Niagara-on-the-Lake, often called the loveliest town in Ontario, has a long and distinguished history. Site of the old Neutral Indian village of Onghiara, it was settled at the close of the American Revolution by Loyalists coming to Upper Canada, many of whom had been members of the much feared Butler’s Rangers based during the American Revolution at Fort Niagara, then under British control.
In 1781 the British Government purchased land from the Mississaugas; a strip of land 6 miles wide along the western bank of the Niagara River for “300 suits of clothing”. By 1782, 16 families had become established and had cleared 236 acres. In 1791 part of the military reserve at the mouth of the river was chosen as the future townsite. In 1792, Newark – as it was named by Governor Simcoe, became the first capital of the newly-created colony of Upper Canada, and the legislature met here for five sessions, until Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe moved the capital to York. By 1796, 70 new homes were built, and the town continued to prosper as the economic, administrative and judicial centre for the Niagara Peninsula. The physical appearance of the town, with the exception of the powder magazine at Fort George was virtually erased by the burning of the town by the Americans during the war of 1812.
Rebuilt, Niagara became an active commercial centre, with a busy shipping and ship-building industry, as well as many shops and warehouses. The beautiful old homes lining the tree-shaded streets attest to the prosperity of its citizens.
TODAY, over two hundred years after its founding, Niagara-on-the-Lake hums with a different kind of traffic. Its many attractions include historic sites – Fort George and the Historical Society Museum, the Shaw Festival with its three theatres, the marina, our heritage business district for shopping, golf courses, parks and beautiful farmland, agricultural markets and our world famous Niagara wineries. Come to the many special events held throughout the year! Take a carriage ride through the Old Town, or a jet boat up the Niagara River. A short drive along the scenic Niagara Parkway leads to Queenston Heights and Niagara Falls. Check out the Butterfly Conservatory at the Niagara Parks Commission site. Our town attracts thousands of visitors who stroll the old streets, enjoy the comforts of fine hotels or our charming bed and breakfast homes, dine in our many varied restaurants, and, if even for a little while, journey back in time to a more leisurely time – the age of Niagara-on-the-Lake!