Underground Railroad Sites


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Freedom Crossing Exhibit

The Underground Railroad Exhibit at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NACC), “Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara,” tells the story of the Underground Railroad Movement in Buffalo Niagara—and of the people who risked their lives, all for freedom.

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Site of the Ferry Landing

Before the War of 1812, an 80-foot-long ladder was constructed directly at the base of the American falls. It was destroyed during the War of 1812. Three years later, at the request of Augustus Porter, Parkhurst Whitney built the first stairs at this location in 1818, echoing a similar staircase on the Canadian side.

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Site of the Cataract House

The Cataract House was one of the two largest hotels in Niagara Falls, operated by Parkhurst Whitney from 1825-45, and by his son Solon Whitney and sons-in-law James Trott and Dexter Jerauld from 1845 until the late nineteenth century.

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Site of the Eagle/International Hotel

The Eagle Hotel was the first hotel in Niagara Falls, owned by Parkhurst Whitney. In 1853, B.F. Childs added on to this building to create the world renowned International Hotel, equal in size and stature to the Cataract House.

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Site of the Falls Hotel

Between 1847 and 1854, the Falls Hotel housed the offices of The Iris, a newspaper with antislavery sympathies owned by editor George Hackstaff and printer William Tunis. Tunis also published tourist guides, operated a bookstore across the river in Ontario, and served as an agent for the Railway Express System, delivering New York City periodicals to inland cities.

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Site of the Free Soil Hotel

James S. Patterson (also known as Samuel J. Patterson) was born in 1809 in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a stronghold of southern slavery. Patterson came to Niagara Falls in 1836, and worked for years as a porter at the Cataract House.

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Site of the Patterson/Robinson House

James and Luvisa Patterson, operators of the Free Soil Hotel on Main Street, lived in this house. After their daughter Mary Luvisa Patterson married Charles Kersey Jackson from Virginia, the Pattersons moved this house to a nearby back lot on Fall Street and built the Robinson House Hotel at this site on the original Mechanic Street.

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Site of the St. Lawrence Hotel

At a time when many African Americans could not find adequate hotel accommodations, Christopher Smith, proprietor of the St. Lawrence Hotel, hosted Frederick Douglass here in 1848.

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Home of Dexter Jerauld

Dexter Jerauld, part owner of the Cataract House, constructed this elegant Gothic Revival structure sometime before 1867 and perhaps as early as the 1840s.

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Site of the Augustus Porter House

Augustus S. Porter and his brother Peter B. Porter were the first private European American owners of land in Niagara Falls. As part of Porter, Barton, and Company, they established ports in Niagara Falls, Lewiston, and Black Rock (now part of Buffalo).

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Solon Whitney Home

Solon Myron Napoleon Whitney, son of Parkhurst Whitney, owned the Cataract Hotel for more than 50 years with his brothers-in-law Dexter Jerauld and James Trott.

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Site of the Home of Peter A. Porter, Elizabeth Porter, and Josephine Porter

The Porters were one of the first European American families to own land within the Niagara Frontier, and would go on to become major land speculators throughout the region.

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St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

img st peters churchMany prominent local families, both African American and European American, were associated with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Peter A. Porter and Elizabeth Porter, both associated with the Underground Railroad, belonged to this church, as did Parkhurst and Celinda Whitney, Solon and Frances Whitney, and Dexter and Angeline Whitney Jerauld.

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Site of the Peter Buell Porter House

The Peter B. Porter family represents the tension between slavery and freedom embodied in personal family relationships.

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Site of the Home of William H. Childs

W.H. Childs was a major anchor of abolitionism in Niagara Falls, “a most zealous anti-slavery man,” from at least 1840 to the Civil War, working with philanthropist Gerrit Smith to distribute land to African Americans in 1846-47, consistently supporting the Liberty Party, and helping to establish the Congregational Church at Suspension Bridge.

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Oakwood Cemetery

Oakwood Cemetery has been the main cemetery for the village and city of Niagara Falls since it was established in 1852 on land donated by Lavinia Porter, daughter of Niagara Falls founder Augustus Porter.

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Emma Tanner Home

Emma Louise Jordan Tanner was born in Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls, Canada, about 1859.

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Site of the Whitney-Trott House

This site is significant for three reasons. It was the home of Parkhurst and Celinda Whitney, original owners of the Cataract House, which hired dozens of African Americans as waiters and cooks, many of whom had been enslaved in the South.

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Site of the International Suspension Bridge

The Suspension Bridge across the Niagara Gorge served as a point of crossing for many fugitives into Canada. Built in 1848 as a carriage and footbridge, the Suspension Bridge was rebuilt in two levels to incorporate rail traffic in 1855.

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Site of the Maid of the Mist Landing

From 1846, when the Maid of the Mist began service, until after Captain Joel Robinson took her through the Whirlpool to be sold in 1861, she docked in Bellevue, just above the Suspension Bridge.

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First Congregational Church and Society of Niagara City

The First Congregational Church and Society of Niagara City was constructed in 1855-56, and located just a block away from the Suspension Bridge.

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Colt Block

Leander Colt represents widespread local support for helping people to get out of slavery. Colt “and lady” attended a benefit concert for George Goines in Lockport, who was raising money to buy freedom for his mother and brother.

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Site of the School for the Deaf or Blind African American Children

From 1858-61, Dr. P.H. Skinner and his wife Jarusha Skinner kept a school here for African American children who were deaf, mute, or blind, espousing ideals of equality and abolitionism.

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Colt House

The Colt family represents widespread local sympathy for enslaved people.

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Site of the Ferry Landing at Youngstown

The ferry across the Niagara River here at Youngstown was an important crossing point for freedom seekers, particularly before completion of the Suspension Bridges at Niagara Falls in 1848 and Lewiston in 1851.

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Lewiston Landing

Many freedom seekers used the ferry at Lewiston or the Lewiston Suspension Bridge (from its construction in 1851 to its destruction in 1864) to cross into freedom in Ontario. Steamboats also stopped here six days a week, making a regular circuit of both U.S. and Canadian ports on Lake Ontario.

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