Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — As you drive into downtown Niagara Falls on the Robert Moses Parkway, just inside the exit to John B. Daly Boulevard, look to your right and you may catch a glimpse of a stone structure towering above the parkway nestled in the sumac trees. Hidden but not obliterated by the parkway, the Old Stone Chimney stands as testament to a time when this area was a raw frontier being contested by Native Americans, the French, the British and later, the Americans.
There is no known firsthand account as to who built the Old Stone Chimney. It is believed that it was first attached to a two-story French barracks constructed near “Fort du Portage” or “Little Fort Niagara” above the Falls at the end of the Portage around the cataract. The Fort du Portage location is now covered with industrial plants but was not far from where Portage Road ends at Buffalo Avenue. The French vacated and burned the fort in July 1759, as the British were advancing, leaving the Old Stone Chimney alone at the end of the Portage. A year later the British returned to the area to build Fort Schlosser near the vicinity of the former French fort.
In addition to the fort, the British disassembled a two-story chapel at Fort Niagara, reconstructed it at Fort Schlosser and it became the home of John Stedman, the man Sir William Johnson appointed “Portage Master.” Stedman remained at the house until the end of the “hold over period” in 1796. From here, the story of the “old stone chimney” remains fairly consistent to the present.
Augustus Porter, along with his brother Peter Buell Porter and two business partners, purchased all the land along the Niagara River from Lewiston to Black Rock in 1805. Moving his family to what was then the Village of Manchester, Augustus and his wife Jane Howell Porter and his three children moved into the Stedman house and lived there for two years while they constructed their new family home overlooking the Upper Rapids. In 1809 Porter leased out the home as a tavern.