Our History

Our History

Downtown then, now, and in the future…

In 1853 construction began to build an international suspension bridge over the Niagara Gorge. This brought work and prosperity to the north end of Stamford township. A shanty-town development was erected to house workers at the base of the bridge. Over the years, this became the Village of Elgin. The amalgamation of the Village of Elgin with the town of Clifton was caused by the Great Western, Erie, and Ontario Railways and their economic impact. The prosperous town boasted fifteen grocery stores and twenty saloons and hotels. However, the Elgin community still remained the focal point of commercial activity. 

The majority of the early Downtown businesses were located on the lower part of Bridge street, Erie Avenue, and River road, with a few businesses on Clifton avenue (now Zimmerman) and Park Street. 

At the turn of the century, retail activity slowly started to shift to Queen Street, where to date, some of these firms are still operating. Downtown’s residences have given way to stores and offices that form the downtown core we see today. 

From its origin in the 1850s, the Downtown Core remains the City’s financial hub. The major of Canadian Chartered banks still make Downtown their home. The medical, legal, and accounting professions are well represented in the Downtown core. Municipal government services are provided through City hall. The Federal Government is also represented in the Downtown at Post Office. Along with these activities, Downtown offers a wide range of entertainment and personal services for all to enjoy. 

Downtown Niagara Falls Now!

Downtown is a dynamic destination for locals and tourists alike. A neighborhood established in the 1850’s, this area is home to a number of historic buildings including some that still feature their original architecture. Head to Downtown to learn more about this history, and for a great local experience with unique merchandise, entertainment, sumptuous food, and so much more.

You will be delighted by what you find when you explore the many unique businesses that make up Downtown Niagara Falls. Assemble your team of super-star puzzle solvers and see if you can make your way out of one of the themed escape rooms at Adventure Rooms Canada. Test your skills and see if you can hit a bullseye by throwing an axe at BATL Niagara. The Backyard Axe Throwing League on Queen Street has numerous axe throwing lanes, expert coaches and food and drink available on-site.

If thrill seeking adventure isn’t your thing, slow it down a bit by browsing one-of-a-kind original Canadian Fine Art at Steve Wilson Studios & The Gallery where you can find the works of local, national and international artist in exhibitions that change every two to four weeks. Are you craving some live entertainment, check out the show schedule at the Seneca Queen Theatreto enjoy live tribute shows and special events in the wonderfully renovated venue.

For some fun and fresh air, head to Snap E-Bike Rentals & Tours for the ultimate e-bike rental experience in Niagara Falls! All equipment is provided including high-performance e-bikes, stylish helmets, bike locks, saddlebags, snacks & drinks. You can explore Queen Street and beyond by riding down the Niagara Parkway all the way to the Falls for scenic views at every angle.

Downtown is also home to the GoTrain Station and a WEGO Bus Terminal where visitors can hop-on the state-of-the-art bus system to access tourist areas, accommodations and attractions along the Niagara Parkway, Clifton Hill, Fallsview Boulevard and Lundy’s Lane.

History and Formation of the Falls

As told by Niagara Falls Tourism:

The Niagara River and the entire Great Lakes Basin of which it is a part, is a legacy of the last Ice Age. Close to 18,000 years ago, southern Ontario was covered by ice sheets 2-3 kilometers thick. As the ice sheets advanced southward they gouged out the basins of the Great Lakes. Then as they melted northward for the last time they released vast quantities of meltwater into these basins. Our water is “fossil water”; less than one percent of it is renewable on an annual basis, the rest leftover from the ice sheets.

The Niagara Peninsula became free of the ice about 12,500 years ago. As the ice retreated northward, its meltwaters began to flow down through what became Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, down to the St. Lawrence River and on to the Atlantic Ocean. There were originally 5 spillways from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Eventually these were reduced to one, the original Niagara Falls, at the escarpment at Queenston-Lewiston. From here the Falls began its steady erosion through the bedrock.

However, about 10,500 years ago, through an interplay of geological effects including alternating retreats and re-advances of the ice, and rebounding of the land when released from the intense pressure of the ice (isostatic rebound), this process was interrupted. The glacial meltwaters were rerouted through northern Ontario, bypassing the southern route. For the next 5,000 years Lake Erie remained only half the size of today, the Niagara River was reduced to about 10% of its current flow, and a much-reduced Falls stalled in the area of the Niagara Glen.

About 5,500 years ago the meltwaters were once again routed through southern Ontario, restoring the river and Falls to their full power. Then the Falls reached the Whirlpool.

It was a brief and violent encounter, a geological moment lasting only weeks, maybe even only days. In this moment the Falls of the youthful Niagara River intersected an old riverbed, one that had been buried and sealed during the last Ice Age. The Falls turned into this buried gorge, tore out the glacial debris that filled it, and scoured the old river bottom clean. It was probably not a falls at all now but a huge, churning rapids. When it was all over it left behind a 90-degree turn in the river we know today as the Whirlpool, and North America’s largest series of standing waves we know today as the Whirlpool Rapids.

The Falls then re-established at about the area of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and resumed carving its way through solid rock to its present location.

Cavitation is a special type of erosion that happens at waterfalls because only at the base of waterfalls is there enough speed to produce enough bubbles close enough to rock to affect it. This is the fastest type of erosion. As the water goes over the falls, it speeds up, loses internal pressure, air escapes as bubbles or cavities. These cavities collapse when the water comes to rest, sending out shock waves to the surrounding rock, disintegrating it.