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

2019-05-21

Niagara Falls Public Library launched its Seed to Seed collection May 17.

If you come to any of the library's four locations across Niagara Falls you can "borrow" up to three packages of seeds.

After you've planted the seeds and harvested your vegetables, you can set aside some seeds to give back to the library so another person can enjoy the collection.

2019-05-13

Mental Health Week invites us to be mindful with meditation at Niagara Falls library.

In our ongoing effort to meet community needs wherever we can, Niagara Falls Public Library has been running a series of mental health and wellness programs at our four branches throughout 2019.

2019-05-08

Have you ever been curious about what it would be like to grow your own vegetables? Have you ever thought about teaching your children or grandchildren where their food comes from?

Or, like me, have you ever been known for having a black or a brown thumb?

2019-04-25

On Thursday, April 25th the Niagara Falls Public Library will be unveiling its new board game collection. Board Games are a great way to reduce screen time, to interact face-to-face with family and friends, and to challenge yourself in new and interesting ways.

2019-04-25

Calling all Book Lovers! Please join us for our annual Book Lover’s Luncheon. Enjoy a delicious lunch catered by Tastebuds Cafe and Eatery and meet special guest, Cea Sunrise Person author of North of Normal and its sequel Nearly Normal.

2019-04-12

Since the mid-20th century, human beings have wrought unprecedented changes to the Earth, bringing us into a new epoch of geologic time: the Anthropocene.

2019-03-31

You’re invited to help us at the Library. On April 1, 2019 we are embarking on a year-long project called Bridge to understand how libraries use technology.

2019-03-26

When we think about sports excellence in the City of Niagara Falls, we can include both team sports and individual activities. Although it may not be the first sport that pops into to your mind, one such sport has a long history in the City of Niagara Falls!

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