The Niagara Foundation was established as a voluntary charitable organization in 1962 to promote the history, traditions and culture of the Niagara area.
Within a few months of its inauguration the Foundation commissioned an inventory of Niagara’s historic buildings; later a similar extensive survey of the historical buildings in the former Niagara Township outside the old Town boundaries was also completed.
To commemorate Canada’s centennial in 1967 the Foundation published, The Early Architecture of the Town and Township of Niagara by Peter Stokes and edited by Harry Picken and Gerry Wooll. This authoritative limited edition reference book has become a collector’s item; a soft cover version was republished several years ago. On the occasion of the Town’s bicentennial in 1981 the Foundation published the unique colourful isometric map of the old Town. In 1992 the Foundation helped finance the Niagara Historical Society’s successful publication, The Capital Years 1792-1796.
In recognition of the little-known fact that gravestones are very much part of our cultural heritage, an important photographic survey of 20 local graveyards was carried out with the Foundation’s support.
Historical buildings have always been the prime focus of the Foundation. In some instances this has involved advocacy for the preservation of buildings endangered through development. Others were buildings threatened by deterioration and lack of use. The Foundation has undertaken the proactive implementation of restorations on behalf of other institutions, re-couping these expenses through direct fundraising in the community, or by leasing back the facility until expenses were recovered. In some cases, the Foundation provided direct financial support to other groups’ restoration projects.
The first restorations by the Foundation was The Apothecary on the main street, which was one of the oldest continuing pharmacies in Canada. Vacated in 1965, it was purchased and restored by the Foundation with the support of Ontario Heritage (now owners) and the Ontario College of Pharmacists (now operators) to a museum of pharmacy. Other projects include the restoration of St. Marks Church Manse, the William Steward House, and the Foghorn House which you will find in later pages of this site.
Through the efforts of charter member Frank Hawley, the Foundation acquired three 19th century carriages: a convertible landau used during a Royal visit to Niagara in 1901, a hunting trap and a hearse which was manufactured in St. Catharines. The first two were restored by the Foundation while the hearse was transferred to the local funeral home with the promise that it would be completely restored and made available to the public.
The Foundation was the recipient of important local furniture from two local estates. Many pieces have been restored and now furnish the Foghorn House.
Over the years the Foundation along with other heritage groups have made presentations to various levels of government, commissions, committees etc. promoting the preservation of the architectural, cultural and environmental integrity of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The efforts of the Niagara Foundation have primarily been financed by its Annual House Tours for which the final tour was held in 2012 commemorating our 50th anniversary. The Tours have provided thousands of interested people an opportunity to learn and appreciate more about Niagara’s wonderful architectural heritage.