Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Master Plan for Urban Renewal

Found in the Niagara Gazette - the Master Plan for the Urban Renewal project of the late 1960s, early 1970s.

(click images for larger photos of each)

Winter on Main Street early 1970s

(click any image to see larger photo in detail)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daredevils of Niagara Falls: Robert Overacker

Robert Overacker, a 39 year old man from Camarillo, California challenged the Niagara River and the mighty Horseshoe Falls at 12:35 p.m. on October 1st 1995. Riding on a single jet ski, Overacker launched himself into the Niagara River upstream of the Falls from the area of the Canadian Niagara Power Plant . Robert Overacker rode his jet ski directly at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls.

At the brink of the Falls, Overacker ignited a rocket propelled parachute that was strapped to his back. His plan was that the rocket would quickly deploy the parachute allowing him to safely land in to river below the Horseshoe Falls where he could be rescued. Overacker did ignite the rocket which deployed the parachute as planned. Unfortunately as the parachute deployed it fell away from Overacker to the ground below. Unknown to Overacker the parachute was not tethered to his body. The parachute was not packed by Overacker prior to the stunt and he was unaware of this fatal error. His step-brother and a friend witnessed this unfolding tragedy as Overacker fell to his death to the water below the Falls.

Robert Overacker was married and had no children. Overacker became the fifteenth person since 1901 to challenge the Falls. Robert Overacker challenged the Niagara River and paid with his life. His body was recovered by staff at the Maid of the Mist.
(Source: )

I chose this particular daredevil to start this blog category because of this great photo. I am blowing it up larger and putting it behind my desk - a great photo of the Mighty Niagara with a little surprise in the bottom left corner!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hyde Park Ice Rink - circa 1950s

(Submitted by JB)

I received a phone call from Colorado this afternoon and the guy said, “this is a voice from the past and I saw you on StenzTV and looked up your phone number.”

It was a fellow from NF who I knew as a child when he was ice skating on the outdoor rink at Hyde Park (where the senior center is now) and I was the Rink Rat (the guard on the ice). We became friends and I lost track of him after he graduated from high school. In fact, he is one of the guys with his back turned in the photo at Carroll’s Drive-In on Main St I submitted. We had a nice chat and I pulled out my file of photos from when he was a kid (he’s a grandfather now) and scanned them and said I’d send the originals to him.

Back in the era of 1950-60’s there was an outdoor ice rink (artificially frozen) in front of the “big pool” and stadium at Hyde Park. The original warm-up building is now part of the John Duke Senior Center, and the ice rink extended from that building, north towards what was a line of poplar trees.
One of the “stars” on the ice during that time was an elderly gentleman named Tom, who owned and operated a tie shop on Falls Street (before Urban Renewal). He was a fine man and wonderful figure skater and was always willing to show young folks how to skate. Being a camera-bug, I took many photos and these 4 are of a few of the kids on the ice with whom I became friends. Because of, after 50 years apart, Jeff Walker, now a grandfather and living in Colorado, saw my name and contacted me. It was great to reminisce about old times and catch up on our lives.

(click any image to enlarge)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grand Opening of the Rapids Theatre

Grand Opening of the Rapids Theatre - December 4, 2009

It isn't an often occurrence these days to be invited to a gala Grand Opening in Niagara Falls, so when the email came in from John Hutchins and Carl Labate to attend the grand opening of the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main Street, Niagara Falls, USA), I circled the date on the my calendar and began looking forward to December 4th. Wouldn't you be as intrigued as I was? Anyone receiving the invite in their email boxes (and also those with previous knowledge of the plan in place) had to be all thinking the same thing, "I gotta see it to believe it."

I had the pleasure of meeting with John Hutchins during the tail end of last winter and he took me on a brief tour of the theater while construction was just underway. Looking around and seeing the place in the state it was in at that time, you would think that the cigar he was puffing on was filled with something other than tobacco, for the grandiose design he spoke of couldn't be nothing more than a optimistic hallucination, right? Or maybe it was another dream from another developer looking to fill the resident's skulls with hot air, take some seed money from City Hall only to leave all plans dangling and all plywood-over-the-windows intact for another decade or two. Well, Dear Readers, let me tell you, that isn't the case by any means...

The grand opening on Friday night of the Rapids Theatre was IMPRESSIVE. The exact moment when the doors opened and welcomed the guests in, was the exact moment that a brighter future for Main Street, Niagara Falls USA began. This particular landmark here in little ole' Niagara Falls, laying dormant and dead for so many years has officially been resurrected from the dead! Not only was the atmosphere perfect and the sights visually stunning, but the sound from the stage was excellent as well. For me, it was shocking that this was happening on Main Street. Hallelujah!

I could write on and on and share the many stories (everyone has a few) about times I spent in the theater in the past - when it was The Late Show, or Center Stage, or The Pleasure Dome II, or the Dome Theater or whatever it was called when I was drinking underage and the walls were painted black and purple. Lost were the days that the elders of the community speak of remembering fondly times from their youth watching Disney movies on the big screen and munching popcorn in one of the finest theaters in Western New York. [For some history tid-bits, please click here to visit my iWitnessNiagara Blog here on StenzTV and you can catch a small glimpse of the fond memories they speak of] So, now things are set right, the nostalgia of the past has been recaptured. Run and tell your parents and your grandparents that there is something on Main Street in Niagara Falls that they can once again be proud of, and who knows, maybe you'll be sitting watching a theater production or a concert in the near future sharing popcorn and experiencing new memories together at the Rapids Theatre.

Just a few photos - please submit any you have to be archived in the iWitnessNiagara Blog:

(this photo submitted by Niles J Fuller - Niagara SHOUT Magazine)

Do you have some old photos or some memories from yesteryear of 1711 Main Street you'd like to share? If so, send them in to and I will post them and update the blog entry. We'd love to hear from you! If you have any photos or stories from the Grand Opening Night (Dec.4, 2009) please send them along too!

(This article will be updated - stay tuned!)