Back in 2010 I was working for Niagara Country Community College at the Trott Center on Portage Rd at 11th St. Part of my drive in was on the Robert Moses Parkway along the Niagara River. One day I thought I saw something among the trees that looked like the top of a stone something, I didn’t have a clue, amidst the trees. I recall thinking that’s a weird spot to build something.
Today I was in Niagara Falls. Returning home this stone thing caught my eye again. Unlike like the last time my curiosity caused me to turn around and take a look. Glad that I did. And I’m happy cell phones now have built-in cameras. In the City of Niagara Falls on Buffalo Ave. on a the side of a road embankment surrounded by trees and brush exists not stone building but a single very large stone fireplace. A fireplace bigger than I had ever seen. It is at least 30 feet tall. And more amazingly it bears a green weathered copper plaque which says:
“Built by the French 1750, 100 Ft Westward in Fort Little Niagara’s barracks which they burned in 1759. To it the British built-in 1761
The Stedman House. (where that Master of the Portage lived until U.S. Occupation in 1796) which in 1808 became Broughton’s
Tavern burned by the British in devastation of 1813. Re-erected here in 1898 by Niagara Falls Power Company. Marked by the
Niagara Frontier Historical Society in 1915.”
I was rather stunned. The oldest structure on the U.S. side of the Niagara River Region is the French Castle, now surrounded by the walls of the Historic Old Fort Niagara. The castle was designed and built by Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Lery, chief engineer of New France in 1727. The castle and fort sit where the Niagara empties into Lake Ontario. It is a notable tourist attraction. The massive stone chimney, while only a chimney, is still memorable because of its size, its association with another fort, and the fact that it is 263 years old.
I have never heard of Fort Little Niagara (Fort du Portage). So I checked the internet for references of two forts of which I was aware. The still standing French/British Fort Niagara and the now gone British Fort Schlosser. I found that Fort Schlosser incorporated the Little Niagara Stone Chimney into its construction.
The plaque also confirms a fact which few locals are aware. This part of modern New York State was not part of the New York Colony that fought for independence form the British. It remained part of British Canada until 1796, a time seven years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified by the 13 states.
I am hoping that even these little remnants of our past can play a part in our future. The tales from those days when the nation was young and the Niagara Frontier remained a prize are worth repeating. We are more than the Great Niagara Falls. We need to find the will to preserve rather than let our past fade away unnoticed. This “Old Stone Chimney” needs a fitting home where its tale may be told. After all how many things have you seen in this part of the world that is 263 years old?
Pictures that I took today.