Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 3, 2014

Long-gone tavern played role in Niagara County development

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — For people in Niagara County who still travel to Canada, the area around Upper Mountain, Military and Lewiston (Route 104) roads is the jumping-off point to the cross the border. It is usually a very busy place crowded with traffic, but before 1960 the area was very quiet, tranquil and rich in history.

In 1810 Isaac Colt came from New Jersey with his wife and six children and purchased Lot 25 on the Mile Reserve, on the lower Niagara River just south of the village of Lewiston. His property extended one mile east between Lewiston and Military roads, with Upper Mountain Road immediately to the north. This was also near the heavily traveled “portage” route around Niagara Falls that was used by travelers and traders before the Erie Canal opened in 1825. 

At this important intersection, Colt built a log home/tavern where his seventh child was born in 1813. Later that year the family fled to Canandaigua to escape the British assault on the Niagara Frontier. When the family returned in 1816, Colt built a new, large frame house that doubled as a tavern. He also purchased lots 24, 26, 29 and 30 adjacent to his property and established an extensive farm. 

The Colts eventually had eight children, six sons and two daughters. As each one married and had families of their own, Isaac Colt Sr. gave them a part of his property. One son built a cider mill directly across from the house on Lewiston Road. Later the railroad was built alongside the cider mill. A school house was built there as well, but was later moved across the road on the corner opposite to the Colt house.

By the end of the 19th century, no fewer than eleven Colt families lived in the vicinity of Upper Mountain, Lewiston and Military roads.

In the 1880s the old homestead was sold to the Rodell family. Their daughter, Helen, later inherited it and lived there with her husband, a Mr. Irving (first name unknown). After her husband’s death, Mrs. Irving began selling some lots to the south of the house along Lewiston Road. These lots later became what is called the Irving Subdivision, with short streets laid out. Further south was (and still is) the Riverdale Cemetery.

In 1919, Mrs. Irving sold the house and surrounding property to the Niagara Falls Power Company, which used it as rental property and did not maintain it very well. In 1937 the property was again sold, this time to Charles Call.

At the time of this purchase, the house was in a very dilapidated condition. Mr. Call repaired the house, had it sided and generally improved the property. He added a rock garden and lily pond behind the house. The Calls lived in the house, as did some of their children and later some of their grandchildren as well, until 1960. That year the New York State Power Authority took the property through eminent domain. 

The property was needed to connect the Robert Moses Parkway to the New York State Thruway and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. Clarence Lewis, then the Niagara County historian, wrote an article about the house and made an appeal to save it from the wrecking ball. Unfortunately, that did not happen and the house suffered the same fate as so many other Niagara County landmarks.

John Strickland, Charles Call’s grandson, lived in the house when he was a child and wrote a research paper about the property when he attended the DeVeaux School. He visited the History Center a few years ago and donated a copy of that paper and many photos of the house and surrounding countryside, taken primarily in the 1940s. Mr. Strickland has many fond memories of the house and we are grateful that he has shared this information and the photographs with us.

Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.