The Old Stone Chimney
The Old Stone Chimney. Photos by Christopher Puchalski.
Click map for larger image.
2017, click for larger image
955 Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls NY 14303
Address is approximate. Latitude/Longitude: 43.08115, -79.04958.
The chimney is located in the rear of a parking lot off Buffalo Avenue, a few dozen feet from the John Daly Boulevard exit ramp of the northbound Robert Moses Parkway and a few hundred feet north of the Niagara River.
Google Bird's Eye View
The chimney is constructed from stone and stands approximately 30' 10" high with an outside base dimension of approximately 8' 8" wide x 6' 6" deep. The top dimensions are approximately 6' 6" wide x 2' 10".
- Good, but threatened by its location on private property immediately adjacent to the Robert Moses Parkway, a high-speed divided highway in the City of Niagara Falls.
- September 2015 - Chimney is being disassembled for eventual relocation.
Origins and Early Days - 1750 to 1759
One of very few remnants of the era of 18th century French colonial power in Western New York, the Old Stone Chimney is the second-oldest structure in New York west of Albany, after the French Castle at Old Fort Niagara. It was built in 1750 by Daniel Joncaire (also the first European to set up trade along Buffalo Creek in 1758) as part of a two-story barracks at the southern terminus of the Niagara Portage, quite near a palisaded "Fort Petite Niagara," aka "Fort du Portage." Burning the fort in their retreat, the "French Landing" became the setting for Fort Schlosser when the area passed into British control.
Stedman and the Porters - 1760 to 1813
Portage Master John Stedman lived in a house built against the Old Stone Chimney from 1760-1796. Stedman was one of only two survivors of the event known as the "Devil's Hole Massacre" of 1763. After the American Revolution and “Hold-Over Period,” American brothers Augustus and Peter Buell Porter (with two other business partners) purchased lands along the Niagara from Lewiston to Black Rock, including all of the islands. They also leased exclusive rights from New York State to transfer goods and people from Oswego to Lewiston, around Niagara Falls via the Portage, to the Upper Landing and on to Black Rock.
Augustus, an attorney and surveyor for the Connecticut Land Company, lived with his family in the former Stedman home while he built his home overlooking Niagara’s upper rapids. Used again to house military officers, this time Americans in the War of 1812, the old Stedman house was burned, along with most of the Niagara Frontier, in December 1813. Two more structures came to be built against the chimney, but decades later it would again stand alone.
The Beginnings of Preservation - The First Move, 1902
Recognizing his singular position to preserve the Old Stone Chimney and its many stories, the Hon. Peter A. Porter (1853-1925), Peter B. Porter's grandson, saw to its protection. Selling the lands to the rapidly growing Niagara Falls Power Company in 1890, he arranged for the company to move the Old Stone Chimney, as it became increasingly apparent it would be lost to the industrial age. The structure was indeed moved in 1902; the process took great pains to mark and replace each stone precisely.
A bronze plaque “landmarking” the Old Stone Chimney was placed in 1915 to great public fanfare. In an eloquent speech, the secretary of the Power Company, Mr. Lovelace, asserted a “sacred trust to preserve inviolate as long as time and the elements will permit what now remains of this old fort, an object of so much of interest and of import to the history of the State of New York. Appreciating the interest of the Niagara Historical Society and warmly commending its present act, the Niagara Falls Power Company takes this opportunity to assure the society that at all times it will cooperate in protecting and preserving this hallowed relic of a glorious past.”
The Second Move, 1942
Unfortunately, the 1902 move did not account for public access or further industrialization of the location. In 1942, the Carborundum Company (which had acquired the former “upper landing” site) grew rapidly, increasing its footprint many times over. Again, the chimney was in danger of being destroyed, this time by wartime demand for abrasives. Carborundum and Niagara Hudson split the considerable cost of moving the Old Stone Chimney, carefully marking stone-by-stone the location of each, and reconstructing it exactly. This time, however, a plan was followed to place the structure in an area where the public could access the relic without molestation. It was placed in view of the shores of the Niagara, and proudly bore its bronze plaque in an appropriately named “Porter Park.”
Modern Challenges - 1957 to present
The Old Stone Chimney remains in this place still (2014). The area around it, however, has changed such that it's now in utter obscurity. The collapse of the Schoellkopf Power Plant in 1957 brought the need and opportunity to build a modern power station, one taking full advantage of Niagara’s potential. Construction of the massive Robert Moses Power Project caused a complete change of the river’s shoreline from the Grand Island bridges all the way to the upper rapids. Rock and fill from the new tunnels and reservoir created the “reclaimed land” the Robert Moses Parkway was built upon, and a raised highway berm nestled the Old Stone Chimney in the lee of the exit ramp for John Daly Boulevard.
Porter Park was further parceled and paved in 1972, to provide a parking lot for the Moore Business Forms facility at 1011 Buffalo Avenue. Denying public access to the Old Stone Chimney - over which had flown the flags of three nations, and built on the ancient landing site of indigenous peoples - was complete.
Current Status (2014)
Since 2011, the Moore Business Forms facility has ceased operation, and the Robert Moses Parkway reconfiguration placed the old relic at risk once again. In December, 2013, members of The Niagara Portage Old Guard (NPOG) discovered that the parkway reconfiguration plan and budget included $100,000 to disassemble and crate the Old Stone Chimney.
NPOG, in cooperation with several other western New York organizations, is “quarterbacking the effort” to see to the Old Stone Chimney’s preservation, public access, and interpretation. Further, NPOG is leading public support for taking advantage of the opportunity to revive the stories of the Niagara Portage and Upper Landing on a site adapted to its best and highest use. (Christopher Puchalski)
Recent Events and Actions Taken
- The Niagara Portage Old Guard, a group dedicated to promoting the history of Niagara Falls, particularly the Portage era, as an economic driver for the region, is organizing and advocating for the proper removal and reassembly of the Chimney.
- January 13, 2015 - New York Power Authority Finds New Home for Old Stone Chimney. NYPA plans to move The Chimney across Robert Moses Parkway to a spot nearer the Niagara River, and will position the chimney site to serve as a gateway to Niagara Falls State Park, the Niagara River’s existing hiking and biking trails and to other tourism and recreation sites.
- August 2015 - Go here for a "Call to Action" from the Niagara Portage Old Guard.
- September 2015 - Chimney is being disassembled, see latest photos at right.
Other Pertinent Facts
- Revere The Old Stone Chimney (Facebook page)
- Wikipedia article
- Brief historical essay from a 1916 book
- Niagara Gazette article "Group Hoping to Steer Old Stone Chimney to New Site"
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Added 2013-05-30 • Last changed 2017-01-09