The History of Niagara Falls’ Clifton Hill
Whether you’ve stumbled upon this section by accident, come here to rekindle memories or simply want to learn about the fascinating history of Niagara Falls’s Clifton Hill area, I hope this section will be fascinating and informative.
Niagara’s history is a long, rich, and complex one that’s just as untold in spots as it is famous in others. The fascinating thing to me about the history of the Falls is how it’s history as a community often gets overlooked. The Falls itself definitely deserves the proverbial historical pedestal it’s been placed upon, playing a major role in Canadian history as a whole. While we will likely discuss (and definitely reference) many of these more-known historical facts in this section of the site, my main interest lies in Niagara’s equally-rich, largely-obscure, more recent history as a “tourist town” that’s much, much more than that.
Niagara to me (as I think to be true to more people than is openly said) is a place that is full of memories, joy, and childhood nostalgia. There are a million ways to make money in a place as heavily visited as Niagara Falls, and a million ways to make a substantially larger amount of money than much of what’s here does, however the amusement industry is unique in the sense that it chooses to make money by putting smiles on faces and offering lifetime memories, even if it means giving up the potentially higher profits other developments may bring in. Nowhere is this truer than in Niagara Falls.
While much of the area around the Falls and the Niagara Gorge are full of tourist offerings, ground zero for Niagara’s amusement industry both today and throughout history is Clifton Hill, a small stretch of road between the Niagara Parkway and Victoria Avenue. What may appear to some as “tacky” or “outdated” is actually a culminating work of many local families, small business owners, entrepreneurs, artists and designers that’s not just important to the history of amusements in Canada, but the history of the amusement industry as a whole.
Which brings me to what makes Niagara so unique and fun: the locals. The residents of Niagara Falls made it what is, and as much as a surprise as it may be to visitors who don’t leave the big casinos, people in fact live here. Over 88,000 to be exact, and in few places on Earth will you find a more hard-working, diverse, welcoming, and unique community. What makes me so fascinated with the Clifton Hill area and the amusement district as a whole is that this community is reflected here. The welcoming nature of the community is what built these tourist offering in the first place, and the hard-working locals constructed and run it for the joy of tourists from every corner of the globe.
This section will be a love-letter of sorts to the community, that covers the history of attractions and other oddities past and present that haven’t had a chance to have their story told. In a way, it’s a thank you to this place and the community behind it for making me smile as a child and still smile today, the same way I know it has for hundreds of millions of others over the years and continues to today. In fact, my earliest memory is staring in wonderment at a dinosaur figure at the Dinosaur Park Miniature Golf, when it existed in it’s original location (it’s since moved twice, been expanded, and rebranded to Dinosaur Adventure Golf.) A lot has changed since then, but much more has remained the same. Specifically, the community’s undying spirit and personality.
So I welcome you to this section that will hopefully become a place that contains Niagara’s untold history in one spot. It will cover everything from the better known, longtime Clifton Hill attractions like Movieland Wax Museum and The House of Frankenstein, to ultra-obscure, off-the-strip attractions from years past I accidentally uncovered through the Canadian Copyright Database. There will also be articles on the more local spots from years past, far away from the tourist areas and completely unknown to visitors but fondly remembered by locals. Most of the articles not focusing on a specific location will focus on individual artists, local families and business owners who contributed to Niagara’s growth as an amusement mecca (there may even be a few interviews!) Thanks once again for visiting this site and I hope you enjoy what we’ve set up here. Finally, thank you to the community of Niagara Falls and may this section serve as a way to give back to the community and tell this story.