Urgent Notices View
Niagara Falls Public Library

The rise and fall of the second Clifton House Hotel

After demolition crews removed the charred ruins of the first Clifton House Hotel in 1905, construction began on the second Clifton House Hotel. The new hotel was completed in July 1906 at a cost of $500,000. Advertisements from that time state that the hotel was “an architectural beauty, elegant furnishings, complete equipment and perfect service, has no superior in the world.”

Like the first hotel, the second Clifton House Hotel was L-shaped and faced both Clifton Hill and River Road. Built of cut limestone, the hotel featured 270 sleeping rooms “complete with electric light and heat, hot and cold water, phones, electric bells and ample bath facilities.” Daily room rates ranged from $4 to $6 per night and the hotel was considered the premier place to stay. Many distinguished guests visited the hotel, including King George V and Queen Mary, as well as King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium.

The large hotel boasted a spacious ballroom, the Palm room, the Solarium, tea rooms, drawing rooms, cafés, parlours, a barber shop, a billiard room and a grand dining room that could seat up to 600 guests at a time! As well, there were several shops in the wing fronting River Road, including an Imperial Bank of Canada branch and a Gray Coach Lines terminal.

It was on the cold winter morning of Dec. 31, 1932 that disaster struck the Clifton House Hotel for the second time. At approximately 7:30 a.m., the caretaker living at the hotel was awakened by his barking dog. Finding the hotel filled with smoke, he roused his wife and daughter and called the fire department who promptly arrived at the scene. Fire Chief Baldry quickly realized the seriousness of the blaze and called for additional support from Niagara Falls, N.Y., Buffalo and St. Catharines fire houses.

Despite the valiant efforts of the emergency crews, the fire continued to spread and gradually destroyed the entire building. The fire burned all day and night and even into the morning hours of New Year’s Day. During this time, the nearby Lafayette Hotel caught fire several times, but was saved through the heroic efforts of many brave firefighters. Reports of the time say that it was the worst and most spectacular fire in the history of Niagara Falls (with the first Clifton House Hotel fire coming in a close second). The causes of both fires were never discovered and still remain a mystery today.

Although there was talk of the immediate rebuilding of the hotel, these plans fell through and the blackened ruins of the hotel were cleared away. Sir Harry Oakes acquired the property along with the Lafayette Hotel (which was soon demolished) and the two properties were converted into the Oakes Garden Theatre.