The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake*, which amalgamated in 1970, is rich with history. Generations of First Nations people inhabited the area centuries before the first loyalist settlers and members of the Butler’s Rangers began farming in the fertile soil. In 1792, the village of Newark (today Niagara-on-the-Lake) became the first capital of Upper Canada until 1796 when it was moved to York (Toronto). Niagara-on-the-Lake was also the headquarters for the British Army during the War of 1812 and as such experienced many battles. The Town is located along the Niagara River which was the main shipping route into the interior of Canada and the United States until the Welland Canal was first built in 1829. The Canal by-passed the previous route along the Niagara River which hurt Niagara economically as it relied heavily on the trade route.
By the late 1800s the Niagara region was a popular destination for American tourists, this along with soldiers training at Camp Niagara supported the local economy until the end of the Second World War. With the rise of the automobile, the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Highway, and the closing of the training facilities at Camp Niagara in 1966, the region was left to rely on the income generated by agriculture, canning factories and boat building.
Today the Town is once again a popular tourist destination; wineries, heritage sites, galleries, boutiques and the Shaw Festival attract visitors from all over the world. It is also home to 15,000 people, with many stories to share.
For more information on the history of Niagara-on-the-Lake please visit our permanent exhibition “Our Story” at the Niagara Historical Society & Museum.