Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

February 8, 2014

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Ice bridge had festive air in '99

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — More than 100 years ago, visitors to Niagara Falls had the opportunity to literally walk across the river to Canada. The ice that accumulated at the base of the American Falls during the winter months was so thick that it could not only support hundreds of people but several structures as well.

In February 1899, a reporter from the Niagara Gazette took a stroll among the people and vendors who gathered on the ice bridge selling everything from food to liquor to souvenirs. The following is an abbreviated account of that journey.

“On the mountain [of ice and snow] were a number of young ladies and gentleman enjoying the sport it affords in coasting. No sleigh or board was needed. Crawling up its huge side to the top was a hazardous trip, but it was accomplished and the trip down was an exciting one. Sitting down, one had hardly time to say Jack Robinson before you found yourself at the bottom…

“The first booth, or rather teepee, was run by James Callan. Callan dispenses souvenirs only, but he has a rare collection and attired as he is, in his Indian costume, he attracts many to his hut and few go away without purchasing some of his wares ...

“Continuing, the next place visited was the Gorge Hotel ... .Gold letters over the door inform strangers of the name and fame of the place, but to get a proper idea you have to try a little of Seagram’s, Walker Club or some Canadian Rye. They also sell photographs of the bridge ... .

“[The next booth is] the Clifton House [where] eatables and drinkables of all kinds are sold here and a good warm ‘hot dog,’ as they are called, go good along with an old rye chaser. ... At the Klondyke Hotel further along the bridge, they have more of the genuine stuff. Chasers are out of the question, for by the time a visitor arrives at that place he is pretty well chilled and thinks of getting nothing but the warm stuff ... .

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