The site of the upcoming Niagara Falls Exchange - Cultural Hub & Market is rich in local history. The space has been part of the traditional territory of various Indigenous peoples since 9000 BCE, most recently the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples. It is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and is within the land protected by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum agreement. It has been occupied by European settlers for 230 years, and is part of one of the earliest settlement areas in the region – within these 230 years the property itself has passed through multiple landowners and been used for farming, housing, cultural spaces, and business activity. It was a part of the battle of Lundy’s Lane, which in bulk occurred on the nearby site of the Drummond Hill. Being at the time cleared farmland, troops from both the American and British sides crossed over this space at various times in retreat or attack.
The site is set along Main Street, which was historically part of Niagara Falls’ Portage Road. The Portage Road was used to transport boat-delivered goods over land through the region to circumvent the Falls. It began at Chippewa and wound through the escarpment to end at Queenston where they could be brought to Lake Ontario, or vice-versa to Lake Erie. This led to a myriad of human activity growing out of the need for a stopping-point for rest at the intersection with Lundy’s Lane, which was the central road for much of the region’s farmland. The town that grew out of this resting place was called Drummondville, the first settlement in the township, and between 1795 and 1869 the town grew from a tavern and a church to a bustling area of 1000 residents. It became part of the Village of Niagara Falls in 1882, and from its inception to the present day its cultural and constructed landscape has shifted to accommodate its residents.
One of the more recent histories on the site is that of the Kick’s Hotel and the Princess Theatre, two staples of the Drummondville area in the 19th and 20th century. The Kick’s Hotel was opened by Michael (Mikel) Kick, a German immigrant to Niagara, in 1860 and continued by his family into the 1900s. Various additions to the building were added over time, and it was known to have been both one of the most attractive hotels in the area and the site of one of local daredevil Stephen Peer’s performances, where he strung a tightrope between the roofs of the Kick’s and the Prospect House on the opposite side of Main Street. However around 1920 it burnt down, and the site became a Theatre. The Theatre changed names many times – the Webb, the Hollywood, and the Princess being the most well-known - but it remained until 1978. It was demolished in 2012. The Exchange will be situated in this space with deep historical roots, where both personal and national stories have played out over its long occupation.