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

2019-09-09

Science Literacy Week runs from September 16th to the 22nd. While many of us may think that it’s aimed mostly at kids and teens, the truth is that everyone can celebrate science and oceans research in Canada.

2019-09-03

September is an exciting time of year, and Niagara Falls Public Library is ready to celebrate with fun programs and events.

Be sure to pick up our Fall 2019 magazine to learn about all the exciting programs and events happening.

2019-08-27

With September just around the corner, we at the Niagara Falls Public Library are excited to once again offer a full slate of Mental Health and Wellness programming to connect you with others and help you feel your best as summer fades away and the days start to get shorter, darker, colder.

2019-08-20

Honeymoons and the City of Niagara Falls have gone hand in hand for a very long time, with the first documented Niagara Falls honeymoon occurring in June of 1801. Theodosia Burr (the American vice president’s daughter) and her husband Joseph Alston visited the city on a delayed honeymoon that even included a visit with the famous Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant. 

2019-08-09

There’s no denying that so far it has been one scorcher of a summer. Every day seems hotter than the last and that humidity is enough to make a stone sweat!

Luckily for you, each branch of the Niagara Falls Public Library comes equipped with air conditioning and a number of fabulous cookbooks you can borrow to whip up some wonderful frozen desserts that will help you chill out.

2019-07-15

As we enjoy the summer weather, thoughts of cooling off may sometimes cross our minds. Some of us may have fond memories of a few local swimming spots that were once used to beat the summer heat. For more than 35 years, thousands of children and adults made the Cyanamid swimming pool their summer destination of choice.

2019-07-08

At the Library, we truly appreciate the outpouring of support for the Interlibrary Loan Service (ILLO) at the Niagara Falls Public Library (NFPL) after the elimination of the ILLO Delivery Service.  We understand the meaningful impact the service has had on many of our customers. As we know how things change in the world, so it does in the Library world.

2019-07-02

Summer has arrived, and the Niagara Falls Public Library is busy with something for everyone! Be sure to pick up our Summer Library Magazine to learn about all the exciting programs and events happening this summer.  

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