State Reservation at Niagara

Cover Image:
State Reservation at Niagara
Three women and a man posing on Luna Island - Image Source

Collection Facts

Dates of Original:
1885 - 1905; 1935; 1840 - 1870

Historical Context

The State Reservation at Niagara (1885), designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, is the oldest state park in the United States. New York State Assemblyman Thomas V. Welch (1850-1903) worked tirelessly with the “Free Niagara” movement to make Niagara Falls a place where the natural landscape would be preserved and that the public could visit free of charge. The Thomas V. Welch Collection includes telegrams, signed petitions and correspondence.
Orrin E. Dunlap (1861-1953) was a news photographer based in Niagara Falls who took some incomparable images of the State Reservation. The Orrin E. Dunlap Collection includes both his own and other photographer’s images. Dunlap documented the Reservation’s beauty in all seasons, President McKinley’s last visit to Niagara Falls, structures, lighting and visitors.
Early advertisements and maps that predate the Reservation show the commercial aspects of both the sides of Niagara Falls (US and Canada). Maps and blueprints show the land that is now the State Reservation at various time periods as well as later extensions: Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool State Park. Also included are later plans by the Olmsted Brothers to create a park system in the City of Niagara Falls and invitations to commemorative events.
The State Reservation at Niagara: Images and Documents is a sampling of collections at The Niagara Falls Public Library that help to illustrate how Niagara was made free.

Scope of Collection

The State Reservation at Niagara collection includes: photographs, letters, telegrams, advertisements, blueprints, maps, and legal documents dating from the mid-19th century to mid-20th century. Many of the black-and-white photographs depict the Falls and features of the park, including the Maid of the Mist. Several images show the park during the winter season with visitors traversing the frozen Niagara River.