Niagara Gazette

Columns

July 4, 2013

GLYNN: Niagara area offered site for UN headquarters

Niagara Gazette — It seems that from time immemorial Niagara Falls has been eyed for mind-bogging developments.

Disney supposedly explored land in this area in the 1960s, prior to selecting Orlando, Fla. for its East Coast entertainment empire. Those slippery Alberta-based Ghermezian brothers conned this city and many others into thinking they would be the site for the Mall of America which ended up in Minnesota. A Buffalo businessman stuck the city with a hefty tab for a failed Grand Prix event downtown.

But the biggest grandiose scheme in local annals was the proposal to provide a permanent home for the fledgling United Nations that had been chartered at San Francisco in June 1945.

Civic and government leaders from both sides of the Niagara border presented an impressive plan for the United Nations Preparatory Commission to consider for the UN headquarters. The site was the 315-acre Navy Island in the upper Niagara River and within several thousand feet of the falls. 

Americans on the international committee promoting the Niagara location included Harry M. Hooker, chairman of the Hooker Electrochemical Co.; Alanson C. Deuel, publisher of the Niagara Falls Gazette; Edward Butler, president of the Buffalo Evening News; and Lawrence D. Bell, president of the Bell Aircraft Corp. The Canadian committee included: Minister of Labor Charles Daley; Frank H. Leslie, publisher of the Niagara Falls Review; and Arthur A. Schmon, president of the Ontario Paper Co.

The committee produced a splendid 20-page booklet complete with a stunning photo from the base of the American Falls — prior to any major rockslides — maps illustrating Navy Island’s numerous advantages as a headquarters site, its proximity to transoceanic and steamship service, and a vast system of modern highways. The architect’s sketch showed the UN complex including the Secretariat Building dominating the island. Bridges would link the site to the West River Parkway on Grand Island and the Niagara Parkway, between Chippawa and Fort Erie on the Ontario side. A spokesman said that with Niagara as the headquarters, “the UN could be complete masters in their own house, a separate state situated between two friendly nations.”

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