Memories of Niagara

A joint Oral History Project from the Niagara Historical Society & Museum and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library

Arts Culture and Heritage

Niagara-on-the-Lake is an area rich in arts, culture, and heritage. For many years visual artists have been drawn to the area to document the natural beauty and landscape. One of the first well known British Canadian artists to document the beauty of the area was Mrs. Elizabeth Simcoe in her watercolours of the Niagara River. Visual artists were later joined by community theater groups – first by the Mime Theatre and then by the Shaw Festival in 1962. Music has also played an important role in augmenting local culture; from the marching bands of Camp Niagara to the bells at St. Marks that still ring out on Sunday mornings and for special events. Niagara-on-the-Lake also has a long tradition of celebrating its culture and heritage through festivals, historical sites, plaques and monuments.


The Shaw Festival began in 1962 with eight weekend performances of Don Juan in Hell and Candida by George Bernard Shaw.  As a result of the success of these initial performances, the Shaw Festival Theatre Foundation was created in 1963. The popularity and artistic merit of the company became renowned across Canada and the United States and in 1973, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Shaw Festival Theatre.

Calvin Rand – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Rita Brown – The Beginnings of the Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Cosmo Condina – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Dan McCarthy – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Doug Garrett – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Felicitas Mandeville – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Henry Wiens – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Hope Bradley – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Kathy Drope Taylor and Sarah Rigg Burroughs – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Margo Fyfe – Brian Doherty and the Shaw Festival – (Audio Only)

Odette Yazbeck-Kuchyt – The 1980s at the Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Pat and Fred Connolly – The Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Rita Brown – Shaw Festival Production of 1984 (Audio Only)

Rita Brown – Brian Doherty and the Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Rita Brown – Costumes for the Shaw Festival (Audio Only)

Visual Arts

The Niagara Pumphouse Visual Arts Centre was established to provide residents of and visitors to the Niagara Region with an environment which encourages interest in various forms of visual arts.  The Centre is housed in the Niagara Pumphouse, a Victorian brick building built in 1891 to house pumps and filter tanks supplying water to the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake until 1983.

RiverBrink was originally the country home of London lawyer Samuel E. Weir Q.C. (1898-1981). Weir purchased the property overlooking the Niagara River in 1943 with the idea of starting a small dairy farm. The home was completed in 1970 and converted into an art museum, with his personal collection, following Weir’s death.

Diana Bellerby – The Pumphouse Art Gallery (Audio Only)

Culture and Heritage

Along with arts facilities there are many buildings and sites of historic significance including Willowbank, the Laura Secord House Museum, the Mackenzie Printery, the Niagara Historical Museum, the Niagara Apothecary and Fort George. All of these institutions have played an important role in the preservation of local history and also have served as community centres. Many of these sites would not exist today were it not for the work of local citizens who have protected and promoted them over the years.

Felicitas Mandeville – The Simcoe Ball (Audio Only)

Norm Howe – The Niagara Foundation and the Niagara Apothecary (Audio Only)

Peter Stokes – Architectural Heritage (Audio Only)


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