A picturesque little town in Canada with its colonial style buildings, often nicknamed the loveliest town in Canada, Niagara-on-the-lake is located beside Lake Ontario where the river Niagara flows into the lake. The border with the United States is only a short distance, with New York being across the river. Its Victorian main street, with boutique shops, classy restaurants and bars make a big impression with visitors on arrival. The settlement was founded in 1781 and named Buttlersburg to honor John Butler, a Colonel and commander of Butler’s Rangers, later it was re-named West Niagara. Historically speaking the town is an important part of Canadian history, due to it being the first capital of the Province of Upper Canada, the predecessor of Ontario, which was called Newark from 1792 to 1797. As you might have already noticed by the colonial style, this was originally a British military base. Beside the river Niagara, the 19th-century, Fort George was built by the British to defend against American attacks.
On route to Niagara-on-the-lake, our first stop along the Niagara Parkway was the floral clock, the largest of its kind in the world and which was completed in 1950. The floral clock was the inspiration of Ontario Hydro chairman, Dr. Richard L. Hearn. The idea behind the clock is a famous 1903 clock in Princess Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Niagara Floral clock is three times the size of the clock in Edinburgh.
Onwards then, to the World’s smallest church, The Living Water Wayside Chapel. The chapel was re-located to its current position in April 2012, and is set back next to Walker’s Food Market, a fantastic spot to pick up delicious fresh produce such as peaches or cherries, or like my daughter and I, a creamy ice-cream, I chose a maple and walnut ice-cream, my daughter chose cookie dough ice-cream! (Other varieties are available.) The Living Wayside Chapel still performs wedding ceremonies, provided you don’t mind the size, yes, it is as tiny as it looks and can only fit around 8-9 people. The atmosphere inside was, indeed very calm and peaceful. We both signed the visitors book before we left.
The afternoon was an extremely hot one, and we were so glad to have an air-conditioned tour bus to travel by, and as we hopped back on board with ice-creams to enjoy, we headed to the next destination, the little town of Niagara-On-The-Lake.
As we arrived, the nickname of the loveliest town, was quite apparent. What a beautiful place to spend an hour. Our time at Niagara-On-The-Lake was only a fleeting one, but the tranquility of the area and warmth of the very welcoming folk in the town, will stay with me. Being a very hot day in May, my daughter and I were glad of the shade provided by the many trees lining the quaint little streets.
My favorite shop must be Greaves store, selling all types of preserves and gorgeous gifts. I browsed a while, left for another wander about town, and returned to buy their hottest chili sauce as an extra gift for my husband. The shops are fantastic for gift shopping, the choice is mind boggling. The shopping experience was part of the whole colonial feel here, the shops have a back in time feel about them, as do the pretty little streets.
Harking back to the history and its colonial past, in 1781 the British Government purchased land from the Mississaugas. (A sub-tribe of the Anishinaabe-speaking First Nations people who are related to the Ojibwe.) Mississauga roughly translates to those of the river mouth, in Anishinaabe, Misi-zaagiing.
The deal was made for a 6-mile-wide piece of land on the west bank of the Niagara river, near to the rivers outlet to the lake. The British paid 300 suits of clothing for the land. Also, at the time of the close of The American Revolution, a base for Loyalists arriving in Upper Canada, mostly members of the Buttler’s Rangers. In the War of 1812, the town, the two former villages of St. David’s and Queenston, and Fort George were the site of many battles following the American invasion of Upper Canada, and the town was razed.
In a quote from The Smith’s Canadian Gazetteer of 1846, Niagara is described:
“It has been a place of considerable trade. On the east side of the town is a large military reserve. About half a mile up the river are the ruins of Fort George, where the remains of General Brock were originally interred; they were removed. A new town-hall and court-house are intended to be erected by the town. There is a fire brigade with two engines and a hook and ladder company. Churches and chapels total five. Two newspapers are published weekly …. Steamboats run daily, as long as the weather will allow of it, from Toronto …. The Niagara Harbour and Dock Company were incorporated in the year 1830 …. the vessels turned out by the Company [include] the steamboat “London,” which commenced running in the spring of 1845, the fastest boat on the upper lakes… The Company usually employ about 150 hands; and, when particularly busy, have employed as many as 350. There is also on the premises a marine railway, large enough for hauling up vessels of the first class. Post Office, post every day. Professions and Trades. —Three physicians and surgeons, nine lawyers, twelve stores, taverns, two chemists and druggists, three booksellers and stationers, two saddlers, four wagon makers, two watchmakers, two tallow-chandlers, marble works, two printers, two cabinet makers, one hatter, four bakers, two livery stables, two tinsmiths, three blacksmiths, six tailors, seven shoemakers, one tobacconist, one bank agency, …. large quantities of apples, peaches, and cider are shipped annually.”
Niagara-on-the-Lake has been known by different names over time, from Buttlersburg, West Niagara, Newark and finally, Niagara-on-the-lake in 1880, but not officially used until 1970. The town is also unique in Canada by being the only town to have a lord mayor.
One point in history that I feel is important to note, Niagara-on-the-lake played a big role in helping slaves find freedom via the Secret Railroad, the town was considered a safe haven.
The Shaw festival draws many George Bernard Shaw fans to Niagara-on-the-lake, as does the history and pleasant demeaner of the area, it is so easy on the eye and even more so to fall in love with, in fact it is an increasingly popular place to retire to! I can imagine many reasons to retire there, it is so peaceful, and has everything you could possibly need situated around it. As afore mentioned, we had only an hour to spare for a wander about town, but I would love to return someday. Our visit to Canada, has left us with a bounty of wonderful experiences, from the excitement of attending the Anime North convention in Toronto, the exhilaration of Niagara Falls, and the tranquility of Niagara-on-the-lake.
Our next stop was a privately arranged, ice wine tasting session at a local winery. A perfect finish to our very memorable day. Canada just keeps on surprising me. 😊