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Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario: Colonial Architecture at the Mouth of the Niagara River

Downstream from Niagara Falls is a small colonial town that sits right on the mouth of the Niagara River. Other than being the first capital of Upper Canada, Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL as the locals call it) was the front line of the War of 1812. Its strategic location and fertile soil made it a location that was inhabited for thousands of years before the British set up a colony there. The great lakes made trade possible from the outskirts of the 19th century world all the way through to the Atlantic Ocean. The one obstacle that boats had a hard time navigating was Niagara Falls and the treacherously fast flowing Niagara River. Everyone who wanted to get from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and back again needed to stop in Niagara-on-the-lake.

This strategic location made Niagara-on-the-lake (then known as Newark) a very prosperous place in the 19th century. Many homes that are still there to this day tell the story of colonial riches. In the summer NOTL is lush and green. We went for a stroll in the wintertime around old town to take some pictures of the variety of 19th century homes found all around the Old Town.

Growing up in NOTL there was literally nothing to do as a teenager. We would drink beer down by the river in spots where American soldiers had gotten off their boats and had been torn to shreds by British guns, or hung out in the ramparts that were successful at funneling American troops into cannon range. The bloody battles that were fought in NOTL can now only be imagined but the colonists who fought for their land against the Americans had quite the reputation. The Butlers Rangers were a bunch of militiamen and Native Americans (in other words they were local farmers who also fought). Instead of lining up for battle like what was popular at the time, they hid in the trees and ambushed the Americans at every opportunity.

The Americans took over NOTL a number of times and the local people always took it back. On one occasion the Butler’s Rangers decided to go on a rampage in America and burned every village from NOTL to Washington DC. It was the men of NOTL that were responsible for the burning of the original White House. After Butler’s Rangers were through with the White House they white washed over the burnt parts and that is where it got its name.

Walking around Niagara-on-the-Lake is wonderful in the summer time because of all of the lush, well-kept gardens, but if you enjoy 19th Century homes, taking a stroll in the winter is a joy.

written by highdesertdan

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