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Town (lower-tier)
Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Skyline of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Nickname(s): The Loveliest Town in Canada
Location of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the Niagara Region
Location of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the Niagara Region
Niagara-on-the-Lake is located in Southern Ontario
Location in southern Ontario
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Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
Region Niagara
Settled 1781
Incorporated 1792
 • Lord Mayor Patrick Darte
 • Governing body Town Council
 • MP Rob Nicholson
 • MPP Wayne Gates
 • Land 132.83 km2 (51.29 sq mi)
Elevation 82.3 m (270.0 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 15,400
 • Density 115.9/km2 (300/sq mi)
Demonym(s) NOTLer
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern Daylight (EDT) (UTC-4)
Postal code L0S 1J0
Area code(s) 905/289
The Court House, a Shaw Festival theatre and Parks Canada headquarters of Niagara National Historic Sites
St. Mark's Church

Niagara-on-the-Lake (Cayuga: Tganawai:ˀ[2]) (2011 population 15,400) is a Canadian town located in Southern Ontario where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario in the Niagara Region of the southern part of the province of Ontario. It is located across the Niagara River from Youngstown, New York, US. It is the only town in Canada that has a Lord Mayor.[3]


The settlement, known from about 1781 as Butlersburg, in honour of Colonel John Butler, the commander of Butler's Rangers, was renamed West Niagara to distinguish it from Fort Niagara.[4] It was a British military base and haven for pro-British loyalists fleeing the United States during the volatile aftermath of the American Revolution.[5] Renamed Newark by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792, he made it the first capital of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario), The first provincial parliament was convened at the Navy Hall on September 17, 1792.[5] Due to Newark's close proximity to the American border, Simcoe moved the capital in 1797 to York and Newark was officially renamed 'Niagara' in 1798.[4]

Niagara played a central role in the War of 1812. Niagara was taken in the Battle of Fort George by American forces after a two-day bombardment by cannons from Fort Niagara and the American Fleet, followed by a fierce battle. Later in the war the town was razed and burnt to the ground by American soldiers as they withdrew to Fort Niagara. Undaunted by this setback, often referred to as the "burning of Newark," the citizens rebuilt the town after the war, with the residential quarter around Queen Street and toward King Street, where the new Court House was rebuilt using material from the firing range of the cannons at Fort Niagara.[5] In 1859 the town built its first public school, Niagara Public School.[6]

The town's present name was adopted around 1880 as a Postal Address to distinguish the town from Niagara Falls. The name was not officially adopted until 1970, when the Town of Niagara and the Township of Niagara were merged.[5]

Historic sites

Most of the former military sites, such as Fort George, Navy Hall, and Butler's Barracks, have been restored. Fort George's restoration was done as a "Make Work Project", guided by plans from the Royal Engineers, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, an early example of historic preservation. Fort George National Historic Site is a focal point in a collection of War of 1812 sites which, collectively, are managed by Parks Canada under the name Niagara National Historic Sites. That administrative name includes several national historic sites: Fort Mississauga, Mississauga Point Lighthouse (1804, the first on the Great Lakes), Navy Hall, Butler's Barracks, and Queenston Heights.

File:National Historic District Map.jpg
A map of the National Historic District
Cenotaph and clock tower

Niagara-on-the-Lake teems with historical plaques, many national and provincial, reflecting its significance in the establishment of many of the province's institutions. Among these were its first newspaper, lending library, parliament, historical museum, and governing body for the legal profession. Critical battles in the defence of Upper Canada took place here, at Queenston, including one in which heroine Laura Secord gained her fame. The town gave many black Americans their first taste of freedom, both as a stop on the Underground railroad for those travelling further into Upper Canada, and as a refuge in its own right. Its stock of Regency and Classical Revival buildings, considered the best in the country from the post-War of 1812 period, led the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to recommend that the town's historic district be designated a National Historic Site of Canada, a designation which was approved in 2003.[7][8] The historic centre had already been designated as a provincial Heritage Conservation District under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1986. And, although it did not make the final list, the Historic District was considered for nomination as a World Heritage Site.[9]

Other significant sites in Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL):


Niagara-on-the-Lake is located within the federal electoral district of Niagara Falls, currently represented in the Canadian House of Commons by Rob Nicholson, and the provincial electoral district of Niagara Falls, currently represented in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario by Wayne Gates.

It is the only municipality in Canada whose elected leader is designated as Lord Mayor, a title more common in the United Kingdom.[3] Popular legend suggests that Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn bestowed the title on the mayor of Niagara during a visit to the town in the early 1800s, in recognition of the town's history as the first capital of Upper Canada;[3] however, there is no historical record of a mayor actually using it until Jerry Mussen in the early 1920s, and even after him the title was used only irregularly until the Regional Municipality of Niagara Act of 1969 officially legislated that "The mayor of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake shall be known as the Lord Mayor."[3] The town's current Lord Mayor is Patrick Darte, who was first elected in the 2014 municipal election; previous Lord Mayors have included Dave Eke, Gary Burroughs, Art Viola, Mike Dietsch, Stan Ignatczyk, Jim Marino, Wilbert Dick, Jake Froese and Fred Goring.[3]


Niagara-On-the-Lake beach, June 2014

The town is home to the Shaw Festival, a series of theatrical productions featuring the works of George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries, or plays about his era (1856–1950), running from April to November. The festival operates three theatres in the centre of town: the Festival, Royal George, and Court House theatres, and features one of a repertory acting company, scenic staff, and collection of resident and guest directors considered some of the best in the English-speaking world.

Along the Niagara Parkway is RiverBrink Art Museum, a popular tourist destination in Queenston. It is home to a unique collection of over 1,400 artworks and artefacts by Canadian and international artists, assembled by Samuel E. Weir. Completed in 1970, the building features Georgian-style architecture, including a mansard roof and gabled windows. It served as Weir's country residence, and was converted into an art museum following his death in 1981.

The surrounding region enjoys a comparatively mild climate thanks to the adjoining lakes, and excellent soil for fruit production, for which it has become one of Canada's centres. In particular, NOTL has grown into a major viticultural region. Visitors flock to dozens of nearby wineries, including those making the world's largest volumes of ice wine. The town is also known for its gardens, art galleries, antique shops, and golf courses. There are many hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals and spas in the area.

The old Niagara Public School, today a popular bed and breakfast.
A side street

Location shooting

Several popular films and TV shows have been shot on location in the NOTL Old Town, including:


Census Population
1871 1,600
1901 1,258
1911 1,318
1921 1,357
1931 1,228
1941 1,541
1951 2,712
1961 2,108
1971 12,552
1981 12,186
1991 12,945
2001 13,839
2006 14,587
2011 15,400

Only 15% of the population is under 14 years of age. Those over 65 years of age number 22.6% and constitute a fast-growing population. The town has seen growth of almost 1% yearly, partially due to a large number of retirees moving to the town.

Awards and recognition

The Town of Niagara was the site of the 8th World Scout Jamboree in 1955. Over 11,000 Scouts from 71 countries attended the Jamboree. It was the first to be held outside Europe and had the theme "Jamboree of New Horizons". Niagara-on-the-Lake was named the Prettiest Town in Canada in 1996 by Communities in Bloom, a nationwide beautification programme.[25] The town is now a popular tourist destination, located at the northern terminus of the Niagara Parkway, a scenic drive and biking/walking path.


Queenston, around 1805, by army surgeon Edward Walsh

In addition to the primary town site of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Old Town, the town also includes the villages of Glendale, Homer, McNab, Queenston, St. Davids, Niagara-on-the-Green and Virgil.

Glendale is located near the junction of the Queen Elizabeth Way QEW, Highway 405, and Highway 55, and adjacent to the Welland Canal. It is home to the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus of Niagara College.

Virgil is located just south-west of the Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where most of the tourism takes place. The community has a large Mennonite community, who originally settled the area in the early to mid 20th-century from Russia. Virgil has a large sports park, serving as the centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake's bustling hockey, softball, lacrosse and soccer leagues, two arenas, three baseball diamonds and a skate park. Once a year, on the Victoria Day weekend in May, the community holds its annual "Virgil Stampede". The festival includes rides, attractions and its annual soccer start-up tournament. Virgil's educational institutions are St. Michael's Elementary School and Crossroads Public School, which opened in September 2011, amalgamating the now-closed Virgil and Colonel John Butler Public Schools. The town's only secondary school, Niagara District, was closed by the District School Board of Niagara in 2010.

The Old Town also had an elementary school, located on King Street: Parliament Oak Public School. It was located on the site of the signing of the Act Against Slavery of 1793, by the first legislative session of the parliament of Upper Canada.[26]The school was closed on June 25, 2015.[27]

St. Davids Public School serves Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the southern part of the municipality. St. Michael Catholic elementary school serves Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the southern part of the municipality. Crossroads Elementary School serves Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the southern part of the municipality. High school students now take a bus to Laura Secord in St. Catharines, or to A.N. Myer in Niagara Falls.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Code 3526047) census profile". 2011 Census of Population. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2012-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Cayuga: Our Oral Legacy - Home. Cayuga Digital Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Oh, Lordy!; Niagara-on-the-Lake's mayor is the only one in Canada referred to as 'lord,' but as reporter Monique Beech discovered, the title's official status isn't clear". St. Catharines Standard, August 4, 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Century of Sail and Steam on the Niagara River, by Barlow Cumberland, 1911
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3
  6. [1]
  7. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  8. Niagara-on-the-Lake. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  9. Parks Canada Tentative List for World Heritage Sites, 2004.
  10. Battlefield of Fort George. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  11. Fort George. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  12. Butler's Barracks. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  13. Fort Drummond. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  14. Fort Mississauga. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  15. Mississauga Point Lighthouse. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  16. Niagara Apothecary. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  17. Niagara District Court House. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  18. Queenston Heights, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  19. Queenston Heights. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  20. Queenston-Chippawa Hydro-electric Plant, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  21. Queenston-Chippawa Hydro-electric Plant. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  22. Willowbank, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  23. Willowbank. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  24. Vrooman's Battery. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
  25. Washington Times, 23 July 2004
  26. Act Against Slavery

External links