Commentary: From dawn to dusk on both sides of the border in Niagara Falls

Commentary: From dawn to dusk on both sides of the border in Niagara Falls

Tourists have flocked to Niagara Falls for decades for entertainment and the beauty of its landscape. Yet the area struggles to recapture its former glory.
Published: May 30, 2019 | Updated: June 13th, 2019 at 10:27 pm
Morning view of Niagara Falls, Ontario skyline as seen from Rainbow International bridge.
Morning view of the Niagara Falls, Ontario, skyline as seen from Rainbow Bridge at the U.S.-Canada border.

Walking along Niagara Boulevard and the surrounding area on a crisp, spring dawn in mid-April reveals scenes infused with both revitalization and abandonment.

The street is clear and there is an almost hollow characteristic to the air. The Grand Hotel Niagara exists in all its grandeur, yet within, it lays empty and gutted.

Continuing my walk I recognize this empty feeling echoed in other places, and also, within myself.

Oakwood Cemetary, in Niagara Falls, NY, as seen at dawn.
Oakwood Cemetary, in Niagara Falls, New York, as seen at dawn.
First Presbyterian Church is located on 1st Street in Niagara Falls NY.

On the Rainbow Bridge I pass a small group of tourists wheeling luggage. On the entirety of the bridge, it’s only them and me. I stand looking out over the river for several minutes before making my way into Canada. After I answer the compulsory questions at the Canadian border, I enter Canada for the first time.

Looking northeast on Rainbow International Bridge. The Canadian Flag is on the left and the American flag is to the right.

Looking northeast on Rainbow International Bridge. The Canadian Flag is on the left and the American flag is to the right.

The border, as seen from the Rainbow Boulevard bridge, just before dusk.

Both sides of Niagara Falls just before dusk.

The Grand Hotel Niagara, built between 1923 and 1925, closed for renovations in 2007 that never took place. Since then the hotel's ownership has changed hands many times and it remains abandoned.

As I walk into the city, I recognize that an uneasiness has befallen me, perhaps because my car is parked at a meter on the American side, and I return to Rainbow Bridge. Re-entering the pathway to the bridge I note the turnstiles request a dollar to pass. Not having cash, I jump the stile, heightening my uneasiness. Not noticed, I make my way slowly across the bridge once more, stopping again to watch the water and to photograph. My uneasiness has passed in watching the water and it’s an hour later that I return to the United States, re-answering the compulsory questions: Where are you from? How long were you in Canada? What is your citizenship? Who are you with? What were you doing?

The Grand Hotel Niagara, built between 1923 and 1925, closed for renovations in 2007 that never took place. Since then the hotel's ownership has changed hands many times and it remains abandoned.
The Haunted House of Wax on Niagara Boulevard, Niagara Falls, NY

The Haunted House of Wax on Niagara Boulevard, Niagara Falls, New York

Overlooking Niagara River, Niagara Falls, NY

Looking up in Niagara Falls, New York, the birds are no doubt oblivious to the international border they cross as they fly about.

Niagara Rainbow Motel's sign
Niagara Rainbow Motel's sign remains intact while the motel itself has been demolished.
The border, as seen from the Rainbow Boulevard bridge, just before dusk.
Avatar for Michele Abercrombie

is a NewsHouse photographer and photography graduate student at the Newhouse School.