Falls not only natural phenomenon that drew crowds
Burning Spring

With an estimated 30 million visitors a year, the city of Niagara Falls has certainly enjoyed a long and prosperous relationship with the tourist industry. Other than the mighty cataracts themselves, one of the oldest and perhaps longest running tourist attraction in the city was known as the Burning Spring. 

Legend has it that the original Burning Spring was discovered in Niagara by local Indigenous people in the early 1700s. Some say that it was originally ignited by a bolt of lightning, and others say that it was a chance spark from two pieces of stone flint that were rubbed together near an underground natural gas leak.

In the 1790s, excavation work was taking place for Bridgewater Mills, located in the Dufferin Islands area. Workmen accidentally enlarged the opening of an existing vent of natural gas. They soon discovered that if this gas was collected and allowed to flow through a pipe, it could be ignited to produce a flame that could “boil water for a cup of tea in 15 minutes”. 

In the early 1820s, tourism began to grow in the city. Clark and Street, the owners of the Mill, began to realize the tourist potential of their Burning Spring. Many early guidebooks of the 1830s helped to spread the word about this mysterious phenomenon and eventually, a building was constructed over it. Inside, the spring was enclosed by a barrel with a pipe coming out of the top. A cork was placed at the mouth of the pipe which caused the pressure of the gas to build. When enough pressure had accumulated, the cork was removed and the gas was ignited to produce the magical Burning Spring. In 1836, Mr. Conklin, the keeper of the Spring charged visitors twelve and a half cents each for admission.

In the 1880s, visitors were offered an additional souvenir. Said to possess mysterious medical healing powers, glasses of the gas-filled water were given to visitors. It was also during the 1880s that the Burning Spring ran into a major problem - it ran out of gas! The story does not end here, however. The Burning Springs moved to a few different locations where natural gas was piped in. 

In 1924, the Burning Spring moved to its final home which was called the Falls View Observation Tower and Old Burning Spring on Portage Road. In the 1960s, extensive renovations took place and a new and improved business featured a modern wax museum. In 1969, a three-alarm fire broke out causing extensive damage. Repairs were made and the business continued to operate until 1992, making it one of the oldest continuous running tourist attractions in the city. If you would like to learn about other historic tourist attractions, please visit our Historic Niagara Digital Collections at: http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/

Cathy Roy is the Local History Librarian.
 

Library Notes

2019-03-11

On Monday Niagara Falls Public Library will be unveiling two new collections.

These collections are both aimed at children and their inauguration coincides serendipitously with the beginning of March break.

2019-03-05

On an easel in Niagara Falls Public Library's art gallery, there's a painting of a lighthouse and a boat that is careful to avoid the danger the lighthouse hails.

2019-02-25

There's a lot more to modern public libraries than books and technology. Our motto at Niagara Falls Public Library is, "We power community!" Which is why we're always working to identify community needs that we can find a way to help address.

2019-02-19

With an estimated 30 million visitors a year, the city of Niagara Falls has certainly enjoyed a long and prosperous relationship with the tourist industry. Other than the mighty cataracts themselves, one of the oldest and perhaps longest running tourist attraction in the city was known as the Burning Spring. 

2019-02-19

One by one, the bright blue Library bags line up inside the work areas at each one of the four Library locations. They are organized and filled with favourite authors, great movies that someone may have missed, biographies and many other interesting items that have been requested. All these bags are for the Visiting Library Service.

2019-02-04

Power your discovery this February at the Niagara Falls Public Library!

2019-01-21

Family Day is Monday, February 18, and the Community Centre and Victoria Avenue Libraries will be open from 11:00am - 3:00pm, with a special family drop-in program from 11:30am - 1:30pm. We will also have a 3D Design and Print Drop-in program running at the Victoria Avenue Library from 11:30am - 2:30pm. The Stamford Centre and Chippawa Libraries will be closed on Family Day.

2019-01-17

81 years ago, the city of Niagara Falls experienced one of its greatest fires in history when disaster struck at Loretto Academy on the evening of January 10th, 1

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