Snak Shak was one of several businesses on this busy spot in Niagara Falls
Published March 9, 2023 at 10:29 am
It was thrown out as a simple question on a Facebook Niagara Falls history page. What occupies the space that The Snak Shak used to occupy on Victoria Ave. in Niagara Falls back in the 1940s and 1950s?
In one of those gratifying moments where social media is used correctly to everyone’s benefit, Niagara Falls residents started to weigh in, all eager to shed some light if they could.
One person noted that The Snak Shak’s address at the time – 1751 Victoria Ave. – has since been changed to 5751 Victoria Ave quite some time ago. That helped narrow down the search to a large degree.
The below match pack being sold on eBay for $7.99 noted that The Snak Shak (“Niagara’s Finest Open Kitchen” – meaning simply customers could see the grill) was located at 1751 Victoria while right beside it at 1759 Victoria was The Arcadian Restaurant (“Where Nice People Eat”).
It seems the next occupant of 1751 Victoria, which had now become 5751 Victoria, was the Criminal Hall of Fame Wax Museum, seen below. Now this was some kind of colourful tourist attraction.
While we are uncertain if the address had a different occupant between The Snak Shak and the wax museum opening, here’s what we do know about the latter tenant. The museum first opened in 1977 and lasted 37 years before closing in late 2014.
Beside the old-time police car out front on the sidewalk, it was one of many wax museums in Niagara Falls, located at the top of Clifton Hill. The museum featured 40 wax statues of mostly American notorious criminals, from mobsters to serial killers.
Due to its macabre nature, many of its reviews skewed toward the negative. In 2002, columnist Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the museum as “a cheesy little monument to brutality,” while in 2005, the same paper’s Dennis Roddy called it “a garish little exhibit.” In 2003, the Boston Herald simply called it “tacky.”
However, in 2010, Doug Kirby’s roadsideamerica.com noted in its review that the museum had “more gore than most horror wax museums and better lighting, too,” which it took as “a good indication that this attraction is drawing enough of a crowd to pay its electric bill.”
Among the museum’s featured criminals were contemporary serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Charles Manson.
However, there were no shortage of old-time outlaw historic figures in there, such as Billy The Kid, Pretty Boy Floyd, Clyde Barrow (from Bonnie and Clyde), Lucky Luciano, Jesse James and Al Capone.
Speaking of crimes, somehow someone managed to steal the wax figure of Adolf Hitler from its glass case in 1999.
So we know the Criminal Hall of Fame Wax Museum closed in 2014. What’s at 5751 Victoria now? This is where it gets tricky. When you plug the address into Google Street View, it shows you the Montana’s BBQ & Bar above. However, the restaurant is very clearly marked as 5759 Victoria Ave, the same address as The Arcadian Restaurant many years ago.
Given that you can clearly see the eatery to the left of the Criminal Hall of Fame Wax Museum in that picture, it would appear that the Montana’s has simply absorbed the 5751 lot into an expansion of the restaurant at 5759. The 5751 lot started where the ATM is in the above picture and that appears to be part of the restaurant now.
Granted, given the previous tenant’s penchant for evil and dastardly people, is it possible that 5751 Victoria was stolen by a bad guy? After all, there was no shortage of those in the wax museum.