Niagara Falls: Oneida Tower

The Towers:  The Oneida Tower

The towers of Niagara have had a long and complex history.  These histories reflect the changing expectations of tourists to Niagara, and the towers, as substantial pieces of structure, have seen their names and roles changed over time. 

Observation towers were constructed in the 1800s on both sides of the river.  One was 'Robinson's Canadian Pagoda' built in 1849 near Table Rock.  This 70 foot high timber tower remained until 1860.  A number of towers were proposed through the 20th century but not built, including one proposed by Sir Harry Oakes to be 350 feet high and part of a massive conference centre.  The outbreak of the Second World War caused this scheme to be abandoned. 

The open steel tower was completed in 1964 as the Oneida Tower, and was designed by Toronto modernist architect Alan R. Moody (to see some interesting buildings of the period, search his name).  As a reasonably simple 341 foot (104 metre) tall structure,  the Oneida Tower was built in six months, by the Frankel Steel company.  'Oneida' refers to a community entity that made spoons and other tableware, and had built a factory on Clifton Hill.  The tower was the centrepiece of a redevelopment of the Oneida lands, which included a two storey commercial podium for commercial tourist operations. 

The tower was capped with a two storey observation deck that could hold 1,500 people, and was accessed by two elevators and stairs for emergency use.  A large illuminated 'Oneida' sign capped the structure. 

Ten years after completion, in 1974, Oneida relocated its offices and the tower became part of the Maple Leaf Village, with 'The Village' being an entertainment complex, including a theatre, restaurants, retail facilities and a Ferris wheel.  The tower name was changed to 'Kodak Tower', a large pitched roof was added to the top of the original observation deck, as well as an arched viewing window facing the river, and advertising boards were added to the supporting steel structure - some advertising Maple Leaf Village, while others, in yellow and red obviously, advertising Kodak films.

The complex survived into the 1990s when the tower was closed due to safety concerns, and the amusement park and Ferris wheel were closed soon after, with the residual elements closing in 1995.

Today the tower remains, as part of Casino Niagara, but remains closed, and is visibly deteriorating.  The supporting steel structure has been covered with white metal strips and a large red 'Casino' sign added.