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Top 10 Historic Events to Impact Niagara

By: Sherman Zavits

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Below you will find Sherman Zavits’ (Official Historian for the City of Niagara Falls and The Niagara Parks Commission) interesting list of what have been the top 10 most significant events or developments that have taken place in the Niagara Region.

This list has been adapted by Sherman from a talk he gave (of the same name) at Brock University. The list is not a ranking, although he has listed them in a roughly chronological order.

1. The Arrival of the Loyalists 
Fleeing the American Revolution, the Loyalists became the Niagara Region's first pioneer settlers.

2. The Portage Road 
Connecting Queenston and Chippawa, the Portage Road was developed to take freight and passengers around the rapids and falls of the Niagara River. Opened in 1790, it quickly became a very important link in travel to and from the upper Great Lakes. This meant it was of great significance commercially and militarily.

3. The War of 1812 
The Niagara Region was the scene of many major battles such as Lundy's Lane, Queenston Heights, Fort George and Chippawa. As a result, there was a great deal of disruption, devastation and hardship. The war was an economic catastrophe for Niagara.

4. The Welland Canal
The canal opened for its first full season in 1830. The founding of a number of new communities along the canal route brought about a dramatic change in the region's population pattern. The canal also resulted in significant economic and population growth for Niagara.

5. The Railways
First arriving in Niagara in the 1850s, the railways have been very important for the region's trade and commerce. The tourism industry at Niagara Falls received a huge boost since it was now much easier and more affordable to reach the famous cataracts.

6. Niagara River Bridges
Niagara's location has made it a vital border crossing point. Canada and the United States have the largest bilateral trade flow in the world and a sizable portion of that trade crosses Niagara River bridges every day. Over the years, many Canadian businesses located in Niagara because of the easy access by road and rail over the Niagara River to the vast and close northeast U.S. market.

7. Tourism
This is a very big industry. Niagara receives the largest volume of domestic and foreign visitors travelling to Ontario. Fifty percent of all tourists to Ontario enter via Niagara. Niagara Falls is one of the most visited places on earth

8. Agriculture
Niagara's agricultural sector creates a $2.4-billion economic spin-off annually. The region is the largest grape-growing area in the country - 75% of domestic wine grapes are grown here. The grape and wine industry is not only an important part of Niagara's agricultural scene but has become a large part of our tourism industry as well.

9. Hydro Electricity
During the first half of the 20th century, electricity transformed North American society. It is a story of great expansion and technological development. An important part of that story took place along the Niagara River as the river's water was harnessed to generate "hydro" electricity.

10. The Queen Elizabeth Way
Canada's first super highway, it was officially opened to traffic on Aug. 23, 1940. At that point, only the section between Toronto and Niagara Falls was finished, with the portion between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie completed later. The road was built to open up Ontario to Americans. It has had a great influence on this area, both geographically and economically.


About Sherman Zavits: Although born in Welland, Sherman Zavitz has spent most of his life in Niagara Falls where he was a teacher for 35 years. He has written a weekly heritage column for the Niagara Falls Review for 18 years and has authored several books on Niagara history. He is the official historian for the City of Niagara Falls and The Niagara Parks Commission.


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