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Town (lower-tier)
Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake
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The Loveliest Town in Canada
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Location in southern Ontario
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Niagara-on-the-Lake (Southern Ontario)
Coordinates: 43°15′19″N79°4′18″W / 43.25528°N 79.07167°W / 43.25528; -79.07167 Coordinates: 43°15′19″N79°4′18″W / 43.25528°N 79.07167°W / 43.25528; -79.07167
Country Canada
Province Ontario
Region Niagara
Incorporated 1792
   Lord mayor Betty Disero
  Governing body [1] Town Council
   MP Tony Baldinelli
   MPP Wayne Gates
  Land132.81 km2 (51.28 sq mi)
82.3 m (270.0 ft)
  Density131.8/km2 (341/sq mi)
Demonym(s) NOTLer
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
  Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern Daylight (EDT))
Postal code
L0S 1J0
Area code(s) 905/289
The Court House, a Shaw Festival theatre and Parks Canada headquarters of Niagara National Historic Sites Court House N-O-T-L.jpg
The Court House, a Shaw Festival theatre and Parks Canada headquarters of Niagara National Historic Sites
St. Mark's Church St Marks Church, Niagara on the lake.jpg
St. Mark's Church

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a town in Ontario, Canada. It is located on the Niagara Peninsula at the point where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario, across the river from New York, United States. Niagara-on-the-Lake is in the Niagara Region of Ontario and is the only town in Canada that has a lord mayor. [3] It has a population of 17,511 (2016).


Niagara-on-the-Lake is important in the history of Canada: it served as the first capital of the province of Upper Canada, the predecessor of Ontario, and was called Newark from 1792 to 1797. During the War of 1812, the town, the two former villages of St. David's and Queenston, and Fort George were the sites of numerous battles following the American invasion of Upper Canada, and the town was razed. Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to the oldest Anglican and Catholic churches in Ontario and the oldest surviving golf course in North America.

Today, Niagara-on-the-Lake draws tourists with its quaint colonial-style buildings, the Shaw Festival, Fort George, wineries, an outlet mall on the highway, and its proximity to Niagara Falls. [4] The Niagara Region has the second-highest percentage of seniors in Ontario. Niagara-on-the-Lake has been rated among the best places to retire in Ontario according to Comfort Life, a publication for seniors. [5]


Before the British settlers came, the point where Fort Mississauga is situated was inhabited by at least three Native American tribes: the Neutral (15th century); Seneca (late 17th century); and Mississauga (18th century).

The settlement was founded in 1781 as Butlersburg, in honour of Colonel John Butler, the commander of Butler's Rangers. It was later renamed West Niagara to distinguish it from Fort Niagara. [6] It was a British military base and haven for pro-British loyalists fleeing the United States during the volatile aftermath of the American Revolution. [7] Renamed Newark by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792, it was the first capital of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario). The Upper Canada legislature first met at Navy Hall on September 17, 1792 and met there another four times until June 1796. [7] [8] In 1797, Simcoe moved the capital to York because Newark was very close to the border with the U.S. Newark was renamed Niagara in 1798. [6]

Fort George, just south of the settlement, was built in 1796-1799. During the War of 1812, Niagara was taken in the Battle of Fort George by American forces in May 1813 after a two-day bombardment by cannon from Fort Niagara and the American fleet, followed by a fierce battle. After capturing Fort George, the Americans built their own fortifications there. The fort was retaken by the British in December 1813 but abandoned in 1815. Only a small portion of the fort remains; it has been fully restored. [9] Fort Mississauga was built starting in 1813 but was not completed until after the war in 1816. During the war, the settlement of Niagara was razed and burnt to the ground by American soldiers as they withdrew to Fort Niagara. (Afterwards, on December 19, 1813, the British captured Fort Niagara.) [10] The citizens rebuilt Niagara after the war, with the residential quarter around Queen Street and toward King Street, where the new court house was rebuilt out of range of Fort Niagara's cannons. [7]

The Smith's Canadian Gazetteer of 1846 describes "Niagara (formerly called Newark)" as follows:

"It has been a place of considerable trade. On the east side of the town is a large military reserve. About half a mile up the river are the ruins of Fort George, where the remains of General Brock were originally interred; they were removed. A new town-hall and court-house are intended to be erected by the town. There is a fire brigade with two engines and a hook and ladder company. Churches and chapels total five. Two newspapers are published weekly .... Steamboats run daily, as long as the weather will allow of it, from Toronto .... The Niagara Harbour and Dock Company were incorporated in the year 1830 .... the vessels turned out by the Company [include] the steamboat "London," which commenced running in the spring of 1845, the fastest boat on the upper lakes... The Company usually employ about 150 hands; and, when particularly busy, have employed as many as 350. There is also on the premises a marine railway, large enough for hauling up vessels of the first class. Post Office, post every day. Professions and Trades.—Three physicians and surgeons, nine lawyers, twelve stores, taverns, two chemists and druggists, three booksellers and stationers, two saddlers, four wagon makers, two watchmakers, two tallow-chandlers, marble works, two printers, two cabinet makers, one hatter, four bakers, two livery stables, two tinsmiths, three blacksmiths, six tailors, seven shoemakers, one tobacconist, one bank agency, .... large quantities of apples, peaches, and cider are shipped annually." [11]

In 1859, the town built its first public school, Niagara Public School. [12] The town's present name of Niagara-on-the-Lake was adopted around 1880 as a postal address to distinguish the town from Niagara Falls. The name was officially adopted in 1970, when the Town of Niagara and the Township of Niagara merged. [7]

Historic sites

Most of the former military sites, such as Fort George, Navy Hall, and Butler's Barracks, have been restored. Fort George's restoration was done as a "Make Work Project," guided by plans from the Royal Engineers during the Great Depression of the 1930s, an early example of historic preservation. Fort George National Historic Site is a focal point in a collection of War of 1812 sites which, collectively, are managed by Parks Canada under the name Niagara National Historic Sites. That administrative name includes several national historic sites: Fort Mississauga, Mississauga Point Lighthouse (1804, the first on the Great Lakes), Navy Hall, Butler's Barracks, and Queenston Heights.

A map of the National Historic District National Historic District Map.jpg
A map of the National Historic District
Cenotaph and clock tower Niagara On The Lake cenotaph.jpg
Cenotaph and clock tower

Niagara-on-the-Lake features historical plaques. [13] Critical battles in the defence of Upper Canada took place here, and at nearby at Queenston and St. David's, both now part of Niagara-on-the-Lake. In one of these, Laura Secord gained her fame. The town gave many African-Americans their first taste of freedom, both as a stop on the Underground Railroad for those travelling further into Upper Canada and as a refuge in its own right.

Its stock of regency and classical revival buildings, considered the best in the country from the post-War of 1812 period, led the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to recommend the town's historic district be designated a National Historic Site of Canada, a designation which was approved in 2003. [14] [15] The historic centre had been designated as a provincial Heritage Conservation District under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1986. Although it did not make the final list, the historic district was considered for nomination as a World Heritage Site. [16] The town has other National Historic Sites of Canada within its boundaries: the Battlefield of Fort George [17] and nearby Fort George, [18] Butler's Barracks, [19] Fort Drummond, [20] Fort Mississauga, [21] the site of the Mississauga Point Lighthouse, [22] the Niagara Apothecary (the oldest apothecary in Canada), [23] the Niagara District Court House, [24] Queenston Heights, [25] [26] Queenston-Chippawa Hydro-electric Plant, [27] [28] Willowbank [29] [30] and Vrooman's Battery. [31]


Niagara-on-the-Lake is within the federal electoral district of Niagara Falls, currently represented in the House of Commons of Canada by Tony Baldinelli, and the provincial electoral district of provincial electoral district of Niagara Falls, represented in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario by Wayne Gates.

It is the only municipality in Canada whose elected leader is designated as lord mayor, a title most common in the United Kingdom. [3] Popular legend suggests Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn bestowed the title on the mayor of Niagara during a visit to the town in the early 19th century, in recognition of the town's history as the first capital of Upper Canada; [3] however, there is no record of a mayor using it until Jerry Mussen in the early 1920s, and even afterward the title was used only irregularly until the Regional Municipality of Niagara Act of 1969 legislated that "The mayor of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake shall be known as the Lord Mayor." [3] The town's current lord mayor is Betty Disero, a former Toronto city councillor, as of the 2018 municipal election. [33] Previous lord mayors have included Patrick Darte, Dave Eke, Gary Burroughs, Art Viola, Mike Dietsch, Stan Ignatczyk, Jim Marino, Wilbert Dick, Jake Froese and Fred Goring. [3]


Niagara-on-the-Lake experiences a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb bordering on Dfa) using the 0 °C (32 °F) isotherm but also borders an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb) using the −3 °C (27 °F) isotherm), having four seasons, with warm summers, cold winters, and cool to mild autumns and springs. Snowfall is moderate, averaging around 3 feet (92 cm) per year, which is one of lowest yearly snowfall totals received in all of Ontario. A long shoreline along Lake Ontario results in more moderate temperatures than neighbouring cities, as well as seasonal lag.

Climate data for Niagara-on-the-Lake (1981–2010)
Record high °C (°F)18.0
Average high °C (°F)0.2
Daily mean °C (°F)−3
Average low °C (°F)−6.3
Record low °C (°F)−26.0
Average precipitation mm (inches)55.1
Average rainfall mm (inches)30.1
Average snowfall cm (inches)24.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm)14.610.812.614.212.611.311.011.512.513.815.713.5154.3
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm)
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm)
Source: Environment Canada [34]


Niagara-on-the-Lake had a junior men's hockey team in the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League. The team was first registered in the 2018–19 season and played in the Meridian Credit Union area located in Virgil. The team was named the nationals and sponsored by the local bar Bricks and Barley. It was announced that the team would fold after their first season, due to poor attendance.

Niagara-on-the-Lake also has a Men's soccer team named the Lakers, who play in the Peninsula Soccer League (PSL). The team was formed in the 2019 season and sponsored by a local bar, Sand Trap.

Niagara-on-the-Lake also has a rich history in the sport of lacrosse. Being Canada’s national sport, it has a lucrative jr. B as well as a great minor league program to follow.


Niagara-on-the-Lake beach, June 2014 Niagara On The Lake beach-2014.jpg
Niagara-on-the-Lake beach, June 2014

The town is home to the Shaw Festival, Canada's second largest producing theatre and a repertory company featuring the works of George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries, or plays about his era (1856–1950), running from April to December. The festival operates four theatres in the centre of town: the Festival, The Jackie Maxwell Studio, The Royal George, and the Court House theatre. The Festival produces over 750 performances annually, featuring its lauded repertory ensemble and employs over 520 artists, artisans and artsworkers locally.

Along the Niagara Parkway is RiverBrink Art Museum in Queenston. It is home to a collection of over 1,400 artworks and artefacts by Canadian and international artists, assembled by Samuel E. Weir. Completed in 1970, the building features Georgian-style architecture, including a mansard roof and gabled windows. It served as Weir's country residence, and was converted into an art museum following his death in 1981.

The old Niagara Public School, today a popular bed and breakfast NiagaraPublicSchool.jpg
The old Niagara Public School, today a popular bed and breakfast

Film location shooting

Several popular films and TV shows have been shot on location in the NOTL Old Town, including:



Only 15% of the population is under 14 years of age. Those over 65 years of age number 22.6% and constitute a fast-growing population. The town has seen growth of almost 1% annually, partially due to a large number of retirees moving to the town.


Niagara-on-the-Lake can be reached by Queen Elizabeth Way, a highway that stretches to Fort Erie to the south, Hamilton to the west and curves around Lake Ontario to Toronto. Public transportation is served by Niagara-on-the-Lake Transit.

Awards and recognition

The Town of Niagara was the site of the 8th World Scout Jamboree in 1955. Over 11,000 Scouts from 71 countries attended the Jamboree. It was the first to be held outside Europe and had the theme "Jamboree of New Horizons". Niagara-on-the-Lake was named the Prettiest Town in Canada in 1996 by Communities in Bloom, a nationwide beautification programme. [35] The town is now a popular tourist destination, located at the northern terminus of the Niagara Parkway, a scenic drive and biking/walking path.


Queenston, c. 1805, by Army surgeon Edward Walsh Edward Walsh - Queenstown, Upper Canada on the Niagara (a.k.a. Queenston, Ontario).jpg
Queenston, c. 1805, by Army surgeon Edward Walsh

In addition to the primary town site of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Old Town, the town also includes the villages of Glendale, Homer, McNab, Queenston, St. Davids, Niagara-on-the-Green and Virgil.

Glendale is located near the junction of the Queen Elizabeth Way QEW, Highway 405, and Highway 55, and adjacent to the Welland Canal. It is home to the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus of Niagara College.

Virgil is just south-west of the Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where most of the tourism takes place. The community has a large Mennonite community, who settled the area in the early to mid 20th-century from Russia. Virgil has a large sports park, serving as the centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake's bustling hockey, softball, lacrosse and soccer leagues, two arenas, three baseball diamonds and a skate park. Once a year, on the Victoria Day weekend in May, the community holds its "Virgil Stampede". The festival includes rides, attractions and its annual soccer start-up tournament. Virgil's educational institutions are St. Michael's Elementary School and Crossroads Public School, which opened in September 2011, amalgamating the now-closed Virgil and Colonel John Butler Public Schools. The town's only secondary school, Niagara District, was closed by the District School Board of Niagara in 2010.

The Old Town also had an elementary school on King Street: Parliament Oak Public School. It was on the site of the signing of the Act Against Slavery of 1793, by the first legislative session of the parliament of Upper Canada. [36] The school was closed on June 25, 2015. [37]

St. Davids Public School serves Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the southern part of the municipality. St. Michael Catholic elementary school serves Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the southern part of the municipality. Crossroads Elementary School serves Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the northern part of the municipality. High school students now take a bus to Laura Secord in St. Catharines, or to A.N. Myer in Niagara Falls.

See also

Related Research Articles

Laura Secord Canadian heroine of the War of 1812

Laura Secord was a Canadian heroine of the War of 1812. She is known for having walked 20 miles (32 km) out of American-occupied territory in 1813 to warn British forces of an impending American attack. Her contribution to the war was little known during her lifetime, but since her death she has been frequently honoured in Canada. Though Laura Secord had no relation to it, most Canadians associate her with the Laura Secord Chocolates company, named after her on the centennial of her walk.

Battle of Lundys Lane War of 1812 battle

The Battle of Lundy's Lane, also known as the Battle of Niagara Falls, was a battle fought on 25 July 1814, during the War of 1812, between an invading American army and a British and Canadian army near present-day Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and one of the deadliest battles ever fought in Canada, with over 1,731 casualties including 258 killed.

Niagara Peninsula

The Niagara Peninsula is the portion of Golden Horseshoe, Southern Ontario, Canada, lying between the southwestern shore of Lake Ontario and the northeastern shore of Lake Erie. Technically an isthmus rather than a peninsula, it stretches from the Niagara River in the east to Hamilton, Ontario, in the west. The population of the peninsula is roughly 1,000,000 people. The region directly across the Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York State is known as the Niagara Frontier.

Regional Municipality of Niagara Regional municipality in Ontario, Canada

The Regional Municipality of Niagara, also colloquially known as the Niagara Region or Region of Niagara, is a regional municipality comprising twelve municipalities of Southern Ontario, Canada. The regional seat is in Thorold. It is the southern end of the Golden Horseshoe, the largest megalopolis in Canada.

Old Fort Erie

Old Fort Erie, also known as Fort Erie, or the Fort Erie National Historic Site of Canada, was the first British fort to be constructed as part of a network developed after the Seven Years' War was concluded by the Treaty of Paris (1763), at which time France ceded its territories east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain. The installation is located on the southern edge of what is now the Town of Fort Erie, Ontario, directly across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York, United States.

Queenston Heights

The Queenston Heights is a geographical feature of the Niagara Escarpment immediately above the village of Queenston, Ontario, Canada. Its geography is a promontory formed where the escarpment is divided by the Niagara River. The promontory forms a cliff face of approximately 100 m.

Queenston Town in Ontario, Canada

Queenston is a compact rural community and unincorporated place 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north of Niagara Falls in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is bordered by Highway 405 to the south and the Niagara River to the east; its location at the eponymous Queenston Heights on the Niagara Escarpment led to the establishment of the Queenston Quarry in the area. Across the river and the Canada–US border is the village of Lewiston, New York. The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge links the two communities. This village is at the point where the Niagara River began eroding the Niagara Escarpment. During the ensuing 12,000 years the Falls cut an 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) long gorge in the Escarpment southward to its present-day position.

Chippawa is a community located within the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Fort George, Ontario

Fort George was a military fortification in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. The fort was used by the British Army, the Canadian militia, and the United States Armed Forces for a brief period. The fort was mostly destroyed during the War of 1812. The site of the fort has been a National Historic Site of Canada since 1921, and features a reconstruction of Fort George.

Fort Rouillé Abandoned French fort

Fort Rouillé was a French trading post located in what is now Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Fort Rouillé was constructed by the French in 1751, building upon the success of a trading post they established in the area a year earlier, known as Fort Toronto. Fort Rouillé was named for Antoine Louis Rouillé, who at the time of its establishment was Secretary of State for the Navy in the administration of King Louis XV of France. It served as a trading post with the local indigenous peoples from the region.

Navy Hall

Navy Hall is a wooden structure encased within a stone structure that was the site of Upper Canada's (Ontario's) first provincial parliament, from 1792 to 1796. It is a unit of Fort George National Historic Site located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, then known as Newark, Upper Canada. It sits on Ricardo Street near the shore of the Niagara River, near Fort George, and across the river from Fort Niagara.

Niagara Parks Commission

The Niagara Parks Commission, commonly shortened to Niagara Parks, is an agency of the Government of Ontario which maintains the Ontario shoreline of the Niagara River.

Diocese of Niagara

The Diocese of Niagara is one of thirty regional divisions in the Anglican Church of Canada. The See city of the diocese is Hamilton with the Bishop's cathedra located at Christ's Church Cathedral on James Street North. Located within the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, it borders the Dioceses of Huron and Toronto. The area enclosed by the Diocese of Niagara includes much of the Golden Horseshoe, and moves north to include Erin and Orangeville as far as Shelburne. Moving sharply south the line includes Mount Forest and widens, south-westerly to include Elora and Guelph. Skirting Brantford and the Territory of the Six Nations Confederacy, the line then travels, again, south-westerly to Nanticoke and Lake Erie to include the entire Niagara Peninsula. Major urban centres within its borders are St. Catharines, Hamilton, Guelph, Oakville, Burlington, and Orangeville.

The Niagara Parkway, formerly known as Niagara Boulevard and historically as the Niagara Road, is a scenic road in the province of Ontario that travels on the Canadian side of the Niagara River from the town of Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The portion north of Table Rock in the city of Niagara Falls is designated as an Ontario Scenic Highway. Niagara Boulevard originally referred only to the section from Fort Erie to Chippawa.

Ontario Highway 55 Former Ontario provincial highway

King's Highway 55, commonly referred to as Highway 55 and historically as the Niagara Stone Road and Black Swamp Road, was a provincially maintained highway in the Canadian province of Ontario, which connected the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) with Niagara-on-the-Lake, following Niagara Stone Road. The route divided a swath of wineries at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment, passing at an oblique angle to the concession road grid.

Butlers Barracks

Butler's Barracks was the home of Loyalist military officer John Butler (1728–1796), in what was then Newark, Upper Canada; present day Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Butler is most famous for leading an irregular military unit known as Butler's Rangers on the northern frontier during the American Revolutionary War.

Fort Mississauga

Fort Mississauga National Historic Site is a fort on the shore of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Niagara River in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. The fort today consists of a box–shaped brick tower and historic star–shaped earthworks. The all–brick fort was built from 1814–1816 during the War of 1812, to replace nearby Fort George. It was built on a foundation of brick and stone salvaged from rubble left after retreating United States forces burned the nearby town of Newark in December, 1813. It would help in the defence of Upper Canada the following year, as part of a regional network that included Fort George, Navy Hall, and Butler's Barracks. However, the fort wouldn't be completed until after the war.

Willowbank is a mansion in Queenston, Ontario, Canada.

Niagara Public School

Niagara Public School, today known as School House Bed and Breakfast, was a public school in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The school house is located at 40 Platoff Street in the National Historic District known as Niagara-on-the-Lake or Old Town.


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