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

During the course of my first post on my journey around the Niagara area with my Canadian blogging friend Carole and her friend Steve, I showed you a monument to a brave war hero, another monument to a Canadian heroine, a beautiful mansion, a tiny wayside chapel, and more. This post offers you old forts, a historic town, and a haunted inn along with a few other stops along the way!

Leaving the little Living Water Wayside Chapel behind and continuing down the Niagara Parkway, we soon came to a spot that Carole knew I was just going to love. First though we came across a lovely brick building - the Pumphouse. Built in 1891, it is the Niagara Region's oldest surviving pumping station building; prior to its existence, the town's domestic water supply came from springs and private wells. The building originally contained a boiler, steam engine and water pumps as well as living quarters for the operating engineer. In 1893 an electric light plant was introduced and the living quarters were re-fitted to accommodate its "engineer", who like the plant engineer, was paid $25 per month. The electric light plant ceased operations pre-1920 with the the water works following in 1983. After the town bought the building for $1, a group of citizens raised funds to restore the Pumphouse and in 1994 it was reopened as the Niagara Pumphouse Visual Art Centre, a non-profit organization that organizes classes, workshops, and exhibitions in a wide range of media.

The Niagara Pumphouse Visual Art Centre is housed in the former Niagara Pumphouse, a Victorian brick building built in 1891 on the banks of the Niagara River. It housed pumps and filter tanks supplying water to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake until 1983.

Adjacent to the Pumphouse is the thing that Carole knew I was just going to love - the Niagara River Rear Range Light that was established in 1903 and still serves as an active aid to navigation. Yes! A lighthouse! Built along with the Front Range Light which sits at the mouth of the Niagara River in the private Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club marina, the Rear Range light was built to mark the channel into the Niagara River from Lake Ontario. The 47-foot square pyramidal wooden tower is painted white with red trim and topped with a red lantern that emits a continuous red light. The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard.

Niagara River Rear Range Lighthouse: Located at the mouth of the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, the light is an active aid to navigation. The 47-foot white square pyramidal wooden tower with red lantern was built in 1903 to mark the channel into the Niagara River

Further up from the Pumphouse and Rear Range Light, we came across a Niagara-on-the-Lake movie star of sorts – a 20-foot-wide by 25-foot-high white gazebo that was built for use in the filming of Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone” in January of 1983. Ten weeks of principal photography for the movie was shot in Canada (during what turned out to be the coldest winter in 70 years!) after the associate producer for the movie, Jeffrey Chernov, decided that Niagara-on-the-Lake conveyed the film’s mood perfectly which was described as “Norman Rockwell American Gothic”.

This gazebo was built as a prop during the filming of Stepeh King's

After filming was completed and the gazebo was presented to the town as a gift, the Town Council had to decide whether to tear down the gazebo for the value of its lumber or leave it standing as a sightseeing gazebo in a town that prides itself on being historically-preserved. Finally they decided that because the gazebo was so well-built and perfectly located, they voted to keep the historically accurate edifice. Honestly, if I didn’t know better I would have sworn it had been built by the town’s founding citizens and been there all along as it fits in that well!

The weathervane atop the gazebo.

Standing at the gazebo and looking across the mouth of the Niagara River on the American side, you can see Old Fort Niagara whose history spans over 300 years and is today operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc, a not-for-profit group, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. In 1960 the fort was among the first sites designated by the US Government as a National Historic Landmark.

As seen from the gazebo at Niagara on the Lake, Old Fort Niagara has dominated the entrance to the Niagara River since 1726.

Three different nations have held Fort Niagara over the years with the French establishing the first post as Fort Conti in 1679 which was succeeded by Fort Denonville from 1687-88. Due to the severe weather and disease, the post was abandoned in 1688 but in 1726 France finally erected a permanent fortification with the construction of a two-story "Maison a Machicoulis". The building was called the “House of Peace” to appease the Iroquois who were based in upstate New York. The fort was expanded to its present size in 1755 due to increased tensions between the French and the British.

A view from the gazebo across the mouth of the Niagara River.

In 1759 Britain gained control of Fort Niagara during the French and Indian War following a 19-day siege called the Battle of Fort Niagara. The British held the post throughout the American Revolution and were supposed to turn it over to the United States after the Treaty of Paris ended the war but it was only following the signing of the Treaty of Jay in 1796 that the British finally handed it over to the United States. Seventeen years later, on December 19th, 1813, the fort was recaptured by the British during the War of 1812 and then handed back over to the United States following the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24th, 1814 which ended the War of 1812. It has remained in U.S. custody ever since.

From gazing across the Niagara River to view an old fort, Carole and I went to walking across the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club to view another old fort - the remains of Fort Mississauga, an all-brick fort that was built from 1814-1816 during the War of 1812 to replace nearby Fort George which was captured by US forces in May 1813 during the Battle of Fort George.

Signage for Fort Mississauga Trail across the golf course.

In the late 1870s - heck, I didn't even know people golfed in North America then! - a golf course was laid out around the fort remains so to get there, visitors follow a marked pedestrian trail that leads to the fort. Visitors must allow any golfers on the course in the area to play through and keep a close eye out for any errant golf balls that might have been hit their way but once inside the fort gate they’re free to explore as much as they’d like.

Front gates at Fort Mississauga leading out to the golf course.
Fort Mississauga National Historic Site is a fort along the shore of Lake Ontario, not far from the Niagara River in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The fort today consists of a box–shaped brick tower and historic star–shaped earthworks—the only one in the country. The all–brick fort was built from 1814–1816 during the War of 1812, to replace nearby Fort George.

Before the fort was built, the land that it sits on was used by three different Native American tribes – the Neutral in the 15th century, the Seneca in the late 17th century, and the Mississauga in the 18th century. In 1804 the first lighthouse on the Great Lakes was erected on the site but it was dismantled in 1814 to make way for the fort which was built using some of the brick from the lighthouse. Even though it’s no longer there, the Mississagua Point Lighthouse was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1937 and is commemorated with a plaque inside the walls of the fort.

Point Mississauga Lighthouse plaque at Fort Mississauga

Historic Plaque at Fort Mississauga

The remains of Fort Mississagua consist of a box-shaped brick tower and historic star-shaped earthworks – the only ones in the country. The fort was built on a foundation of brick and stone that was salvaged from the rubble that was left after United States forces sacked the nearby town of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), the former capital of the Province of Upper Canada, in December of 1813.

The remains of the brick tower with the star-shaped earthworks at historic Fort Mississauga.

The British Army was stationed at Fort Mississagua from 1813 to 1855 and it was later used by the Canadian Army as a summer training ground beginning in the 1870s as well as during both World Wars and the Korean War. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, the fort is part of the Niagara National Historic Sites and is managed by Parks Canada in the National Park System.

Tunnel from inside Fort Mississiagua down towards Lake Ontario

This particular passageway - or sallyport - dug into the earthworks of the fort led out towards Lake Ontario which was down a bit of a slope on the other side.  I suspect that had the fort seen battle, troops would have used it as a secure way to get in and out of the fort but Fort Mississagua was never part of the war as it wasn't completed until the end of the War of 1812.

Gate at the end of the tunnel leading to Lake Ontario from inside Fort Mississauga.

Leaving the grounds of Fort Mississigua behind and meeting back up with Steve who had driven around the neighborhood a bit while Carole and I checked out the fort, we drove into the downtown area of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Initially known as Onghiara, a Neutral Nation village, the town was settled at the close of the American Revolution by Loyalists coming to Upper Canada from the United States, many of whom had been members of the much feared Butler's Rangers based during the American Revolution at Fort Niagara which was at that time under British control. In 1781 the British Government purchased a 6-mile wide strip of land along the Niagara River for "300 suits of clothing" and by 1782 sixteen families had made the area their home.

In 1792 the village was incorporated as the Town of Newark and was named the capital of the newly-formed Province of Upper Canada - a distinction that was lost to York (now Toronto) in 1797 due to its proximity to the United States which presented a danger. The town prospered and thrived as a supply depot for British Loyalist forces and by the end of the 18th century it had developed into a major military and cultural center with over 70 new homes being built.

In 1813 the town was set on fire and destroyed by American forces when they abandoned Fort George which virtually erased the physical appearance of the town with the exception of the powder magazine at the fort. Soon, though, the town was rebuilt and became an active commercial center with a busy shipping and ship-building industry as well as many shops and warehouses.

Today the town of NOTL is brimming with historical plaques, both National and Provincial, which reflect the town's significance in the establishment of many of the Province of Ontario's institutions including its first newspaper, lending library, Parliament, historical museum, and governing body for the legal profession. Niagara-on-the-Lake is, in fact, the only town in Canada that has a Lord Mayor. In 2003, the town's historic district was designated a National Historic Site of Canada and it annually draws close to three million tourists.

Carole and Steve told me that it was one of their very favorite places in the Niagara area and it was easy to see why as we walked down Queen Street and looked at and into some of the shops that a lot of other people were looking at and into! Carole said that the people there that Friday were nothing compared to the droves that are there on summer weekends and during the Christmas season but she said it's so beautiful at Christmas-time that she's happy to put up with the crowds.  I'm either going to be content to take her word for it or go back up there at Christmas-time sometime myself one of these years just to prove it out!  In the meantime, allow me to show you a little bit of the charming NOTL.

Maple Leaf Fduge, located on Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake since 1967.

One of our first stops was at Maple Leaf Fudge which is one of the biggest shops in historic NOTL (as the locals call the town).  They've been making some of the best fudge on the planet since 1967 and while we were there we got to watch Michael whipping up a batch of blueberry fudge - one of their seasonal flavors along with a very tasty cherry fudge.

Michael at Maple Leaf Fudge preparing blueberry fudge.

Michael told us he had been working at Maple Leaf Fudge for 33 years which I'm going to assume makes him a Master Fudgeologist or whatever one calls a maker of fudge!  No matter what you call him, he really knew what he was doing with the hot fudge mixture, the paddle, and the marble slab as he soon had that puddle of stuff laid out before him into a wooden mold and looking like this:

Blueberry fudge setting up prior to slicing.

The fudge stays in the wooden mold until it's had a good chance to firm up and then it's removed and cut into slices like the ones in the display case below.  The fudge is sold by the slice and not the pound (I found that to be rather unique) and you're more than welcome to ask for a sample or two - which we did!

Display cases at Maple Leaf Fudge

The gal behind the counter was telling us that their fudge is highly recommended by Donny Osmond who always makes it a point to come to the shop when he's in the area.  She said that he had been there just recently as he'd been performing up in Toronto.  Heck, if it's good enough for Donny Osmond then it was good enough for me so I made sure to buy a few slices to bring back to the States with me!

The Museum of the Paranormal

From Maple Leaf Fudge we walked over to the recently expanded Museum of the Paranormal - a favorite haunt of Carole and Steve! According to their website: "“The Museum” is Canada’s only space dedicated to everything dark, creepy, spooky and paranormal. Upon entering the museum you’ll be greeted by our many Victorian friends, gathered over the years in photography from all over Southern Ontario. Once at the top of the stairs you’ll find our dedication to THE DEAD. This includes the largest personal collection of interesting Post-Mortem photography (photos of the dead) around."  They also offer spooky tours and Ghost Walks from the museum which are apparently quite popular and quite fun according to Carole and Steve who have taken several of them. Rumor has it that Niagara-on-the-Lake is quite haunted in places though I didn't see anything hair-raising while I was there!

Candied apples!
I did, however, see some very tasty chocolate-covered apples ... 

Looking for those hard-to-find Will and Kate collectibles?!?
... and lots of dishes and such to celebrate everyone's favorite royal couple - Kate and Will! 

All sorts of delicious looking baked goods in a store window on Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
This very British bakery had jars of clotted cream, baked goods that were definitely drool-worthy, and all sorts of other British cookies and crackers.  As a side note, when we walked back past this same window on our way to the car, it was practically empty!  

Leaving the temptation of the bakery behind we then popped into Carole's favorite store in all of NOTL - Just Christmas.  There since 1985, it's Canada's oldest year-round Christmas store and July or not, most of the 15 decorated rooms within the place were packed!    

Fuzzy Christmas nutcrackers
Christmas ornament
An upside-down tropical Christmas tree.
Statue of George Bernard Shaw

Not part of the Christmas shop even though he has a beard!, a statue of the playwright George Bernard Shaw can be found in honor of Niagara-on-the-Lake being home to The Shaw Festival - a major Canadian theatre festival holding a series of theatrical productions featuring the works of George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries, or plays about his era (1856–1950) that runs from April to November. The second largest repertory theatre company in North America was founded in 1962 in NOTL with its original mandate to stimulate interest in George Bernard Shaw and his period and to advance the development of theatre arts in Canada.

Just down the road a piece from the statue of Shaw in the center of the historic district is the Town Clock which was built as a memorial to the brave men from Niagara-on-the-Lake who fought in World Wars I and II.
The Court House which serves as a Shaw Festival theatre and Parks Canada headquarters of Niagara National Historic.  Sites.

The Town Clock is located near the Court House (circa 1847) which used to serve as the Town Hall but is now a Shaw Festival Theatre and the Parks Canada Headquarters of Niagara National Historical Sites. This building was also used during the filming of The Dead Zone - a movie that I really need to rewatch so I can try to spot all of the places that Carole told me were in the movie!

Established in 1864, Prince of Wales Hotel was originally known as Long’s Hotel and first opened its doors in the 1860s, just prior to confederation of Canada in 1867.

A hotel that I would most definitely put on my bucket list if I ever thought there was a way that I could afford it without having to rob a bank is the Prince of Wales Hotel which was established in 1864.  Just looking at it from the outside, you know it's got to be gorgeous on the inside!  The hotel is touted as being "the true essence of Victorian charm" and that's just not hard to believe at all.  I wonder if Donny Osmond has stayed there while enjoying his Maple Leaf Fudge?  I bet he has!  Ah, now there's a hotel I'd love to write a post on someday ... Sigh.  A girl can dream, right?

Ah well, back to reality!  Kitty-korner across the street from the Prince of Wales is the Niagara Apothecary which is an authentic museum restoration of an 1869 pharmacy that operated in Niagara-on-the-Lake from 1820 to 1964.  Carole and I walked around a bit inside and took a few pictures which visitors are allowed to do for a small donation to the museum.  It was pretty interesting to see all of the old "remedies and cures" that people used to buy.

The Niagara Apothecary in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Shelves of medcines and potions and such
Inside the Niagara Apothecary,an authentic museum restoration of a 1869 pharmacy as part of a practice that operated in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, from 1820 to 1964.
Coin-operated perfume dispenser.
Jar for leeches inside the Niagara Apothecary

The coin-operated perfume machine up to the right looked pretty neat but I think I'd pass on that big jar of leeches!  Eww!  I know they did have their uses but still - eww! Can you imagine walking into your local CVS or Walgreen's or Rite-Aid and asking for leeches these days??

Water fountain erected in 1892 in commemoration of the founding of the Province of Upper Canada on July 16, 1792
The above water fountain was erected in 1892 in commemoration of the founding of the Province of Upper Canada on July 16th, 1792 - and it still works!

At that point we decided that it was most definitely getting to be time to eat lunch but first Carole and I had to find Steve as we had somehow managed to lose him when we walked over to the Apothecary. Eventually we located him sitting on a bench doing some people-watching and then made our way over to The Olde Angel Inn which is Ontario's oldest operating inn that was established in 1789 and rebuilt in 1816 after it too was burned down during the War of 1812. Honestly, I kept thinking it was a good thing that no one knew I was an American while we were there as I was starting to feel a bit of residual guilt about my forefathers!

The Olde Angel Inn is the oldest operating inn in Ontario.

Believed to have been founded as The Harmonious Coach House on land granted to the deputy surveyor-general around 1789, the Angel Inn is a very comfy British style pub with exposed rustic brick fireplaces, hand-hewn beams and thick plank floors, that were laid in 1815 by then-owner John Ross who renamed it the Angel Inn in honor of his wife.

An inside look at the Angel Inn of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Angel Inn is more than a place to dine with some pretty darned tasty pub fare though, it has a rather interesting ghost story.

"There is a popular local legend (that shows up in accounts dating to the 1820's) of an unfortunate Canadian militia officer who was killed at the Inn during the American invasion of May, 1813.

Captain Colin Swayze had delayed joining the British retreat in order to rendezvous with a young woman, believed to be his true love. Surprised by American soldiers sent to search the Inn, he hid in an empty barrel in the cellar. The invaders used bayonets to prod into every corner and possible place of concealment and the unlucky lover received a fatal wound.

Some believe the Ghost of Captain Swayze is fated to walk the Inn at night, perhaps in longing for his love. There have been reports of noises coming from the empty(?) dining room, rearranged place settings, and other unexplained occurrences.

It is said that his ghost will remain harmless as long as the British flag flies over the Inn, a precaution prudently taken by the proprietor."

True or not it's a good tale and I'm sure adds to the appeal of the Angel Inn where you can not only get something to eat and drink but also spend the night should the spirit move you (no pun intended!). The inn offers five guest rooms which I'm sure are quite popular - especially with the folks who like to take the Ghost Walks from the Museum of the Paranormal!

Speaking of ghost walks, in the next segment of my tour of the Niagara area with my personal Canadian tour guides, Carole and Steve, I'll show you a screaming tunnel, take you for a ride on an old carousel for just a nickel, and bring you on our ghost walk through Old Fort Erie! I hope you'll join us!


  1. Seeing the Master Fudgeologist reminded me of Brad's uncle and anu. They lived next door to Brad and owned and operated a candy store on Main St for most of their adult lives. They were the family Chocolatiers! Of course they too made many different fudges, but my favorite chocolate delight they made were the barks. YUM! Heaven in your mouth I tell you!

    Sadly, they have both passed away and an animal hospital now occupies the building that once was Hertel's Candies.

    And THAT, my dear, is a little Tewksbury history!

    Thanks for stirring up that memory!

  2. Mmmmm.... fudge. The Dead Zone was about the only Stephen King movie I could watch. Loved it.

    Thanks for taking us on the tour!

  3. What a GREAT post...beautiful photos, history...and chocolate! Excellent. I almost felt as if I were actually there with you, which would be sooo much fun...

  4. All of your pictures turned out so fabulously and I still laugh when I think of us losing Steve! lol I never realize how much we see in one day until I see the pictures of all the wonder Steve complains that he's exhausted at the end of the day:-) We just had such a ball showing you some of our favourite places and believe it or not, there's still tons more to see!!!! Hey, why are you running away?? hehe xoxo


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