Niagara-on-the-Lake is located on the west side of the Niagara River where it empties into Lake Ontario. The town was originally the capital of Upper Canada. The town is located directly across from Fort Niagara, on the American side of the Niagara River.
In 1792 Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, changed the name to Newark, however shortly after his departure to York Toronto) and the naming of a new capital the townspeople petitioned to have their old name of Niagara restored.
In 1797 the town was officially called Niagara. When the settlements of Drummondville, Clifton and Elgin combined to form the city of Niagara Falls in 1861 the town of Niagara added the “on-the-Lake” to distinguish itself from Niagara Falls, Ontario, a few kilometres to the south. The old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake joined the Township of Niagara in 1970 combining the villages of Virgil, Queenston, St Davids, Homer and McNab to become a regional town retaining the name Niagara-on-the-Lake. To differentiate between the original old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the much larger regional town the name “Old Town” is often given when referring to the historic old town of Niagara.
The old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake was designated as a National Historic District in 2004 because of its unique collection of preserved architecture dating from the early to mid 1800’s.