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Let There Be Light
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Every evening beginning at dusk, the Falls are lit in the colors of the rainbow. Don't miss the unmatched beauty of the Falls at night! Illumination of the Falls has been financed and operated by The Niagara Falls Illumination Board since 1925.
The Niagara Falls Lights and Nightly Illumination are an important part of the electric history of Niagara Falls. It is the penultimate combination of electrical power and tourism. Control and maintenance of the lights has been the business of the Niagara Falls Illumination Board. Representatives on the illumination board come from all over the city to guarantee that the Niagara Falls Lights come to life every night.
Lighting the Falls, to allow visitors to enjoy the beauty of the mighty Niagara even at night, was first attempted more than 140 years ago. In 1860, a spectacular illumination of the Falls celebrated a visit by the Prince of Wales. About 200 coloured and white calcium, volcanic and torpedo lights were placed along the banks above and below the American Falls, on the road down the bank of the Canadian side of the gorge and behind the water of the Horseshoe Falls. The lights were called Bengal lights and were the kind used at sea to signal for help or give warning.
The lights were ignited along with rockets, spinning wheels and other fireworks, creating an effect that the London Times called grand, magical and brilliant beyond all power of words to portray the likes of which the Prince would probably never see again.
Illumination of the Falls using electricity first occurred in January 1879, during a visit by the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General of Canada and his wife Princess Louise. The lights had an illumination power of 32,000 candles, just a fraction of the intensity used today.
A 36-horsepower generating station in Prospect Park, Niagara Falls, New York, operated in July 1879 with 16 open arc lamps each projecting 2,000 candlepower. The Niagara Falls New York Gazette reported On the evening of the Fourth, the Park was crowded with visitors and citizens and a very satisfactory exhibition of the new light was given. The lights were used for only one season.
In May 1892, Frank LeBlond, one of the owners of the Maid of the Mist, purchased a 4,000 candlepower light and placed it on the Canadian dock of the Maid of the Mist to light the American Falls. He placed gelatin plates in front of the lights to provide a variety of colours. Then in 1895, Captain John Brinker built the Great Gorge Railroad and announced that it would provide night excursions three times weekly during the summer season, complete with lights to illuminate the Whirlpool. The Gazette reported Forty arc lamps of 2,000 candlepower each will be placed in the gorge along a distance of 250 feet. Lights will be clustered and so many in such a short distance will make the gorge as light as day. Each arc light will be filled with three globes, white, red and blue, and will work automatically, alternating colours. A huge searchlight will also operate from the cars.
Large crowds were drawn to the Falls in 1901 for special lighting that was set up as part of the Pan American Exposition being held in Buffalo.
In 1907, W. DArcy Ryan of the General Electric Company designed lighting that provided far more power than ever before. Thirty-six projectors illuminated the Falls with a combined candlepower of 1,115,000,000. The display ran for several weeks.
For more than a decade after that, different attempts were made to raise financing to install permanent lighting. Some efforts were prevented by the First World War, but in 1925, a group of interested businessmen finally created the Niagara Falls Illumination Board, to finance, operate and maintain a new, permanent illumination system. Today's contributing members are the City of Niagara Falls, New York, the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Ontario Power Generation and The Niagara Parks Commission.
The Board's first installation in 1925 was twenty-four carbon searchlights each 26 inches in diameter, emitting a total of 1,320,000,000 candlepower. The Falls have been illuminated most nights since that time ~ except during World War II when the lights were turned off to conserve power and during subsequent years when generating facilities could not keep pace with electrical requirements of the construction boom. It was not until January 1950 that the Illumination Board was able to guarantee enough power to operate the lights on a regular basis
In 1997 and 1998, new fixtures replaced the outdated lamps and fixtures at the Illumination Tower, doubling the intensity of the lights on the Falls without doubling the hydro bills. Currently a total of twenty-one xenon lights, each with a 76-cm (30 in) diameter, are used to illuminate the Falls in a rainbow of colours. Eighteen are located at the Illumination Tower, beside the Queen Victoria Place and three are located below street level in the gorge opposite the American Falls. Each of the xenon spotlights produces more than 390 million peak beam and has a brilliance of 250 million candlepower.
The Falls are illuminated nightly until 10 p.m. January through April, and until midnight the rest of the year. In recent years the only occasion the Falls were in darkness was for a few evenings in August 2003 when the lights were turned off to support recovery efforts during a major North American black-out.
October 26th, 2012
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