Observatories on Lundy's Lane

Between the early 1820's and the end of the American Civil War in 1865, War of 1812 battlefields were a popular tourist attraction. Of these, the most popular was the site of the Battle of Lundy's Lane. Because both sides claimed victory in this battle, the site attracted Canadians, British and American tourists alike. Visitors would be given tours of the battleground by a veteran of the battle, and could view the battlefield from the gallery of the second Drummond Hill Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1836 at the south-east corner of Drummond Road and Lundy's Lane. Drummond Hill was the highest ground in the area, and the view which could be obtained was magnificent, inspiring a series of five observation towers on Lundy's Lane.

First Observatory

Known as the Anderson Tower, the first observatory was built around 1845  by a veteran of the Battle of Lundy's Lane, Captain Charles Anderson. Located on the north side of Lundy's Lane, on a lot north-east of the present Drummond Hill Church, this tower was a crude wooden structure which lacked a foundation. It consisted of four logs placed in the sand, which tapered to a height of 40 feet. The outside of the tower was covered with wooden lattice work, offering some protection for the visitors who ascended and descended the stairs located within. The posts of the tower soon began to decay, however, and the observatory collapsed during a winter storm. It was never rebuilt.

Second Observatory

The second observatory, the McKenzie Tower, was erected by Donald McKenzie on his property in 1846. Located just west of the Drummond Hill Church, it was the only one of the five observatories to be located on the south side of Lundy's Lane. Rising to a height of 80 feet, the tower had a sturdy stone foundation and its bottom two stories were covered with clapboard. The observatory contained a flight of stairs, and was covered by lattice work where the clapboard ended. The tower had three observation platforms with protective railings: at the second storey, 2/3 of the way up the tower and at the top, where a telescope was located to supply distant views of the surrounding countryside. On the ground floor, souvenirs such as Indian beadwork, bullets found on the site of the battle, stone specimens, bows and arrows, and canes were sold. There was a 25-cent charge for tourists visiting the tower, but it was free to local residents and school children. In early 1851, McKenzie enlarged and renovated his observatory, which was operating very successfully. Unfortunately, the tower was destroyed in a spectacular fire on July 4th, 1851. Some suggested the fire was deliberately set. No photographs of the first two observation towers are known to exist.

Third Observatory

This observatory, also known as Scott's Tower, was constructed by Adam Fralick in about 1850, almost opposite the Drummond Hill Church. Like the McKenzie Observatory, the Fralick Tower was a wooden structure covered with lattice work, built on top of a two-storey building. The tower remained in operation for many years, but it ultimately collapsed during a storm. The property was transferred to the City of Niagara Falls by Ruth Redmond.

Fourth Observatory

The Fourth Observatory. Advertisement print for the Davis/Durham Observation Tower. Oval framing of the tower atop Drummond Hill, trees around the tower on the near-side; fields on the far side of the tower structure. A semi-circular driveway with a horse and buggy and pedestrians walking toward the building. A two storey brick building is at centre with a wooden observation tower built upon it; the staircase is surrounded by a wooden lattus structure; at the very top is a flag. Lundy's Lane, at left, extends out to the horizon.
The Fourth Tower or Durham/Davis Tower, as seen from the Third Tower or Fralick’s “Scott Tower”

The fourth observatory was built prior to 1855, located near the north-east corner of Lundy's Lane and Drummond Road. It was constructed by a Mr. Davis, and later run by a Mr. Durham, as a consequence of which the tower is referred to as both the Davis and Durham Observatory. It was built on top of a two-storey red brick building whose second floor was used by lodges for meetings. As the fourth observatory was located on lower land than the previous towers, it surpassed them all in height. This observatory was used by area residents to glimpse the Battle of Ridgeway during the Fenian Raids in1866. In 1869 or 1870, several pieces of the observatory were blown down during a fierce storm. The tower was dismantled in 1870, but its competitor, the Fralick Tower, stood for many years after the closure of the fourth observatory.

Fifth Observatory or Steel Tower

In 1893, a group of local citizens formed the Lundy's Lane Observatory Company and erected a steel tower on the site of Fralick's Tower. The construction of the 102-foot steel tower (the first such tower in Canada) was financed by selling $10,000 worth of shares to local citizens. The base of the observatory was a 50-foot square two-storey building and the girders of the tower were not simply anchored to the roof, but passed through the actual building. Part of the building was to be used as a museum and storehouse for relics recovered from the Lundy's Lane Battlefield. The tower had a steam-operated elevator which took visitors to platforms located ¾ up the tower and at its summit. Although the steel tower was widely publicized, it failed to attract significant numbers of tourists, and the observatory was forced to close within six years of its construction. The property was sold to William Crawford in 1921, and he had the building and tower removed.

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