Exploring Great Destinations in the Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada
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Exploring Niagara Falls

The First Tourists

After the War of 1812 travel between the two countries became more common, with goods and people moving freely between Canada and the United States. Although there were facilities on the American side to view the falls, the best views of the mighty Niagara were on the Canadian side at Table Rock. It was this location that many visitors sought out and with their ever increasing numbers so too did the need to accommodate them.

One of the very first hotels on the Canadian side was the Pavilion. Many more such as The Prospect House, Table Rock House and the Clifton House would soon follow. In a 1844 publication of The Guide Book of the Falls the following reference is made:

"At Chippawa commences a railroad extending to Queenston, a distance of ten miles. Steamboats continue the line of travel from both ends of this road, thus furnishing an interesting conveyance between Lakes Erie and Ontario.

On arriving in the vicinity of the Falls of Niagara, on the route from Chippawa to Queenston, the railroad cars stop opposite the Pavilion, a favourite public house kept by Mr. Chrys(t)ler. About a half mile below, near the ferry is situated Clifton House, a well-kept hotel. The site of this house was chosen as giving the best view of both the American and Canadian, or Horseshoe Falls, which are seen from the piazzas and every window in front.

The railroad to Chippawa terminates on the south of Queenston village, near the monument. Passengers are taken from the depot in carriages, to the steamboat landing, a short distance below, where steamboats depart and arrive several times daily during the summer months. Stages leave Queenston daily at 8 a.m. for St. Catharines, London, Windsor and return from Windsor each day at 8 a.m. "

Thomas Barnett and the First Museum

In the early 1820's Thomas Barnett built a large home adjacent to Table Rock. Mr. Barnett was a well respected businessman and also a collector of things rare and unusual. He realized that the visitors to the falls needed lodging and he turned his residence into a hotel named Table Rock House. Here Mr. Barnett also set up a small museum, the very first museum in Canada.

barnett museum
Barnett Museum, built in 1859-60 and named Niagara Falls Museum

Mr. Barnett was an avid collector and by 1840 his museum had over 5,000 artifacts and specimens. Visitors to his museum could wander through a well-laid out display of stuffed reptiles, birds and mammals, Indian artifacts, and dozens of curiosities collected from his travels around the world. The museum even housed an exhibit of live rattlesnakes at one time.

By 1860 the museum had outgrown its home at Table Rock House and Thomas Barnett built a new museum named The Niagara Falls Museum. This new museum was built of stone and was several stories high allowing visitors to the museum a view of the falls.