HIGGS: Niagara Falls '76 – the bicentennial year

Chris Tedesco

According to Wikipedia — "The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to historical events leading up to the creation of the United States of America as an independent republic. It was a central event in the memory of the American Revolution. The Bicentennial culminated on Sunday, July 4, 1976, with a 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.”

What was happening in Niagara Falls during these times? We will be looking into many aspects of life in Niagara Falls starting over in the eastside of Niagara Street. Reference is from the “Niagara Falls City Directory 1976.”

Our form of government was – Mayor and councilmen elected at large and the council appointed the city manager. Michael O'Laughlin was mayor at this time. The population was 85,615 based on the 1970 Census. We were living at 590’ above sea level. Our average temperatures were 69.8 degrees during the summer and 23.5 degrees during the winter with snowfall at 57 inches. We had lots of parks then but not as many as we have now. Twenty-four were city-owned, hosting 700 acres. Three were state-owned containing 584 acres. Our finances were kept safe in two savings banks with three offices; one savings and loan association and five commercial banks with 11 offices. 119 churches kept most of us faithful as they represented 50 denominations. We were kept advised of current happenings through the one you are reading today, our own newspaper, the Niagara Falls Gazette. Radio stations included two AM and one FM radio in Niagara Falls. We also were able to view Buffalo’s two UHF and three VHF stations.

Two thousand six hundred rooms took care of our tourist population and they were comprised of 58 hotels, motels and motor inns and 10 tourist homes. Six railroads brought many of them via Erie-Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Penn Central, Niagara Junction, Canadian National, and the Chessie System. (Not sure what that was). We were kept amused by eight motion picture theaters with total seating capacity to hold 3,400 fans, plus three drive-ins with 20,000 total seating capacity; three golf courses and a hockey rink. Two hospitals with a total of 668 beds were available when needed. Education was provided through 23 public schools (three senior high, and four junior high), two parochial high schools, 10 parochial elementary schools, and one business school – all of which were staffed by 999 teachers and adding administration brought it to 1,314. Niagara University and Niagara County Community College were also located here.

Niagara Falls was chosen as a location for a 1903 Andrew Carnegie Library, designed by famous architect, Paul Rudolph and built at a cost of over $5 million. A Carnegie library is built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. A total of 2,509 Carnegie Libraries were built in various communities. The Earl Brydges Library was built in March of 1974 and contains eighty-seven, eight hundred square feet as compared to the twelve thousand in our Carnegie Building.

Now that I have built a city for you, we need to get some people who lived here to get on the record. I decided to begin in the downtown area of the city and chose Niagara Street to begin our search for people and businesses that lived and worked here. During the times of this writing (1976) there was a street named the LaSalle Arterial aka the LaSalle Expressway built during the earlier 1970s running from LaSalle to a location along Niagara Street between the Rainbow Bridge and Fifth Street in downtown Niagara Falls. CJ Tower & Sons, the U.S. Customs office and the Rainbow Bridge occupied this area butting the former Prospect Street, which ended at the Rainbow Boulevard Intersection. Consequently, we begin instead with the LaSalle Arterial.

Residing at #24 LaSalle Arterial were Lillie Tew, retired widow of Colan Tew, Elizabeth Leusin, also retired, and Jean Stoner who provided no information. Nearby at #26 was the Surace’s Market owned and operated by Anthony Surace.

Gertrude Schuete (retired) was at #30 apparently a two-family residence as John Litz and wife, Viola also resided there. Mrs. Concetta Surace, wife of Anthony from the above mentioned market owned and operated the Rainbow Tourist Home at #34. There were several of these units called Tourist Homes in the downtown Falls area during these times, and at #40 was the Big Tree Tourist Home owned and operated by Joseph Salacuse.

Rainbow Boulevard intersected here and the numbers jumped to 102 LaSalle Arterial on the Envoy Motor Inn and Hotel with a Liquor Store and Number 106, on the Envoy Souvenir Shop, properties owned and operated by Joseph and Vincent Catanzaro. They resided at 2756 Forest Avenue in central Niagara Falls. Second and Third Street intersected here bringing us to the Niagara Falls Gazette Publishing Company at #310. Moving along to 314 LaSalle Arterial we would find the Arterial Steak House and Lounge. This was owned and operated by James Viahopoulos and William Seelbinder. Mr. Seelbinder resided at 3000 Duluth Street in the Town of Niagara and there was no known address listed for the other person.

We will take a rest from our walk here and return next time to see what lays ahead of us. Stay tuned.


Contact Norma Higgs by email at niahigg@aol.com.

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