Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hyde Park Swimmers 1931

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Swimmers at Hyde Park - Summer of 1931. Photographer was standing near where the dam is now located.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Albert Augustus Porter House

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House built by Albert Augustus Porter - Buffalo Avenue. Now the site of the Holiday Inn.

Henry P. Smith Home - Buffalo Ave

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This is a sideview of the home built by Henry P. Smith (circa 1910 -20s) - Razed in the 1960s, now the site of Wendt's Dairy.

Basil Brothers Lasalle Theater 1939

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No matter how many times I see this photo (from the Niagara Gazette), I simply can't believe it. This theater stood on the corner of Buffalo Ave and 76th Street. Absolutely astounding.

The Bellevue/Rapids Theatre on Main Street

(click on photo for larger image - circa 1921)

[From the Niagara Falls Gazette, September 14, 1923: "Many Leading Business Places Of The City Have Been Identified With The Street Since The Village Days"]
The Bellevue occupies a lot on the east side of Main Street, south of Michigan Avenue, with 100 feet frontage of Main Street and 160 feet depth. The main entrance is in the center of the building, which is of brick, concrete and hollow tile construction, is given over two modern stores on the first floor and five offices on the second floor. The building has a handsome tapestry brick front. Between the two stores a wide and handsome vestibule leads up to an equally ornate lobby, from which, in turn, one passes into the foyer of the spacious theatre auditorium, which occupies the rear of the building.
The attractiveness of the entrance and the marble and tile vestibule and lobby gives promise of the wonderful beauty of the foyer and auditorium, which is nothing short of captivating. The broad foyer is done in cypress and richly carpeted. The indirect lighting system throughout is of particularly enhancing design and in its soft glow, one glimpses appealing beauty on every side. There is nothing left to desire in that which the art of builder and decorator devises.

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Above the foyer and rear part of the auditorium's main floor, midway to the ceiling, is the loge or balcony, entirely given to the inviting boxes of the ornamental type. The loge has only box seats, which are arranged to give the occupants a wide sweep of the floor and stage. The stage itself, at the east end of the auditorium, is one of the largest afforded by any picture theatre in the state. It is 20 feet in width and 45 feet high, with a depth sufficient to permit of the best vaudeville attractions.
Of special importance to the welfare of the playgoing public is the fact that The Bellevue auditorium, its foyer, lobby and vestibule are of the most modern and complete fireproof construction and that every safeguard against fire is employed. The picture machine booth is completely outside the auditorium and is cut off entirely by fireproof walls and fire doors, which automatically close if a film catches afire. Even the window through which the picture machine projects its rays to the stage curtain is equipped with automatic appliances which make it impossible for flames, in case a film blazes, to leave the confines of the booth. The only person who can incur any danger from the fire is the machine operator. Besides the wide main entrance, there are eight fire exits from the auditorium main floor, four from the balcony and two from the stage.
38 years later...

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[From the Niagara Gazette, May 23, 1961: "Bellevue Will Become Luxury Movie House"]

Plans to remodel the Bellevue Theater to create a new luxury motion picture house were announced today. The change will start at the street entrance and sweep through the entire interior - with the greatest comfort and the newest in technical equipment keys to the revamping. To herald the complete change in the theater, a new name will be chosen soon to replace Bellevue.
Richard H. Hayman, vice president of the Cataract Theater Corp. and Michael J. Harmon, secretary, in making the annoucement today, said that their plans constituted a vote of confidence in the future of Niagara Falls.

"We believe strongly in the future of our city and of our business in particular," Mr. Harmon said for the corporation officers. "Because of this belief, we are actually bringing into the North End of the city a brand new theater."

The Bellevue will close within the next 10 days. The new theater will open, it is hoped, within a month from the closing. Patrons to the new theater will step under a modern, V-shaped marquee with the latest combination of decorative electrical signs. The accent on luxury and comfort will prevail in both the main orchestra floor and the loges. The techinical improvement will include additional projection and sound equipment so that the latest of the screen large picture super-motion features can be shown.
"Structurally, the building is sound," Mr. Harmon said. "We are going to do the remodeling needed to make this a completely modern theater." The gala opening of the newly named, remodeled theater will offer a major motion picture of the summer season, Mr. Harmon promised.

(click on photo for larger image - notice marquee far left - "Midnight Cowboy" circa 1969)
Enar Ahlstrom, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, hailed the announcement as a concrete expression of faith in the city. "Here is a local company with enough faith in Niagara Falls to bring us what will be a completely new theater. it is one of the finest expressions of confidence I've seen so far," he said.

"If more of our people in similar ways expressed their faith in the future of the city rather than only looking at today's problems, we would recover more quickly and get back to a healthy economic situation."
85 years later...

The Bellevue Theater (now The Dome Theater, previously the Late Show) as it stands in 2008:

UPDATE - 2009: Check out the GRAND OPENING of this Niagara Falls landmark here:

Street Names Past to Present: LaSalle -1928

In the naming and renaming of streets (in 1928), Niagara Falls, like many other cities had a senseless experience. The merging of the two former villages, with both having similar names for streets, added materially to the confusing condition that had to be corrected. Politicians saw in this situation opportunity to hang the names of some of their party leaders on the city, while still others seized the occassion to hang their family name on some of the thoroughfares. Names of historic interest were abandoned, as we others of geographic value. (from an article entitled "Street Names, Past and Present" by O.E. Dunlop - courtesy of the Local History Department)

Present Name - Past Name:

56th St - Evershed Avenue
57th St - Ericson Place
57th South St - Penn Place
58th St - Roebling Place
59th St - Morse Avenue
59th St - Wilson Avenue
60th St - Harding Avenue
61st St - Manchester Avenue
61st St - Shoreman Drive
62nd St - Chalfonte Road
63rd St - Strathmore Road
65th St - Independence Avenue
66th St - Reliance Avenue
67th St - Shepherd Avenue
68th St - Curtis Avenue
69th St - Joliet Avenue
69th St - Rosewood Terrace
70th St - Lincoln Avenue
71st St - Hennepin Avenue
71st St - Thomas Street
72nd St - Pacific Avenue
73rd St - Atlantic Avenue
74th St - Lynch Avenue

77th St - Duane Avenue
78th St - Hopkins Avenue
79th St - Norman Avenue
80th St - Belden Avenue
81st St - Hamilton Street
82nd St - Seneca Avenue
83rd St - Oneida Avenue
84th St - Marquette Parkway
85th St - Onondaga Avenue
85th St - South Onondage Avenue
86th St - Bollier Avenue
86th St - Roswell Avenue
South 86th St - Burdett Street
South 86th St - Island Parkway

87th St - Griffon Street
87th St - St. John's Avenue
South 87th St - Cayuga Place
88th St - Gombert Avenue
South 89th Street - Seneca Parkway
90th St - Elm Place
91st St - Tompkins Street
South 91st St - LaSalle Parkway
92nd St - Park Avenue
93rd St - Pierce Avenue
South 93rd St - Primrose Parkway
94th St - Dick Street
95th St - Green Street
100 St - Ideal Street
101st St - Pleasant Avenue
102nd St - Wheatfield Avenue
Baker Avenue - South Street
Bollier Avenue - Elizabeth Street
Buffalo Avenue - River Road
Champlain Avenue - Forest Avenue
Edison Avenue - Orchard Place
Edison Avenue - Second Place
Frontier Avenue - Fourth Place
Frontier Avenue - Kernott Street
Frontier Avenue - Meredith Street
Frontier Avenue - Railroad Avenue
Girard Avenue - Lee Street
Girard Avenue - Sixth Place
Griffon Avenue - Woodlawn Avenue
Hennepin Avenue - Center Avenue
Jayne Place - Terrace Place
Joliet Avenue - Rivershore Drive
Lindbergh Avenue - Elon Street
Lindbergh Avenue - Fifth Place
Lindbergh Avenue - Linden Road
Lindbergh Avenue - Lindsey Street
Lindbergh Avenue - North Railroad Avenue
Pasadena Avenue - West Avenue
Perry Avenue - First Place
Pershing Avenue - Niagara Avenue
Simmons Avenue - William Street
Stephenson Avenue - Factory Street
Stephenson Avenue - South Railroad Avenue
Stephenson Avenue - Third Place
Troy Avenue - Washington Street

The following articles (on the subject of the name changes) are from March of 1928, appearing in the Niagara Gazette:

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The Aquarium of Niagara is turning its parking lot, between Third and Whirlpool streets, into a drive-in movie for one night, complete with popcorn, soft drinks, ice cream and hot dogs, available for purchase. And, of course, a couple of popular movies the whole family can enjoy. “Cirque du Cinema” is planned Friday, Aug. 22. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.

Films to be shown on a 20-foot outdoor screen include a recent comedy starring a veritable boat full of animals and humans, Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman, followed by the now classic tale of a giant shark that terrorizes a New England coastal village and its residents.

Before the movies begin and during intermission, there will be circus-like entertainment with prizes and surprises. This professionally produced production is a fund-raiser for the not-for-profit Aquarium. Admission is $20 per car with two occupants; $25 for a car with three or more occupants. Walk-ins are $5 and should bring their own chairs. Rain date is Saturday, Aug. 23. Time Warner Cable is sponsoring this night of film and fun.

For more information, contact Tracy at 285-3575, Ext. 206. Admission will be paid at the “drive-in” entrances.

What a great way to spend a Friday night in Niagara Falls. Bring the family, tell the neighbors, and come out to support the Aquarium. See ya there!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Niagara Falls Vintage Photos - Cayuga Drive in LaSalle

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R.Gerbasi's Meat & Groceries (circa 1925) - On the corner of Frontier Avenue and Cayuga Drive in LaSalle.

Niagara Falls Vintage Photos - Max Elbe's Jewelry

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Exterior and Interior photos of MAX ELBE'S JEWELRY STORE which was located at 105 Falls Street. Circa 1920.

Niagara Falls Vintage Photos - Buffalo Avenue

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What is now Buffalo Avenue in Lasalle during the early 1900s, looking east. On left, "German Methodist Church" - In 1969, the building was turned broadside, steeple removed and made into apartments. House on left now Lane Funeral Home. On right - house was Arnold Home, then the Luick Home.

(Mrs. L.M. Jayne identified these - courtesy of the Niagara Falls Public Library)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wagner Building 1921

The Wagner Building 4/15/1921 - Purina Feed
(20th and Pine?) This photo must've been taken hours before it collapsed!

Main Street - Then & Now

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Looking south down Main Street From Ontario May 26th, 1904

And now, 104 years later...

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Silberbergs on Main Street

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Silberbergs on Main Street after fire at Grant's Store (far left) 10:45am, February 17, 1936

Click here for a Bob Kostoff's article from the Niagara Falls Reporter.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fireworks Over the Falls

(photo by Neil Gates)

Great night photo of downtown Niagara Falls from a higher elevation. Thanks to contributor Neil Gates for the snapshot.

Here Comes the Sun

(photo by Ian W.)

This photo (taken for iWitnessNiagara by on-the-scene photographer Ian W.), proves the theory that behind the dark rain clouds that have been haunting the Niagara region this entire Summer, there actually is a sun. Just about to peek out... and hopefully stay awhile. There is still a month of Summer! As much as I want football games and football weather, I can be patient and enjoy what little warmth we can get around here every year.

The above image makes a great desktop background. Just click on the above image, once displayed (large) - right click on it, then choose "save as background."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kathy Griffin: Hilarious D-Lister

Best known For her role on the NBC sitcom "Suddenly Susan, " Kathy Griffin has also appeared in over 25 films and 40 television shows including her own stand-up comedy specials on HBO and the Emmy award-winning TV show on the Bravo Channel, "Kathy Griffin: My life on the D-List." Kathy performed Saturday night in the Events Center at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.

Evident in her introduction video (which was shown on the giant side-screens next to the stage before Kathy took the mic), Kathy has been seen in A LOT of television and movie roles over the last twenty years... most of them being one or two sentence cameos (Pulp Fiction anyone?). Although her celebrity status is of the self proclaimed D-List variety, her stage act Saturday night was a very funny A+.

I have to admit that I have never been much of a "Life on the D-List" fan, but after listening to Kathy rant about her celebrity "friends" (celebrity targets) and offer her take on her semi/quasi-celebrity culture, I will be giving the Bravo show another look. She isn't afraid to give the dish about the fake appearances of Hollywood, so-called friends, sex and drugs, and is in no way afraid of inserting an F-Bomb in every other sentence - my kinda gal!

For an hour and half, Kathy dished the dirt on everybody from Pamela Anderson to Oprah (and everybody within that spectrum of celebrity), only pausing long enough to have a sip of water, then moving quickly on to the next spoonful of celebrity gossip. Her performance was like reading an issue of Entertainment Weekly with a little bit of grit and grime smeared in for good measure. I am sure along her ladder climb up the fame scale, she has burned a lot of bridges and has pissed off more than her fair share of those who reside in Hollywood, but after listening to Kathy's take, it sounds like they all deserve it!

The show on Saturday night was sold out, and Kathy was very proud to exclaim while flipping off the crowd, "SOLD OUT F#$&ERS! TAKE THAT RYAN SEACREST!" to the cheers of an audience filled with screaming fans. It looks like life on the D-List ain't so bad after all.

Check out Kathy's website at:

Be sure to visit for more details on upcoming shows and attractions at the Seneca Niagara Events Center.

Monday, August 4, 2008

One Man, Many Voices - Frank Caliendo

Frank Caliendo Performed Friday Night
(8/1) at the Seneca Niagara Events Center

Eighty years ago, versatile actor Lon Chaney was known as the "Man of a Thousand Faces" - it wouldn't be too far of a stretch for comedian/impressionist Frank Caliendo to adapt that moniker for his own stage act and call himself "The Man of a Thousand Voices." Now, a thousand voices might be a bit of an exaggeration, but in the time Frank spent on stage Friday night at the Seneca Niagara Events Center, he defintely made it seem possible that if he had another couple of hours to spend talking to the crowd, we might've heard that many... or more.

Known mostly for his uncanny impression of NFL broadcaster John Madden, Frank is the writer, actor and star of his own show on TBS called FrankTV. He was also a cast member of MadTV, appears regularly on the Fox NFL pregame shows, and makes the rounds on several late-night talk shows.

In the hour and a half he was on stage, Frank was a whirlwind of different characters, barely stopping to catch his breath before moving on to the next voice in his arsenal with rapid fire succession. Frank, the man himself, disappeared after the first few minutes of his act and basically left the stand-up routine to his act's mainstay - George W. Bush. Every chance he had, and with every change of thought, there was the "W" spitting out nonsense words like "talkified" and "pronouncification." His impression of the President is perfect and served as his go-to joke whenever he needed to segway into the next bit. Frank made the transitions effortless, bouncing like Cybil from one persona to the next. The crowd loved it.

Here is the complete list of every impression Frank did on stage Friday night in order:
George W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Charles Barkley
Bill Walton
Jay Leno
Dr. Phil
Al Gore
Jeff Goldblum
Adam Sandler
Nathan Lane
Robin Williams
Dick Cheney
Al Pacino
Michael Richards
Jerry Seinfeld
Andy Rooney
John Madden
Kermit the Frog
Miss Piggy
Chris Rock
Casey Kasem
Ted Knight
Jim Rome
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Mike Tyson
Sean Connery
Robert DeNiro
Keanu Reeves
Rick Moranis
Terry Bradshaw
David Letterman
Paul Schaffer
Marv Albert
Donald Trump
Chris Farley
Paulie Shore

Frank Caliendo is one of the "everyman" type comedians, and although some of his punchlines and impressions might need a little tweaking (they all can't be dead-on!), his "aww shucks" personality makes it hard for anyone to criticize his stage act. He looks like your brother-in-law and doesn't take his rising popularity too seriously at all. What other headliner makes himself available to every single fan for pictures and autographs after the show?

Check out Frank's website which includes his tour dates, videos, merchandise and blog.

Be sure to visit for more details on upcoming shows and attractions at the Seneca Niagara Events Center.