometime!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow Linda, you write beautifully! And your photos are excellent. You could be a fantastic tour guide!

    I grew up in the Niagara Region (Canadian side) and have lived in Ottawa for the past 30 some years. I still have relatives from Niagara so we get down there several times a year. Your blog showed me things I never knew. Thanks so much. Makes me proud to be from that region.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lucky you to have found such GREAT tour guides for this fab trip. I thoroughly enjoyed tagging along...again. Great photos! Where are we going next???

    ReplyDelete

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