Call to Action


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From Christopher Puchalski, Founder, Niagara Portage Old Guard, August 2015

THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION to the New York Power Authority and City of Niagara Falls, New York. We ask friends of this page to lend their active support. The Robert Moses Parkway exit ramp at John B. Daly Blvd has been removed without incident, and it is in the best interests of the Old Stone Chimney and the people of the Greater Niagara Frontier to leave it where it has remained since 1942, in Porter Park.

In the last three years, thousands of people have helped the Niagara Portage Old Guard “change the conversation” regarding the stories, importance, and symbolism of the Old Stone Chimney and Niagara Portage. NPOG continues to call for the restoration, public access, and improved interpretation of these underdeveloped regional assets. We continue to engage the public via this facebook page, various media outlets, publications, and numerous public meetings and presentations. In 2013, we began to build support in favor of moving the 18th-century Old Stone Chimney, as it was threatened by the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway exit ramp to John B. Daly Blvd. In December of that year, we further discovered that the RMP removal plan included a line item to deconstruct and crate the OSC, with no mention of its re-construction. We took action immediately, formed a plan, and worked the plan. We approached the administration of the City of NFNY. We garnered the interest of SHPO, who declared the OSC eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places, ending a longstanding decision to the contrary. Through the office of Rep. Brian Higgins, we also engaged the New York Power Authority. We have made suggestions which fit within the strategy of Governor Cuomo’s “Path Through History” initiative.

No threat remains that will be solved by simply moving the chimney, or that can’t be corrected or improved on its present site.

100 years ago this summer, the Niagara Frontier Historical Society honored the Old Stone Chimney with “landmarking” protocols of the time. There had been plans to relocate it to the Olmsted-designed Niagara Reservation since at least 1892, but those plans had been unrealized. Interestingly, a promise was made at that ceremony in June, 1915. Frederick Lovelace, Secretary of the Niagara Falls Power Company (early predecessor to the NYPA, and first entity to save the OSC by moving it), assured the Society that “at all times it would co-operate in protecting and preserving this hallowed relic of a glorious past.”

Much thought had been given to the Old Stone Chimney’s conservation, access, and interpretation prior to its second move in 1942. This was still decades before there was a generally accepted culture of doing such things. Sadly, in 1962, the city of NFNY conveyed the OSC, and the land upon which it currently sits, to NYPA. NYPA failed to honor the promise of its predecessor, and NFNY failed to insist upon it. At the time, the wave of perceived progress ushered in by the construction of the Niagara Power Project left few thinking about honoring our past. Now, happily, we hunger to correct that error. A key element of the city’s, indeed the region’s heritage, was annihilated in that bargain. We ask NYPA for evidence that the spirit of this transfer was to better be true to the 1915 promises of Mr. Lovelace and the NFPC. This detail is, in point of fact, essential. A sacred trust is not transactional. It is a solemn oath, and we are holding NYPA to it.

Two moves is enough. This hallowed relic is not a decoration or finial, to be moved at whim by changing powers-that-be. The Porter Park is accessible. It defers to the judgment and intent of the Porter family and other leaders, who provided for the park at least as far back as 1916. SHPO has yet to determine appropriate action regarding the historic park elements uncovered in recent excavation. We call on NYPA to take the $1.4M it would otherwise spend and immediately make good on Lovelace’s promise:

  • Conserve the Old Stone Chimney in its present location. Spare no expense. Repair the structural and superficial compromises of the last two moves, and decades of deferred maintenance. These egregious errors precede the creation of the Greenway Fund, and paying for it should not diminish the scale of other Greenway projects. Make the area around the Old Stone Chimney a gathering place, as it was for the decades of its active use. Welcome all to seek comfort in the light and warmth of this unique and vital hearth.
  • Seize this collective chance to learn. Share this knowledge in any and all ways possible. Part of our region’s identity is hidden in those stones.
  • Provide Porter Park the wherewithal to be a world-class space for residents and visitors alike.
  • Provide proper security for the park and OSC.
  • Reconnect the Niagara Portage, from Lower Landing to Upper Landing, as a heritage trail that is pedestrian-accessible. This will help strengthen existing private and public areas.
  • Through the Greenway, fund long-term, sustainable plans for expanded interpretation and tourism. Support in-kind funding from other sources. Link/integrate portage-era tourism to the Erie Canal and other forwarding posts from the east coast to the Great Lakes interior and Mississippi Delta.

WNY’s pre-canal heritage does not hinge on the relocation of its oldest structures, but rather on the love carried in the hearts of those touched by these stories. Millions of visitors to Niagara Falls have been cheated out of a better understanding of the human story of the Falls, the economies and wealth created, the blood spilled, the faith that was lost in utter despair. NPOG has pulled back the curtain. In so doing, we reveal an opportunity, and re-engaged an overdue regional dialog. The moment is ours, collectively, to seize.

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Added 2015-08-24 • Last changed 2015-08-24