No one acquainted with the Niagara of today can imagine what were the conditions existing here before the days of the New York State Reservation and Queen Victoria Park. That old Niagara of private ownership, with a new fee for every point of vantage, was a barbarous incongruity only matched by the wonder and beauty of the spectacle itself. The admission to Goat Island was fifty cents, and to the Cave of the Winds, one dollar. To gain Prospect Park, the ” Art Gallery,” the inclined railway, or the ferry, the charge was twenty-five cents. It cost one dollar to go to the ” Shadow of the Rock,” or go behind the Horseshoe Fall. The admission to the Burning Spring was fifty cents, likewise to Lundy’s Lane battle-ground, the Whirlpool Rapids, the Whirlpool. It cost twenty-five cents to go upon either of the suspension bridges. In addition to this a swarm of pedlars were hawking their wares at your elbows, and tents were pitched at every vantage point, containing the tallest man or the fattest woman, or the most astonishing reptile then in a state of captivity in all the world.
Not even the five-legged calves missed their share of plunder at Niagara, according to Mr. Howells] who paid his money out to assure himself, as he affirms, that this marvel was in no wise comparable to the Falls. ” I do not say that the picture of the calf on the outside of the tent,” he observes, ” was not as good as some pictures of Niagara I have seen. It was, at least, as much like.” A writer of a decade before this (1850) speaks very strongly of the impositions to which a traveller is subjected at Niagara. How early in the century complaints began to appear cannot be stated ; it would be interesting to be able to get information on this point since it would determine a more important matter still the time when the Falls began to attract visitors in sufficient proportions to bring into existence the evils we find very prevalent at the middle of the century. The latter writer observes:
It would be paying Niagara a poor compliment to say that] practically she does not hurl off this chaffering by-play from her cope; but as you value the integrity of your impression, you are bound to affirm that it hereby suffers appreciable abatement ; you wonder, as you stroll about] whether it is altogether an unrighteous dream that with the slow progress of culture, and the possible or impossible growth of some larger comprehension of beauty and fitness] the public conscience may not tend to ensure to such sovereign phases of nature something of the inviolability and privacy which we are slow to bestow] indeed, upon fame, but which we do not grudge, at least, to art. We place a great picture, a great statue, in a museum; we erect a great monument in the centre of our largest square, and if we can suppose ourselves nowadays building a cathedral, we should certainly isolate it as much as possible and subject it to no ignoble contact. We cannot build about Niagara with walls and a roof, nor girdle it with a palisade; but the sentimental tourist may muse upon the chances of its being guarded by the negative homage of empty spaces, and absent barracks, and decent forbearance. The actual abuse of the scene belongs evidently to that immense class of iniquities which are destined to grow very much worse in order to grow a very little better. The good humour engendered by the main spectacle bids you suffer it to run its course.
There was at least no bettering of conditions at Niagara between 1850 and 1881, when more or less active steps began to be taken for the freeing of the beautiful shrine. True, Goat Island was kept ever in its primeval beauty, which by far counterbalanced the Porter mills on Bath Island; as William Dean Howells wrote, while these “were impertinent to the scenery they were picturesque with their low-lying, weather-worn masses in the shelter of the forest trees beside the brawling waters’ head. But nearly every other assertion of private rights in the landscape was an outrage to it.”
One of the strongest direct appeals to the nation’s conscience in behalf of enslaved Niagara appeared in 1881 and is worthy of reproduction, if only for its vivid description of the status of affairs at the Falls at that time:
The homage of the world has thrown a halo round Niagara for those who have not seen it, and Niagara has left its own impress upon every thoughtful person who has seen it, and every unpleasant feature therefore is brought into bold relief. Where the carcass is] there also will the eagles be gathered together. A continuous stream of open-mouthed travellers has offered rare opportunities to the quick-witted money-makers of all kinds; the contrast between the place and its surroundings] perceived at first by the few, has been for years trumpeted throughout the country by the number of correspondents who write periodical accounts of the season] and to-day every sane adult citizen may be said to know two things about Niagara: first, that there is a great waterfall there, and second, that a man’s pockets will be emptied more quickly there than anywhere else in the Union. . . . Niagara is being destroyed as a summer resort. It has long since ceased to be a place where people stay for a week or more, and it is now given up to second-class tourists, and excursionists who are brought by the car-load. The constant fees, the solicitation of the hackmen, the impertinences of the store-keepers, have actually been so potent that it is a rare thing to find any of the best people here. The hotels are not to blame ; the Cataract House for instance, is a quiet, comfortable hotel] excellently managed, and in the hands of gentlemanly proprietors, and it is probably by no means alone in this respect. The hotel-keepers are aware of the state of things; they do not encourage the excursion traffic. Some even seek to avoid the patronage of the excursionists. From all over the countryfrom places as far as Louisvillethe railway company bring the people by thousands: they pour out of the station in a stream half a mile long. Of course, like locusts] they sweep everything before them. Several placesProspect Park, for instancecater to the tastes of this class alone. Several evenings in the week Prospect Park is filled with a crowd of free-and-easy men and women] fetching their own tea and coffee and provisions and enjoying a rollicking dance in the Pavilion. And all this within fifty yards of the American fall! For their entertainment there is an illuminated spray-fountain, and their appreciation knows no bounds when various coloured lights arc thrown upon the Falls. Then a crowd of fifty swoops down upon one of the hotelsmen] women, and childrenall in brown linen dusters; all hot, hungry, and careless. These people must not be deprived of their recreation. Heaven forbid! None have a greater right than they to the influence of Niagara. But this way of visiting the place is all wrong; they derive little benefit] and they do infinite harm.
In this second sense the destruction of Niagara is making rapid strides in a far more dangerous direction. The natural attractions of the place are being undermined. On the American side the bank of the river above the Falls is covered for a quarter of a mile with structures of all kinds, from the extensive parlors and piazzas of the Cataract House to the little shanty where the Indian goods of Irish manufacture are sold.
For the purpose of securing bathrooms and water-power, dams of all kinds have been built ; these are wooden trenches filled with rough paving-stones. Some of the structures project over the Rapids] being supported by piles. The spaces between the various buildings arc used to store lumber, and as dust heaps. One of them contains a great heap of saw-dust, another a pile of scrap-iron. The banks and fences bear invitations to purchase Parker’s hair-balsam and ginger tonic. The proprietor of Prospect Park has made a laudable attempt to plant trees upon his land; these extend for a few yards above the Falls. In return, however, he has erected coloured arbours, and a station for his electric light, which are almost as unpleasant as the other buildings.
Just below the Suspension Bridge the gas-works discharge their tar down the bank into the river; a few yards further on there are five or six large manufactories] whose tail-races empty themselves over the cliff. The spectator on Goat Island] on the Suspension Bridge] or on the Canadian side cannot help seeing this mass of incongruous and ugly structures extending along the whole course of the Rapids and to the brink of the Falls. Of course, under these circumstances the Rapids are degraded into a mill-race, and the Fall itself seems to be lacking a water-wheel.
One half of Bath Islandwhich lies between Goat. Island and the shoreis filled with the ruins of a large paper-mill which was burnt in 1880. It is now being rebuilt and greatly enlarged. Masses of charred timbers, old iron] calcined stones and bricks] two or three great rusty boilers, the dirty heaps surmounted by a tall chimneysuch are the surroundings of a spot] which, for grandeur and romantic beauty, is not equalled in the world. A short distance below Bath Island lies Bird Island] a mere clump of trees in the midst of the rushing water, a mass of dark-green foliage overhanging its banks and trailing its branches carelessly in the foam. This little spot has been untrodden by manthe most fearless savage would not risk his birch-bark boat in these waters. But what those who profit by it call the rapid strides of commercial industry, or possibly the development of our national resources, will soon destroy this little piece of Nature; already the owners of the paper-mill have built their dam within twenty yards of it, extending through the waters like the limb of some horrid spider, slowly but surely reaching its prey_ Let the connection be made, and a couple of men with axes turned loose in this little green island, and before long the rattle of a donkey-engine or the howl of a saw-mill swells the chorus of this soi-disant civilisation. The following does not sound very encouraging for the preservation of Niagara’s scenery_ It is taken from a paper] Niagara as a Water Power:
Hence it is that we are soon to see a development of this peculiar power of Niagara which will stand unrivalled among motors of its class in the world.
” Already people talk of the storage of electricity and quote the opinions of scientists about the possibilities of the future. Sir William Thompsonit is saidgave as his opinion that it would be perfectly feasible to light London with electricity generated at Niagara.
” There is no assurance that Goat Island may not be sold at any moment for the erection of a mill or factory. Indeed if a rapid development of the mechanical application of electricity should take placethus enabling speculators to offer very high prices for the immense power that could be controlled from Goat Island, it is almost certain that such a sale would result. And with its accomplishment would disappear the last chance of saving Niagara ”
The honour of first suggesting the preservation of Niagara Falls has been claimed by many persons. But the first real suggestion dates back as early as 1835, though made without details. It came from two Scotchmen, Andrew Reed and James Matheson, who, in a volume describing their visits to Congregational churches of this country, first broached the idea that Niagara should ” be deemed the property of civilised mankind.”
In 1885, by the labours of several distinguished men, principally Mr. Frederick Law Olmsted, a bill was passed in the Legislature of New York instructing the commissioners of the State Survey to prepare a report on the conditions and prospects of Niagara. This report was prepared by Mr. James T. Gardner, the director of the New York State Survey, and Mr. Olmsted. It strongly protested against such waste and degradation of the scenery as have been described in this chapter; it set forth the dangers of ultimate destruction, and made an eloquent appeal in favour of State action to preserve this natural treasure. The report strongly urged the establishment of an ” International Park,” and gave details of its construction with maps and views. It proposed that a strip of land a mile long and varying from one hundred feet to eight hundred feet broad, together with the buildings on it, should be condemned by the State, appraised by a commission, and purchased. The erections on Bath Island and in the Rapids were to be swept away. Trees and shrubberies were to be planted, roads and foot-paths appropriately laid out. The cost was estimated at one million dollars.’
Why the bill should have met with so much opposition before it was finally passed] is to-day a question hard to answer; at any rate the political history of the bill is interesting.
As in the case of most modern propositions the question was generally asked:
” Is the game worth the candle ? Is it worth while to spend a million dollarsto take twenty-five cents out of the pocket of each tax-payer in the State of New Yorkin order to destroy a lot of good buildings and plant trees in place of them, and, moreover, to do this for the sake of a few persons whose nerves are so delicate that the sight of a tremendous body of water rushing over a precipice is spoiled for them by a pulp-mill standing on the banks?”
Indeed, it is said on good authority, that Governor Cornell, after listening to a description of the shameful condition at the Falls and the surroundings at the time when he sat in the gubernatorial chair remarked: ” Well, the water goes over just the same does n ‘t it? ”
Mr. Cleveland, being elected Governor of New York in 1882 seemed always in favour of the preservation of the scenery at Niagara Falls. Governor Robinson, in 1879, likewise an advocate of the idea, even caused some preliminary steps to be taken but the following gentlemen especially deserve to be entered in the Golden Book of Niagara: Thomas K. Beecher, James J. Belden, R. Lenox Belknap, Prof. E. Chadwick, Erastus Corning, Geo. W. Curtis, Hon. James Daly, Benjamin Doolittle] Edgar van Etter, R. E. Fenton, H. H. Frost, General James W. Rusted, Thomas L. James, Thomas Kingsford, Benson J. Lossing, Seth Low, Luther R. Marsh, Randolph B. Martine, Rufus H. Peckham, Howard Potter, D. W. Powers, Pascal P. Pratt, Ripley Ropes, Horatio Seymour, Geo. B. Sloan, Samuel J. Tilden, Senator Titus, Theodore Vorhees, Francis H. Weeks, Wm. A. Wheeler. They all made strenuous efforts to advance the bill introduced into the Legislature by Jacob F. Miller of New York City. One of its foremost promoters also was Mr. Thomas V. Welch, Superintendent of the New York State Reservation at Niagara, whose valuable pamphlet How Niagara was Made Free affords much of our material for this chapter. A bill entitled “Niagara Reservation Act ” passed the New York Assembly and the Senate, and was signed by Grover Cleveland on April 30, 1883. Commissioners were appointed consisting of William Dorsheimer, Sherman S. Rogers, Andrew H. Green, J. Hampden Robb, and Martin B. Anderson. But the final bill had to undergo many vicissitudes ere it was lastly amended and passed. The appraisals alone amounted to $1,433,429.50, and the then existing financial depression had to be dispelled before anything definite could be done. Between 1883 and 1885 there arose a most unjustifiable raid against the measure. I have already alluded to it above. John J. Platt of the Poughkeepsie Eagle wrote for instance: ” We regard this Niagara scheme as one of the most unnecessary and unjustifiable raids upon the State Treasury ever attempted.” Mr. Platt became later on a warm advocate of the plan, but the wrong was done. Some denounced the bill as a ” job” and a ” steal” and berated Niagara Falls and its citizens, particularly the hackmen, hotel-men, and bazaar-keepers as sharks and swindlers, who had robbed the people individually and were now seeking to rob them collectively. They said they would oppose the bill by every means, hoped it would be defeatedbursts of temper mildly suggestive of strangers who had visited Niagara and had suffered at the hands of her showmen in the golden days of Niagara’s army of fakirs and extortionists.
Thus the matter dragged and great fears were entertained that the case would be lost. Meanwhile the above-named prominent citizens had not been idle. They had sent to their friends and constituents a kind of a circular and obtained about four thousand signatures in favour of the measure. Clergymen, educators, editors, and attorneys were well represented; medical men without exception signed the petition, which was finally submitted to Governor Hill. For a time it almost seemed that the Governor shared the views of Governor Cornell. He was “pestered to death ” in behalf of the bill until the matter actually created a stir, as though the very welfare of the State depended on it. Great pressure was brought on Mr. Hill to sign the bill; he visited the Falls himself, went over the ground, but he was non-committal and even his intimates had no idea whether he would affix his signature. Yet he seemed apparently more favourably disposed than heretofore.
There was left a feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty [writes Mr. Welch]] concerning the fate of the bill. Another week passed. Rumours were rife concerning the intention of the Governor to let the bill die, in lack of his signature, and thus arrived the 3oth of April, 1885, the last day for the scheme allowed by law.
The forenoon was spent in a state of feverish anxietynot lessened by frequent rumours of a veto in the Senate or Assembly; some of them started in a spirit of mischief by the newspaper reporters. When noon came] it seemed as if the bill would surely fail for lack of executive approval. But the darkest hour is just before daybreak. Shortly after noon a newspaper man hurriedly came to the writer in the Assembly chamber and said that the Governor had just signed the Niagara Bill. A hurried passage was made to the office of the Secretary of State to see if the bill had been received from the Governor. It had not been received. At that moment the door was opened by the Governor’s messenger who placed the bill in the hands of the writer saying ” Here is your little joker.” A glance at the bill showed it to be the “Niagara Reservation Bill]” and on the last page was the much coveted signature of David B. Hill, rivalling that of Mr. Grover Cleveland in diminutive handwriting.
It is reported that the ” King of the Lobby,” a man notorious for years in Albany] expressed his satisfaction at the approval of the bill, saying “The `boys’ wanted to ‘strike’ that bill, but I told them that they must not do it; that it was a bill which ought to pass without the expenditure of a dollarand it did.”
The Report of the Commissioners of the State Reservation at Niagara lies before me. It is dated February 17, 1885.1 The commissioners were appointed in 1883 to consider and report what, if any, measures it might be expedient for the State to adopt carrying out the project to place Niagara under the control of Canada and New York according to the suggestions contained in the annual message of Governor Cleveland with respect to Niagara Falls. The report states that the attractions of the scenery and climate in the neighbourhood of the Falls are such that with their ready accessibility by several favourite routes of travel it might reasonably be expected that Niagara would be a popular summer resort; that there was nevertheless, no desirable summer population, attributed chiefly to the constant annoyances to which the traveller is subjected: pestering demands and solicitations, and petty exactions and impositions by which he is everywhere met. While it is true that such annoyances are felt wherever travellers are drawn in large numbers, at Niagara the inconvenience becomes greater because the distinctive interest of Niagara as compared with other attractive scenery is remarkably circumscribed and concentrated. That the value of Niagara lies in its appeal to the higher emotion and imaginative faculties and should not be disturbed and irritated; that tolls and fees had to be removed ; traffic was to be excluded from the limits from whence the chief splendour of the scenery was visible. That the only prospect of relief was to be found in State control; that the forest was rapidly destroyed which once formed the perfect setting of one of Nature’s most gorgeous panoramas, and that the erection of mills and factories upon the margin of the river had a most injurious effect upon the character of the scene.
It was therefore resolved on June 9, 1883, that in the judgment of this board it is desirable to select as proper and necessary to be reserved for the purpose of preserving the scenery of the falls of Niagara and of restoring the said scenery to its natural condition, the following lands situate in the village of Niagara and the County of Niagara to-wit: Goat Island, Bath Island, the Three Sisters] Bird Island, Luna Island, Chapin Island, and the small islands adjacent to said islands in the Niagara River] and the bed of said river between said islands and the main land of the State of New York; and] also] the bed of said river between Goat Island and the Canadian boundary; also a strip of land beginning near “Port Day” in said village, running along the shore of said river, to and including “Prospect Park” and the cliff and debris slope, under the same, substantially as shown by that part coloured green on the map accompanying the fourth report of the Board of Commissioners of the State Survey] dated March 22] 188o; and including also at the east end of said strip sufficient land not exceeding one acre for purposes convenient for said reservation, and also all lands at the foot of said falls] and all lands in said river adjoining said islands and the other lands hereinbefore described.
By the adoption of the foregoing resolution, the area of a reservation was preliminarily defined. A commission of appraisement was installed. As was to be expected the claims for the condemned land were about four million dollars. The awards] however, amounted to $1,433,429.50 only. Some interesting and important questions were raised as to the rights of the riparian owners to use the power afforded by the Niagara River for hydraulic purposes and to receive compensation therefor. Upon this basis the owners were prepared to present claims aggregating twenty or thirty millions of dollars. After full argument and careful consideration, the commissioners of appraisement rejected all such claims, except where the water power had been actually reduced to use and used for a period long enough to create a prescriptive right. They held:
(1) that Niagara is a public stream, and its bed and waters belong to the State; (2) that as against the State private riparian owners have no right to encroach on its bed to divert its waters or to subject them to the burden of manufacturing uses, unless they have acquired such right by grant from the State or by prescription.
The preamble of the Preservation Act 1 which was to make Niagara free read:
Whereas, the State Engineer and Surveyor has completed and submitted to this board a map of the lands selected and located by it in the village of Niagara Falls and the County of Niagara and State of New York, which] in the judgment of this board are proper and necessary to be reserved for the purpose of preserving the scenery of the falls of Niagara] and restoring the said scenery to its natural condition; now, therefore, it is Resolved, etc.
Resolved That this board hereby selects and locates the lands hereafter described, situate in the village of Niagara Falls] and the County of Niagara and State of New York, as in the opinion of this board proper and necessary to be reserved for the purpose of preserving the scenery of the falls of Niagara] and restoring the said scenery to its natural condition, and does hereby determine to take such land for the purposes aforesaid, and which said land is bounded and described as follows, to-wit : All that certain piece or parcel of land situate in the village of Niagara Falls, town and County of Niagara, State of New York, distinguished in part as part of lots numbers forty-two (42)] forty-three (43)] and forty-four (44).
On the morning of July 15th the Seventh Battery unlimbered its howitzers to salute the rising sun with a hundred salvos. The day unfortunately proved dark and foreboding. A storm burst in the morning and drove the crowds to shelter, and the last drops had hardly ceased pattering, when the hour of noon, the time fixed for the ceremony, arrived. The grounds of the mile strip, as the same was surveyed and conveyed by the State of New York, in part as islands known as Goat island, Bath island, the Three Sisters] Bird island, Luna island, Chapin island, Ship island] Brig island] Robinson’s island, and other small islands lying in Niagara river adjacent and near to the islands above-named, and in part as lands lying under the Niagara river, bounded and described as follows, to-wit:
Beginning at a point on the easterly bank of the Niagara river] where the same is met and intersected by the division line between lands now or formerly occupied by Albert H. Porter, and lands now or formerly owned or occupied by the Niagara Falls Hydraulic. and Manufacturing Canal Company; running thence on a course north three degrees forty-nine and one-fourth minutes west; along said last mentioned division line] one (1) chain and ninety-five (95) links to a stone monument standing in the southerly line of Buffalo street, in the village of Niagara Falls; thence on a course south eighty-six degrees forty-five and one-fourth minutes west along said southerly line of Buffalo street ninety and nine-tenths (90.9) links to a point in the division line between lands now or formerly owned or occupied by Albert H. Porter, and lands now or formerly owned or occupied by the estate of Augustus S. Porter; thence on a course south eighty-six degrees forty-five and one-fourth minutes west along said southerly line of Buffalo street ninety and nine-tenths (9o.9) /inks to a point in the division line between lands now or formerly owned or occupied by the estate of Augustus S. Porter and lands owned or occupied by Jane S. Townsend; thence on a course south eighty-six degrees forty-five and one-fourth minutes west, along said southerly line of Buffalo street] two (2) chains and seventy (70) links to the intersection of the same with the easterly line of Seventh street; thence on the same course south eighty-six degrees forty-five and one-fourth minutes west, across said Seventh street, one (r) chain and three-tenths (.3) of a link to the westerly boundary thereof; thence along said westerly boundary of Seventh street and on a course south three degrees forty-nine and one-half minutes east] one (r) chain and fifty-four and seventy-seven one-hundredths (54.77) links to a point in said westerly line of Seventh street, distant seventy-six(76) links northerly] measuring on said westerly line of Seventh street, from the intersection of the same with the northerly line of River street; thence on a course south fifty-seven degrees forty-seven and one-fourth minutes] west one (r) chain and sixteen (16) links to a point in the division line between lands now or formerly owned or occupied by Albert H. Porter and lands now or formerly owned or occupied by Mrs. George W. Holley, which said point is distant northerly measuring along said division line seventy (70) links from the northerly line of River street; thence on a course south fifty-six degrees fifty-five and one-half minutes west, one (1) chain and sixteen (i6) links to a point; thence south fifty-eight degrees forty minutes west.] one (I) chain and fifteen (r 5) links to a point; thence south sixty-three degrees forty-three and one-fourth minutes west one (1) chain and eleven (11) links to a point; thence south sixty-seven degrees nineteen and one-fourth minutes west] one (1) chain and sixty (6o) links to a point in the division tine between lands owned or occupied by Mrs. George W. Holley and lands owned or occupied by Jane S. Townsend distant sixty (6o) links northerly measured on said division line from the northerly boundary of River street; thence on a course south seventy-two degrees nineteen minutes west] two (2) chains and ten (10) links to a point in the division line between lands owned or occupied by Jane S_ Townsend] and lands owned or occupied by Josephine M. Porter, distant, measuring on said division line sixty-four (64) links northerly from the northerly boundary of River street; thence on a course south seventy-three degrees thirty-four and one-half minutes west, one (1) chain and four (4) links to a point; thence south seventy-six degrees twenty-eight and one-half minutes west] one (I) chain and two (2) links to a point; thence south eighty-two degrees four and three-fourths minutes west, one (r) link to a point] thence south eighty-six degrees forty-three and one-fourth minutes west, one (r) chain to a point; thence south eighty-nine degrees fifty-six minutes west, one (I) chain to a point ; thence north eighty-eight degrees forty-three minutes west one (r) chain and one (r) link to a point in the easterly boundary of Fourth street, distant ninety (go) links northerly, measuring on said easterly boundary of Fourth street] from the intersection of the same with the northerly boundary of River street; thence across said Fourth street and on a course north eighty-two degrees thirty-two and one-half minutes west, one (r) chain and one (r) link to Prospect Park were wet and the trees shook their water freely in the light breeze, but some thousands collected on the grass around the pavilion, notwithstanding these disheartening circumstances. When President Dorsheimer, however, began his speech the sun smiled through the clouds, and the day thereafter was perfect overhead.
The excursion trains began to pour their passengers into the village early. They came from the counties bordering on the Pennsylvania line and from the northern and western ends of the State and from the towns in the Canadian dominion. It is estimated that at least thirty thousand strangers were unloaded in the village. The visitors included country folk and residents a point in the westerly boundary of Fourth street, distant eighty-six (86) links northerly measuring on said westerly boundary of Fourth street; from the intersection of the same with the northerly line of River street thence on a course north seventy-eight degrees fifty-three minutes west, two (2) chains and six (6) links to a point in the division line between lands owned or occupied by Peter A. Porter, and land owned or occupied by S. M. Whitney, which point is distant seventy (70) links northerly, measuring on said division line] from the northerly line of River street; thence on a course north seventy-nine degrees seventeen and three-fourths minutes west, one (1) chain and three (3) links to a point; thence north seventy-six degrees eight minutes west, one (I) chain and four (4) links to a point; thence north seventy-three degrees seven and one-fourth minutes west] ninety-five (95) links to a point; thence north seventy-one degrees twenty-five and one-fourth minutes west] fifty (so) links to a point in the division line between lands owned or occupied by S. M. Whitney] and lands owned or occupied by Albert H. Porter which point is distant northerly, measuring on said division line] seventy (7o) links from the northerly line of River street; thence on a course north sixty-eight degrees thirty-five and one-fourth minutes west, sixty-eight (68) links to a point; thence north sixty-three degrees thirty-eight and one-fourth minutes west] ninety-eight (98) links to a point; thence north fifty-three degrees fifteen and one-fourth minutes west] one (I) chain and thirteen (13) links to a point in the division line between lands owned or occupied by Albert H. Porter and lands owned or occupied by Jane S. Townsend] which point is distant northerly, measuring on said division line, ninety-two (92) links from the northerly line of River street ; running thence on a course north forty-eight degrees fifty-six and one-fourth minutes west, eighty-nine (89) links to a point; thence north fifty degrees one and one-half minutes west, one (1) chain and two (2) links to a point: thence north fifty-five degrees two and one-half “minutes west, one (i) chain and one (1) link to a point; thence north sixty degrees ten minutes west] fifty (so) links to a point in the division line between lands owned or occupied by Jane S Townsend and lands owned or occupied by the heirs of Augustus S. Porter, which point is distant northerly] measuring on said division-line, one (I) chain and fifty-six (56) links from the northerly of the city, and about two thousand militiamen, principally from the Fourth Division, although there were several organisations among them representing Cleveland, Detroit, Utica, Buffalo, and Rochester. There was a sprinkling of British redcoats among the gold-laced officers who dotted the village streets. One of the Canadian battalions desired to come over and join line of River street; thence on a course north sixty degrees fifteen and one-half minutes west, fifty (so) links to a point; thence north sixty-seven degrees ten and one-half minutes west, ninety-nine (99) links to a point; thence north sixty-eight degrees nineteen and three-fourths minutes west, one (r) chain to a point; thence north seventy-one degrees forty-five and one-fourth minutes west, one (r) chain to a point distant one (1) chain and twenty-eight (28) links] measuring on a course north twenty-seven degrees east from the northerly line of River street; thence on a course north sixty-three degrees fifty-five and one-half minutes west, one (1) chain and eleven (11) links to a point; thence north fifty-five degrees one and one-fourth minutes west] one (1) chain to a point; thence north fifty-one degrees forty-one and one-half minutes west, eighty-nine (80) links to a point; thence north forty-seven degrees fifty minutes west eighty-three (83) links to a point; thence north forty-five degrees forty-two minutes west, one (r) chain and two (2) links to a point; thence north forty-two degrees twenty-five minutes west, two (2) chains and two (2) links to a point; thence north forty-three degrees seventeen and three-fourths minutes west, one (r) chain and nine (9) links to a point in the easterly boundary of Mill street] distant northerly] measuring along said easterly boundary of Mill street] twenty (20) links from the intersection of the same with the northerly boundary of River street; thence on a course north twenty-eight degrees nineteen and one-fourth minutes east, and along said easterly boundary of Mill street] two (2) chains arid thirty (30) links to the intersection of said easterly line of Mill street with the southerly line of Buffalo street; thence on a course north sixty-two degrees forty-five minutes west] across said Mill street, one (r) chain to the westerly boundary line thereof] and to the point of intersection of the westerly line of Mill street with the southerly line of Buffalo street; thence on a course north sixty-one degrees thirty-two minutes west] along the southerly boundary of Buffalo street, five (5) chains and thirty-two (32) links to the point of intersection of the southerly line of Buffalo street with the easterly boundary line of the Mill slip (so called), which point is distant northerly measuring on said easterly line of the Mill slip] seventy-one (7 r) links from the intersection of the same with the northerly line of River street; thence on a course north sixty-one degrees thirty-two in the celebration. The United States authorities extended a welcome but the Canadian authorities declined to allow their soldiers to cross the river. A few of the officers got permit to come.
Governor Hill and his staff were met by a committee appointed to receive them, consisting of Thomas V. Welch and 0. W. Cutter. There were also Senators minutes west, across said Mill slip, fifty-one and forty-two one-hundredths (51.42) links to a point in the westerly boundary line thereof, distant northerly, measuring along said westerly line of said Mill slip, seventy-five and twenty-three one-hundredths (75.23) links from the intersection of the same with the northerly line of River street; thence along said westerly boundary line of said Mill slip and on a course south fifty-four degrees four and three-fourths minutes west, seventy-five and twenty-three one-hundredths (75.23) links to the intersection of said westerly boundary line of said Mill slip with the northeasterly boundary line of River street; thence on a course north thirty-three degrees ten minutes west, along said north-easterly boundary line of River street, five (5) chains and seventy-four and two-tenths (74.2) links to a point in said northeasterly line of River street, where the same is intersected by the southerly line of Bridge street, which point is marked by a stone monument erected at the intersection of said lines of said streets; thence on a course north six degrees thirty-six and one-fourth minutes east] across said Bridge street., one (1) chain and three (3) links to the northerly boundary line thereof, and to the point of intersection of the northerly boundary line of Bridge street with the northeasterly line of Canal street; thence on a course north thirty-seven degrees thirty-three and one-half minutes west, and along said northeasterly boundary line of Canal street four (4) chains and eighty-seven (87) links to the intersection of said northeasterly line of Canal street with the southerly line of Falls street; thence on a course north thirty-seven degrees thirty-six and three-fourths minutes west, one (1) chain and eighty-two (82) links across Falls street to the northerly boundary thereof; thence on a course north thirty-seven degrees thirty-six and three-fourths minutes west, and along said northeasterly line of Canal street, one (1) chain and twenty-two (22) links to an angle in said north-easterly line of Canal street; thence on a course north two degrees thirty-eight and one-fourth minutes west, and along the easterly line of Canal street] ten (10) chains and one and eighty-five one-hundredths (1.85) links to the intersection of the easterly line of Canal street with the southerly line of Niagara street; thence on a course south eighty-seven degrees fourteen minutes west, across said Canal street, one (I) chain and fifty and thirty-four one-hundredths (50.34) links to the Bowen, Low, Lansing, Ellsworth, Baker, Van Schaick, Titus and “Tim” Campbell. Of Assemblymen there were present Mr. Hubbell of Rochester, who fathered the bill in the last Legislature which led to the day’s ceremonies; Hon. Jacob L. Miller, who, in 1883, introduced the bill creating the Niagara Park Commission; Hendricks, Kruse, McEwen, Bailey, Scott, Raines, Haskell, Dibble, Connelly, Major Haggerty, General Barnum, Whitmore, Storm, Ely, Secretary of the Senate John W. Vrooman, and Ex-Senators MacArthur and Loomis.
Together with all the right] title, and interest of all persons or corporations of, in, and to the premises embraced within said boundary lines, including all water-rights, made-land (so called), debris, titles] or claims (if any) to lands lying under the Niagara river, rights of riparian owners] easements] and appurtenances of every name and nature whatsoever, including all the rights of] in, and to all streets] or portions of streets, embraced and included within said boundary lines.
Of editors and other public men well known “up in the State” there were Carroll E. Smith and W. H. Northrup of Syracuse; S. Callicott and John A. Sleicher of Albany; Willard S. Cobb of Lockport; William Purcell of Rochester; Congressman Wadsworth; Ex-Congressmen Brewer and Van Abram and Solomon Scheu. Of State officials were mentioned Civil Service Commissioner Henry A. Richmond; Professor Gardner of the old State survey; Secretary Carr; Attorney-General O’Brien; Treasurer Maxwell; Engineer Sweet; Insurance Superintendent John A. McCall; and Superintendent of Public Instruction William H. Ruggles. Letters of regret were received from Governor-General Lansdowne of Canada, Samuel J. Tilden, and President Cleveland.
The last admission fee to Prospect Park was collected in the night of July i5] 1885, and a till full of quarters was taken before the gates were thrown open at midnight. The owners of Goat Island left their gates open all night. Everything was free, however, on the 15th and such a company as swarmed over the islands in consequence was never seen before. They crowded the walks and fringed the cliffs and shores at every available point. They recklessly clambered down to the bottom of the Falls and clustered on the ledge of rocks overlooking the Horseshoe and American Falls. Persons who had lived all their lives within twenty miles of the Falls now beheld them for the first time. They brought their luncheons, and when the sun came out they picnicked on the greensward.
The hurdy-gurdy shows which had sprung up like mushrooms within twenty-four hours all over the village were doing a brisk business. The Indian shops also were all open but the other stores and places of business in the village were closed for the day. The air was filled from morning till night with the blare of military bands] the monotonous sound of numberless organs, and the shouts and cries of venders and showmen. Every building in the village was decorated with bunting.
The pavilion in the park was reserved for invited guests and for those who participated in the ceremonies. Near the Governor and his staff sat the Commissioners of the Niagara Park Reservation. Among the distinguished guests were prominent Canadians who took a warm interest in the project of an International Park at Niagara. They were Lieutenant-Governor Robinson, Captain Geddes, and Lieutenant-Colonel Gowski, members of the Niagara Park Association; the Hon. O. S. Hardy, Secretary of Ontario, and the Attorney-General of that Province, the Hon. 0. Mowat.
The opening-prayer was offered by the Right-Reverend A. Cleveland Coxe. He was followed by Erastus Brooks, who, in a brief speech, introduced the subject of the day’s celebration, and concluded by saying that no better investment had ever been made by any State, corporation, or people, and added that Lord Dufferin had promised that Canada would join in establishing a free park on their own side of the Falls. Great enthusiasm followed, and the whole audience of five thousand people then joined in singing America. President Dorsheimer, in behalf of the Commission, then formally presented the Park to the State of New York. After briefly reciting what the Commission had done he said: ” From this hour Niagara is free. But not free alone; it shall be clothed with beauty again, and the blemishes which have been planted among these scenes will presently be removed. As soon as the forces of Nature, nowhere more powerful than at this favoured place, can do the work, these banks will be covered with trees, these slopes made verdant, and the Cataract once more clothed with the charms which Nature gave it.”
As he concluded the firing of guns signalled to the crowds on the islands and on the Canadian side that Niagara was the possession of the State of New York, and that Governor Hill was about to accept the gift in the name of the people of the State. The Governor was warmly cheered when he stepped forward to speak. He gave a brief sketch of the history of the Falls, and likewise alluded to the opening of the Erie Canal, the laying of the corner-stone of the State’s magnificent Capitol at Albany and the opening of the East River bridge. Then he accepted the Park with some appropriate words, concluding as follows: ” The preservation of Niagara Park, the greatest of wonders is, indeed, a noble work. Its conception is worthy the advanced thought, the grand liberality, and the true spirit of the nineteenth century.”
After this followed the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, the audience joining earnestly in the chorus. The oration was delivered by that polished member of the New York Bar, Mr. James C. Carter, giving a full history of the region. The two Canadian officials, Lieutenant-Governor Robinson and Attorney-General Mowat were then introduced, and congratulated the State of New York for the enterprise and public spirit shown by the people and the public officers. The exercise concluded with the Doxology and a benediction. In the afternoon Governor Hill with Generals Jewett and Rogers reviewed the militia. In the evening fireworks were set off from Prospect Park, Goat Island, and the brink of the Falls from the Canadian side. Earlier in the day the Comptroller’s check for five hundred thousand dollars was received by the Porter family, the Goat Island property had been transferred to the commissioners, and Niagara was free.
There had been, of course, strong objection on the part of the army of landholders and monopolists who were to be thrown out of their “easy money” livelihoods. Of this the excellent “leader” in the New York Times of July 15th deals as follows:
It would be alike idle and unjust to blame the people of Niagara Falls for this state of mind. They have done what the members of any other community would have done in making the must of their neighbourhood as a wonder of nature. Even the obstinate . . . who declines to be bought out, and insists upon his right to make merchandise out of the river, is entitled to respect for the tenacity with which he proposes to resist the acquisition of his property by the State upon the ground that the law authorising the acquisition is unconstitutional.
He would very possibly be willing to acknowledge the right of eminent domain if it were proposed to take his land for a railroad] but the idea that it shall be taken in order that a river . . . shall be kept for dudes to look at undoubtedly strikes him as unmixed foolishness. However excusable this state of mind may have been, nobody who does not own a point of view or at least a hack at Niagara will dispute that its consequences have been deplorable. Though Niagara has continued to be a frequential resort it has by no means been as popular as it would have become with the increasing facilities of travel and the increasing advantages taken of them] if the fame of the gross and petty extortions had not been almost as widely spread as the fame of Niagara itself. While the local monopolies have deterred people from visiting the Falls, they have nevertheless been so lucrative that the most important of them is reported upon the authority of one of its managers to have returned a net annual profit, of thirty thousand dollars] and the report is not incredible, prodigious as the figure seems as a profit upon the mere command of a point of view. This hedging about and looking up of a boon of nature was perhaps the most objectionable incident of the private shore of Niagara. To a tourist who goes to Niagara from any other motive than that of saying that he had been there the importunity to which he had been subjected at every turn was absolutely destructive of the object of his visit. The prosaic and incongruous surroundings of the cataract completed the disillusion which importunity and extortion were calculated to produce. Many tourists would have been glad to pay down, once for all, as much as their persecutors could have reasonably hoped to extract from them for the privilege of being allowed to look without molestation upon the work of nature undisfigured by the handiwork of man. “For many years this has been impossible, and for several years it has been evident that it could be made possible only by the resumption on the part of the State, as a trustee of its citizens and for all mankind, of the ownership and control of the shore. This resumption will be formally made to day. But it was really brought about in the Legislature in the winter of 1884, when the full force of the opposition to the project was brought out and fairly defeated. The State of New York has in effect decided that the preservation of a sublime work of nature under conditions which will enable it to affect men’s minds most strongly is an object for which it is worth while to pay the money of the State. It is this emphatic decision which marks a real advance in civilisation over the state of mind of the Gradgrinds of the last generation and of the contemporaneous wood-pulp grinder that the proper function of the greatest waterfall in the world is to turn mill-wheels and produce pennies by being turned into a peep show.”
The Reservation forms a beautiful State Park within the growing city of Niagara Falls, N. Y., which lies just back of it numbering now a population of nearly twenty-five thousand people. The city is well laid out, and its promoters “point with pride” to the advances made during the last decade and bespeak for ” Industrial Niagara” a future of great distinction in the commercial world.
The first town worthy of the name here on the American side of the Falls was named Manchester by Judge Porter when he settled here in 1806, 102 years ago] believing that the site could eventually be occupied by the “Manchester of America.” Judge Porter’s many inducements to promoters were not accepted until about the middle of last century (1853) when the present canal was begun. For many years even this improvement lay unused; it was not until 1878 that the present company was organised and any real advance was made. Of the recent wonderful development along power lines at Niagara we treat in another chapter under the title of “harnessing Niagara Falls.” But the supreme interest in these lines of activity must not let us lose sight of the important element of local environment.
It is of almost national interest that Niagara is so centrally located, that within seven hundred miles of this great cataract live two-thirds of the population of the United States and Canada. This of itself, were there no Niagara Falls, would guarantee the growth of the town of Niagara Falls. Add to this strategic location the exceptional advantages to be found here by industrial plants looking for a home, and also the evident fact that Niagara Falls is a delightful spot in which to reside, it is clear that if a great and beautiful city does not develop here in the next century human prophecy will have missed its guess and tons of advertising will have been wasted. Twenty-five million dollars are, it is said, invested in capital now in the present town, and the value of imports and exports in 1906 was over two millions and over twelve millions, respectively. Fourteen railways here find terminals and the town has over one hundred mails daily. With splendid educational advantages] with twenty miles and more of pavement already laid, with a beautiful and efficiently conducted public library] with a city water pumping plant capable of handling twenty million gallons daily, and nearly forty miles of drains, with a citizenship active, patriotic, and capable, is it any wonder that Niagara Falls’ real estate agents and suburban resident promoters are thriving like the old cabmen and side-show operators thrived in the “good old days” of private ownership along the Niagara’s bank?
There is no discounting the advances this interesting little city has made in the past ten years and more, and there is very little possibility, on the face of things of a tremendously accelerated growth in the coming century. Big problems are here being worked out; big schemes are afoot, big things will happenan advance will come because of the plain merit of the bare facts of the case without unnecessary inducement or overcapitalisation of the advertising agencies. The world needs power to do its work, and until we sit down calmly and figure out a way for the ocean tides to do our work, as ought in all conscience to be the case today, Niagara Falls will hold out extraordinary inducement to all industrial promoters which cannot be rivalled in many ways at any other point. If only the ends of industry can be achieved without destroying this great continental scenic wonder! There are those who are unwilling to take a single rainbow from that ocean of rainbows amidst the Falls to drive another wheel. But there is surely a sane middle ground to be found here, and it is certain that brave, thinking men are on the sure track to find it.
Similar in geographic position, quite as much could be said for Niagara Falls, Ont., as has been said of her twin city on the American shore. In point of beauty nothing can excel the magnificent Queen Victoria Park, opened in 1888, which lies opposite the New York State Reservation; the view of the two falls from it, or from the airy piazzas of the superb Clifton Hotel which flanks it, is unmatched. At present writing the guardians of the New York State Reservation, and other sensitive persons, are justly exercised over a genuine ” Yankee trick, ” more or less connived in, they darkly hint, by the authorities, who have permitted a series of hideous signboards to be erected on the Canadian shore to serve the purpose of bringing out more vividly by contrast the unrivalled beauties of Queen Victoria Park.
The Niagara River:Niagara River – Buffalo And The Upper NiagaraNiagara River – From The Falls To Lake OntarioNiagara River – The Birth Of NiagaraNiagara River – Niagara Bond And FreeNiagara River – Harnessing Niagara FallsNiagara River – A Century Of Niagara CranksNiagara River – The Old Niagara FrontierNiagara River – From La Salle To De NonvilleNiagara River – Niagara Under Three FlagsNiagara River – The Hero Of Upper Canada