Sunday, December 30, 2007

Off the beaten path

Deep in the woods, after the leaves have fallen, some ruins which usually hide in the shadows can be seen clearly. Footings from the Tumble Bug or something else? If you know for sure, please email me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Video update

A quick look at the nearly finished Erie Beach section of the Friendship Trail in Fort Erie. On a windy fall day.

Three cheers

Work is nearly done on the three-metre wide recreation of the concrete promenade through Erie Beach. Railings are up, greenery has been planted in strategic sites and there is a section (below) which includes modern versions of the concrete columns which supported decorative light posts along the full length of the walkway.

Stevensville Lawn Service, the company which won the contract to do the work on the promenade, which is the final section of Fort Erie's Friendship Trail, did an incredible job in keeping some of the old flavour of the park, recycling some of the ruins and incorporating them into the new layout. In a couple of spots they even replaced the steps leading up to the paths which run deeper into the park.

Some work is still to be done -- I believe the plan calls for some signage with historical notes and some seating in certain spots -- but the Friendship Trail through Erie Beach is pretty much done.

A Niagara This Week story notes a ceremony is planned for the spring.

With the increase in foot traffic along the trail, now all that needs to be done is for the town to get serious about a plan for the length of the shoreline from Erie Beach to Waverly Beach and the potential for increasing tourism in the area. Reconstructing the pier as an amazing vantage point for both shores or filling in the old swimming pool and erecting a bandshell as a unique ampitheatre are just two ideas suggested by those with an interest in the old amusement park.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Just about done

Concrete was poured this week on the east end of the Erie Beach section of the Friendship Trail. It's looking good; just a little landscaping and some final touches (such as the lookout point in the bottom photo) to go and the workers will be out of the area.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Slowly but surely

Not much progress on the Friendship Trail this week; possibly a delay in pouring cement as the weather wasn't too co-operative. But one can see how the final product will look and note those nice finishing touches with the old posts from the original promenade.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Can Erie Beach pool be brought back?

FORT ERIE - Walk around the Erie Beach ar a while the final leg of th Friendship Trail construction is und rway and it's not hard to hear conversations about other work the town should be doing in the area.

Fixing the old steamship pier, filling the swimming pool with dirt and creating a park complete with bandshell, or even restoring the old concrete pool which was advertised nearly a century ago as the world's largest.

Such an endeavour would create quite a tourist attraction, said Howard Melcher when asked about the idea during a recent walk through the area.

continue reading in the Fort Erie Post

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Prep work nearly done

The preparation is nearly done on the east end of the Erie Beach section of the Friendship Trail. The base has been built up from truckloads of gravel, slabs of the broken, busted-up concrete from the original promenade are being used along the edge and the cement will probably be poured during the next week. At the west end, the boardwalk is installed and there is new concrete all the way past the old dance hall to the spot you see at the very end of this video.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Past and present

Have to hand it to Stevensville Lawn Service, the company that is constructing the Erie Beach section of the Friendship Trail. Along the way, wherever possible, they have preserved elements of the old promenade. And where they've found some of the few guard rails/lamp posts that remain, they've incorporated them into the trail. Nice work.

The above and below photos, taken Friday, also shows the progress of the work being done at the east end of the promenade, where the rubble had to be sorted -- large blocks of the old concrete are being used to reinforce the new section and also act as steps to the waterfront -- and a new base is being installed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ticket to ride

Ken dug into his collection of old roller coaster photos and passed along this beauty of the Wildcat.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The fountain

Remains of the electric fountain from the Erie Beach Amusement Park were somewhat hidden for a long time, but in recent years have been dug out and used as a fire pit by those who have fun in the woods after the sun goes down. The above photo, taken by Doug Garner in the 1980s, shows how the centre portion of the fountain, installed pre-1920, was filled in with weeds and small trees at the time. When compared to photo below, taken in July, it also shows how thick the trees have grown in during the last two decades.

Below, you get an idea of what the fountain looked like in its heyday.

The above photo, taken from the opposite angle of the first three, shows the fountain near the middle on the right side, giving you an idea of where it is located next to the promenade just east of where the old dance hall stood.

Can't recall off the top of my head if the rest of the concrete is around there (it must be). Next time I am down there I plan to move some dirt around and see what's buried under there.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How low can it go?

The water level at the east end of Lake Erie is lower than I ever recall seeing it. I recall when the water where that mid-sized dog is standing, in this photo from Saturday, was usually at least six feet deep and only the tops of those rocks were visible.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Nearly there

Construction at the west end of the old promenade is nearly complete. The cement is is place, just a little work on the boardwalk at Waverly Beach remains. Work on the east end, though, where there was no concrete base left to work on, continues slowly. What is done looks great -- and what is to come will no doubt look as good. It should be completed in mid-October.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Half-way there

Well, maybe not half way but there is a lot of progress on the Friendship Trail. This 10-foot wide section of cement was poured Tuesday along the stretch of the old promenade which passed the dance hall.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Down at the dance hall

A friend of the family has some old video, circa 1960, of their time living in the Waverly Beach area. This short section shows the dance hall, long after it had closed but while it was still standing.

For those who have never seen it before, this is what your parents are talking about. For those who remember it, enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wild ride at Erie Beach

It's hard to believe now, but Fort Erie once boasted one of the most popular amusement parks in Canada.

Until it suddenly closed near the beginning of the Great Depression, Erie Beach Amusement Park was the top attraction in Niagara outside of the Falls.

But that was a much different time. Long before air conditioning and television, or even a family car, summer escapes to shoreline resorts were the highlight of summer for many people.

With its beautiful picnic groves, luxury hotel, expansive midway, giant outdoor pool and a three-storey structure which housed a dance hall and bowling alley, Erie Beach was a wildly popular destination for families from Buffalo and beyond.

"Everybody used to come from all over to go there because it was the best around," said Mavis Burger (nee Colman).

"Crystal Beach didn't have anything to compare."


source: Fort Erie Post/Niagara This Week

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Friendship Trail work

Brought my video camera down to the old park yesterday to show the progress of the trail being constructed along the path of the old promenade (wish I would have captured video of the site earlier this year ... or many years ago). The first scene shows the Bardol Road end of the promenade, where a lookout point is being installed at the very west end of the trail before it turns up toward the end of Lakeshore Road. The second part of the clip shows the Waverly Beach end and the foundation of the boardwalk laid down so far. (Notice the decaying motor boat pier, or baby pier, and giant swimming pool in the background).

The trail, with three lookout points in total, should be complete in October.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Residents happy trail work underway

FORT ERIE -- Construction on the final section of the Friendship Trail, following the century-old promenade left over from the days of the Erie Beach Amusement Park, is getting thumbs up from area residents, Niagara This Week writes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Amazing Wildcat video

Have never seen this before. No idea any footage from Erie Beach Amusement Park existed, let alone a ride on the Wildcat. Amazing.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Work began this week on the cleanup of the promenade in preparation for the section of the Friendship Trail which will soon pass through the old park at Erie Beach. The facelift should be complete in early October.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The world's largest outdoor dance floor

At one time, Erie Beach Park had what was billed as the largest outdoor dance floor in the world. The giant concrete pad, located beside the wading pool on the east side of the dance hall/casino, featured a large bandshell along the water and, according to some books on the park, was the area where movies were shown on a large screen toward the end of the park's life.

Below is a look back today across the concrete pad from the south east corner (dance hall rubble is located in the upper left).

Friday, August 3, 2007

The sands of time

Sand piles up along the edge of the old promenade near the former dance hall site. The area will look different in a couple of months as the old concrete walkway is being transformed as part of work to create the final section of the Town of Fort Erie's Friendship Trail. No doubt the last of the remaining concrete posts will be removed in the process and some of the other debris in the area will be cleared out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Who was Pete?

Noticed this -- a small pile of stones, much like a grave marker, with R.I.P. Pete sprayed on a flat surface -- on my last trip down to the promenade. Like the big dark rock, it may have been there for years but I had not noticed, or it did not catch my eye.

Across from the memorial, on a small piece of retaining wall left over from the promenade, the words "And he's buying a SWTH (stairway to heaven)" are sprayed in the same black paint.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

That's where it went ...

With the low water levels at this end of Lake Erie, it's easy to spot some of the stuff which has been dumped into the drink over the years, such as these concrete posts from the promenade.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A ghost from the past?

A pleasure boat passes the old steamship pier as it heads out of Lake Erie and into the Niagara River. In the early part of the 20th century ships would dock at the end of the pier (the furthest portion of the broken-down cement structure is obscured behind the brush growing in the upper right) as they transported thousands of people each day to the Erie Beach Amusement Park.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blink and you'll miss something

It's funny how the eye, or the brain, works. I've been down to the old park several times in recent months, photographing the area from every angle, looking for things I may have missed. Today, this boulder next to the promenade about halfway between the dance hall and the pier stands out like a sore thumb.

Have to look through photos from other recent trips and see if it is even there. Perhaps it is just a new face on an old rock, making it stand out.

Down at the old Erie Beach Amusement Park ruins, it's almost like Bits and Bites -- you get a different eyeful every time.

I don't think it's the one that Thomas writes about here, but exactly how does a big round boulder get to such a place?

Come to think of it, I remember another giant boulder near where we swam (wouldn't do that today) in the area west of the pier. Who moved that?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Remember the Pavilion?

This was a little (a lot) before my time. Does anyone remember the Pavilion?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who was Shane?

Was away from Fort Erie for many years, so I don't know the significance of this memorial. Who was Shane (Red Dog) Hookey? Who is Laurie S.?

Also, the swing ride foundation is in the background, further to the east, so what ride were these pillars part of?

(update: according to Bob Byledbal's Erie Beach Revisited, the pillars supported a short bridge fro the promenade to the Slide Tower, a Dutch windmill-shaped structure, sans blades, which stood 35 feet high and had a slide winding around its girth)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Decades of destruction

The old pier which was used as a landing for steamships full of American visitors falls apart more each year, battered by the elements. The force of Mother Nature can be seen in the crumpled concrete and twisted re-bar rising from the remains.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


People drop things. Lots of things they drop are metallic. People love finding things. Lots of people have metal detectors.

There certainly is a lot to find in the area of the old fort and old amusement park. Musket balls, arrowheads, even bones. Have you found anything of special interest while combing the ruins with a metal detector? I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The way it was

A 1911 photo of the dance hall/casino, facing east.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

'Buffalo's Million Dollar Park'

This is what the park was supposed to look like, according to a 1910 map posted by Western New York Heritage Press. Some things certainly never happened, like the homes on Club Boulevard and the bathing beach in front of the dance hall.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wild ride

In the latter years of the park, a Wildcat roller coaster was installed around where the lagoon is currently on the site, not far from Bardol Avenue. If you look closely at the photo above, available for purchase on eBay (nothing to do with me), you can see homes on Bardol as they appeared in the late 1920s.

If you click on the colour photo below you can see several photos of a Wildcat located at Hersheypark Amusement Park in Pennsylvania. There are also a number of videos of various Wild Cat coasters to give you an idea of what a ride on the giant wooden roller coaster would have been like (note that there appear to be various designs using the Wildcat name over the years).

There are still a few people around who rode the Erie Beach Wildcat -- if you are one of them please email me.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Crumblin' tumblin'

Can't vouch for it myself, but general consensus calls these concrete supports the remains of a Tumble Bug ride. Anyone know for sure? I'd appreciate any details.

The Flat Joint has a couple of photos of a Tumble Bug, and you can see one in action below:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Low, low tide

With the low Lake Erie water levels of late it is not much of a challenge to reach the furthest section of the old steamship pier.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Trail to replace old promenade

Fort Erie council voted Monday to approve a $600,000 project through the old Erie Beach Amusement Park which completes the Frienship Trail through the town. Work on the trail section, which will follow the concrete promenade along the shoreline, is scheduled to begin Aug. 7. A 40-metre section of the trail will recreate the look of the old promenade, which ran from the concrete pier near Bardol Road in the west to Waverly Beach in the east.

Do you remember what the promenade was like before sections started turning back to stone and sand? Send me an email or post a comment below.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Walk on the shore

A young couple walk along the edge of what was once a huge outdoor dance floor and bandshell at Erie Beach Amusement Park. The large blocks along the water a part of the wall which ran the length of the south end of the area. The final section of Fort Erie's Friendship Trail will be constructed this year along the old promenade, part of which runs along the tree line in the background.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Step back in time

Looking east (and slightly north) from the front of old dance hall, with the electric fountain, now used as a firepit by partyers, visible in the background. Today the entire area is covered by trees and brush, though portions of the concrete paths remain.

Casino or dance hall?

If you grew up in Fort Erie, you probably called the old three-storey structure on the promenade the "old dance hall." But it was generally referred to as the "casino" back in the day. Which do you prefer? Send me an email or leave a comment below.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It ain't pretty

A brown algae-sludge of some sort lies on the surface of the still water west of the old pier.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Shh ... it's a secret

It's not hard to find the electric fountain or footings of the Tumblebug, but what have you stumbled upon deep in the woods? Send me an email or post your comment below. Would love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

End of the line

East of where the old dance hall stood, the promenade which ran from the pier has been battered by Father Time, Mother Nature and the destructive tendencies of man. This section is the last recognizable portion of the walkway as you walk east (notice the Buffalo skyline and pier in the background) before it drops off to a mix of concrete blocks, rocks and sand.

Anyone have memories of the old park?

Looking to hear from anyone who recalls the Erie Beach Amusement Park when it was still in operation, plus those who roamed the ruins after it closed. Send me an email, I'd love to hear from you.

Swingset Stonehenge

A fisheye view of the remains of the foundation that supported the swing ride platform.