Rare video footage of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls from the 1980s


Published October 9, 2022 at 8:57 am

Long considered by many to be one of the most colourful and vibrant main streets in all of North America, Clifton Hill in downtown Niagara Falls is a tourist’s delight.

It has a carnival-like atmosphere these days but its history is anchored by many military figures at its inception as most of the area was owned or maintained by British soldiers back in the beginning.

The land was first owned by Phillip Bender, who got it through a United Empire Loyalist land grant, back in 1782. Just 50 years later, the streets and property lots took real shape when the land was purchased by British Army officer Captain Ogden Creighton. He was the man who named the area “Clifton” after then same-named settlement on the gorge of River Avon in Bristol, England.

While the area was named Clifton, the street itself was named Ferry Road as it was close to the launch of a ferry system that used to shuttle people back-and-forth from Canada to the U.S. back in the early day.

Ownership of the land would change hands a half dozen time before it would transform into the tourist attraction that it is today and that started mostly in the 1920s when property owners truly began to understand the draw that Niagara Falls was to out-of-towners – both from Canada, the United States and even overseas visitors.

Hotels began to pop up to take advantage of the crowds that began to converge on the area. In the 1960s, off-beat museums started to land on the strip, now officially known as Clifton Hill. Rather than art museums (which tourist could visit in their own cities), the strip saw entries such as the Houdini Hall Of Fame, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the Hollywood Wax Museum, the House of Frankenstein and the Guinness World Records museum.

The first wax museum in Niagara Falls was Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks which opened in 1949. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the great grandson of Madame (Marie) Tussaud, who created the original wax museum in London, England in 1835.  Louis’ museum was a hodge-podge of famous actors, music artists, politicians, fictional characters from film and television, and historical figures.

That wax museum opened the doors to others that were extremely theme-specific – the Rock Legends Wax Museum, the Criminals Halls of Fame and the Movieland Wax Museum of the Stars.

These days, the hill is chockful of dining establishments and attractions such as the Niagara Skywheel, the Great Canadian Midway, the model trains at Locomoland, two casinos (Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino-Resort) within a five minute walk, Hershey’s Chocolate World, Dinosaur Adventure Mini Golf and, well, too many to list off.

So here’s a look at Clifton Hill from back in the late 1980s. While the attraction has certainly changed in the last 30-plus years, what you may notice even more is how video quality has advanced over the same time. It’s a blast from the past, to be certain.


insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising