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Uncovering the Truth: Results of the Cataract Hotel Site Dig
August 13 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Join us for a meet and greet with Bill Bradberry of the NF UGRR Heritage Area, followed by a presentation of the findings from the recent archaeological dig.
At the Cataract House Hotel site, archaeologists are bringing to light clues to the African American past here in Niagara Falls. By carefully removing layers of soil, the excavators can recreate the world in which waiters at this iconic hotel helped hundreds of freedom seekers cross over into Canada.
We are digging the Cataract House Hotel site to learn more about the people who lived and worked here.
In the years before the Civil War, a complex Underground Railroad network grew up around the Falls. African American waiters working in the flourishing Niagara Falls hotel and tourism industries formed the core of antislavery activism. Niagara Falls as one of the most frequently traveled crossing points for freedom seekers in the entire Great Lakes basin, became a nexus in the powerful struggle between slavery and liberty.
Over time, the abolitionist waiters at the Cataract House assisted in the escape of uncounted numbers of people, including enslaved servants of the hotel’s Southern guests. Underground Railroad operators throughout the northeastern US channeled freedom seekers to the Niagara River borderland. They were helped across the Niagara River to the opposite shore, where African Canadian communities provided a ready welcome.
Built in 1825 as a three-story stone building, the Cataract House underwent a long and complex series of additions, reconstructions, and renovations over its 120-year existence. By the time it was completed, the hotel, gardens, service areas, and outbuildings took up an entire city block. The hotel was gutted by fire on October 14, 1945, and the Cataract House was demolished in April 1946.
The Archaeological Dig site is located at Heritage Park, just steps outside of Niagara Falls State Park. The site is on Main Street, across from the Red Coach Inn, 2 Buffalo Avenue.