A joint Oral History Project from the Niagara Historical Society & Museum and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library
Industry and Business
The Town of Niagara, rebuilt after its destruction during the War of 1812, became an active commercial centre, with a busy shipping and ship building industry, as well as many shops and warehouses. Queenston had been the centre of a thriving portage business from the 1780’s to the mid 1800s with wharves, storehouses and a blockhouse. Nearby, the Four Mile Creek in St. David’s was also the source of many industries: gristmills, canning factories, tanning mills, sawmills and breweries.
Shipbuilding required the development of port facilities. The Niagara Harbour and Dock Company was formed in 1831 to begin the task of creating a large wharf to accommodate schooners and steamboats. But shipbuilding ceased with the advent of the railroad and would not return to the area until the 1950s with the growth of local companies including Shepherd Boats , Hinterholler Ltd., C & C Yachts and Georgian Steel Boats.
Gord Brinsmead – Shepherd Boats and C & C Yachts
Ian “Scotty” Murray – Boat Building in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Peter Jones – Scotty “Ian”Murray and Boat Repairs (Audio Only)
Butch Grimwood – C & C Yachts (Audio Only)
Commercial fishing in Niagara-on-the-lake began in the 1860s and continued up to the 1950s. With the arrival of steamships and trains to Niagara in the late 1800s the industry grew as fish could be quickly shipped in large quantities to Toronto, Buffalo and New York City. At its peak the industry supported up to 22 local families. With the arrival of the lamprey eel and the alewife fish as well as increasing pollution from factories along the river the fishing industry declined significantly.
Terry Boulton – Fishing 1 (Audio Only)
Terry Boulton – Fishing 2 (Audio Only)
Calvin Rand – Bishops Fish Market (Audio Only)
Alan Clifford – Fishing (Audio Only)
Agriculture and the Canning Industry
Toward the end of the 19th century fruit farming became an important element of the Niagara economy, and canning factories and other farm related businesses sprang up. Vineyards and the wineries that process the grapes into world-class wines have proliferated in Niagara. For more information on this aspect of Niagara-on-the-Lake history please take a look at our Agriculture and Farming page.
In 1869 visitors to Niagara-on-the-Lake could stay at the luxurious Queens Royal Hotel. With modern amenities such as gas lighting and a view across the river to Fort Niagara it became a popular summer escape for travellers from Toronto and Buffalo. During the First World War Niagara’s Tourism Industry began to drop. The economic depression of the 1930s and the rise of the auto-mobile also took a toll on tourism and in 1930 the Queens Royal Hotel was demolished. Following the end of the Second World War tourists had few choices of where to stay, and the well known Prince of Wales was considered to be a local watering hole and not the luxury hotel as it is known as today. As more tourists returned to the area, they began to stay for longer durations to see performances at the Shaw Festival, visit heritage sites and wineries, the hotel industry once again began to flourish, supported by local investors and business people.
Bert Hall – Queens Royal Hotel (Audio Only)
Terry Mactaggart – The Pillar and Post (Audio Only)
Kathy Drope Taylor – The Pillar and Post (Audio Only)
John Wiens – The Prince of Wales 1 (Audio Only)
John Wiens – The Prince of Wales 2 (Audio Only)
Henry Wiens – The Prince of Wales 1 (Audio Only)
Henry Wiens – The Prince of Wales 2 (Audio Only)
Gary Burroughs – The Oban Inn (Audio Only)
By the early 1870’s Niagara-on-the-Lake had experienced a number of economic setbacks, and its residents turned to tourism as a means of sustaining the economy. The luxurious, elegant Queen’s Royal Hotel became one of the best hotels in North America. However, a shift to the automobile as a means of transportation led to the hotel’s demolition in 1930. In recent years the Shaw Festival, along with wineries, local historical sites, art galleries and bed and breakfasts have made Niagara into a major tourist attraction once more. For more information about the Shaw Festival please visit the Arts and Culture page of the website.
Terry Mactaggart – Development and Tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Odette Yazbeck-Kuchyt – Tourism in Niagara Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Henry Wiens – Tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Hope Bradley – American Cottages (Audio Only)
Gerald Whittaker, Sharon Whittaker and Bob Andrews – Tourism’s Impact on Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Gary Burroughs – Tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Shaw Festival (Audio Only)
Dan McCarthy – Tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Barbara Ahluwalia – Tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Heather Bannister – Tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Queen Street, Old Town, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Throughout the 1950s Queen Street in the Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake was the hub of small locally owned businesses suppling locals with everything from building materials to ice cream. Today the street serves the tourist industry with many restaurants and gift shops.
Barbara Bedell – Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake