The abandoned tower at Niagara Falls


Published February 5, 2023 at 8:04 am

Oneida tower Niagara Falls

What started as a towering tribute to a spoon factory has now turned into an unsafe rusted ad for a casino in Niagara Falls.

When it was built in 1964, what’s known now as the Casino Tower (partially due to the fact it sits alongside Casino Niagara) was originally called the Oneida Tower.

The open metal tower, designed by architect Alan R. Moody, was actually built in a short six months by Frankel Steel Company of Toronto in the busy tourist season of 1964. The tower was 104 metres (341 feet) while the top of the flag masts (visible in the right photo below) was 108 metres (355 feet) above Falls Avenue.

When it was being built, the crews went up six feet per day, finishing in June 1964. There were two floors of the observation deck, the lower of the two accessible from the two elevators inside the tower that got tourists up there in less than a minute.

From that lower deck, people could walk up 10 feet to the top observation deck, which was partially open, giving people a stellar view of the falls. There were openings along the sides so cameras could get an unobstructed view of both the falls and the city.

So why was it called the Oneida Tower? That was a tribute to British settler John Noyes’ company, the Oneida Silversmith Factory that was near this Niagara Falls property in 1926. The factory, which manufactured iron spoons, was located on a large parcel of land along the north side of Clifton Hill and employed hundreds of local residents.

That Oneida logo at the top was a 50-by-30 foot neon sign that could be seen for miles. In 1974, the sign was yanked because it had become rusty and unsafe to the public both below it on the deck and the nearby ground.

The original Oneida Tower, as you can see, had a wide-open viewing platform, open-air body with two staircases inside the frame. (Most Photos: Niagara Falls Public Library)

Just 10 years later, in 1974, the Oneida Tower gained a roof and was renamed the Niagara Tower and Plaza Limited and just 11 years after that in 1985, this tower became the centre-piece of the Maple Leaf Village Shopping Complex. Suddenly, it was renamed the Kodak Tower.

Admission costs to the Kodak Tower were eliminated for a few years as the mall struggled until unsafe conditions closed the tower altogether in the early 1990s.

At the end of the 1992 season, the Maple Leaf Village amusement park created around the base of the tower closed down to the point where in 1993, the Ferris wheel was dismantled and shipped to Asia for use there.

A look at the Kodak Tower, both with and without the sign. As you can see, the tower gained a roof by this point.

By January 1994, only a dozen shops remained in operation throughout the sprawling three-story structure at the base of the tower. Redevelopment of the property was necessary, as many more shops were preferring on-street access in the burgeoning tourist area. The Maple Leaf Village Mall closed for the last time on Feb. 1, 1995.

So how did it become Casino Tower, its present name? Casino Niagara opened at the base of the tower on Dec. 7, 1996. What few know is the casino was only meant to be there for a short time before it took over the land now inhabited by Niagara Fallsview Casino and Resort.

For whatever reason, that never happened, and suddenly on June 10, 2004, Niagara Falls had its second casino when Fallsview opened. While both are owned by the Ontario government and run by Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment out of Connecticut, Fallsview is the only one of the two with a hotel component.

And the tower? It was given white paneling to reflect its more upscale surroundings and large red capital letters spelling out C-A-S-I-N-O were placed vertically on the side of the tower, which are lit up at night. These days, the tower is considered an eyesore by locals and is in poor condition. Deterioration is visible under the paneling of the steel trusses, as they have turned from white to brown from rust.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the Casino Tower comes down, as well. It is even possible it might not make it to its 60th birthday in 2024.

The word “casino” as it stands today.

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