Share this article

print logo

Feeling the spray of Niagara Falls’ past

NIAGARA FALLS – Tickle your imagination with high society from the glory days of the Falls. Pack your brain with forgotten history about some of the oldest buildings in the city, some built during the Civil War and others even older. Discover ornate designs of houses and mansions that prominent industrialists from a bygone era once called home.

About two dozen sites and structures are featured on a new walking tour in downtown Niagara Falls with stories of culture, history and architecture.

The 90-minute walking tour, dubbed “Legacy Tour: Powerful People, Powerful Places,” costs $10 and is organized by the Niagara Falls Historic Preservation Society.

Some of the society’s goals in establishing the tours include encouraging tourism, educating the public, and building pride among area residents around local history, said President Marge Gillies.

All of the information provided during the tours has been reviewed and vetted by area historians, as well as professors associated with the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

“We don’t want to wing it,” Gillies said. “We want to tell the truth.”

The first tour was given Aug. 20, and tours will be running through October.

Some of the highlights include:

• The former hotel where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio are believed to have stayed when she was in town filming the 1953 movie “Niagara.”

• The church that likely changed its name, at least in part, after one of its prominent parishioners from one of the city’s leading families.

• The cluster of homes overlooking the Niagara River where historical figures like Frederick Law Olmsted and Nikola Tesla are believed to have visited.

Many of the sites are well-known addresses – such as the former Hotel Niagara, the Whitney Mansion and the former Niagara Club. A few are currently empty lots where important structures once stood but have long lost the physical markers connecting them to history.

The tours begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays from the Niagara USA Visitor Center, 10 Rainbow Blvd. The society is considering adding a tour on Saturdays, while other types of tours are also in the process of being developed.

Certified docents who lead the tours went through weeks of training from Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the region’s leading organization dealing with historic preservation issues.

The tour, which covers an area roughly bounded by Buffalo Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard and First and Fourth streets, is completely outdoors and does not include entering any buildings or going onto private property.

The society established the tours in partnership with the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York and the state Council on the Arts.

For more information or to reserve a spot in an upcoming tour, visit the society’s website,