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A park that may have become National Park started as The Frontier Amusement Park around the turn of the 20th century. It was a partnership run under the name "Frontier Amusement Company" and located on about a 2-hectare part of Block IV, as designated by plan #36 of the Town of Niagara Falls, Ontario. The town issued a lease for the property (expiring in 1912) to two of the company partners, Alma Bender and Edward Davis. They in turn rented concession space to various ride, food, and attraction providers. A third associate, The Imperial Bank of Canada, covered the on-site Administration Office building. This may have come about because the bank likely provided financing and wished to be close to its investment.
Permanent structures included a bandstand; bazaars; a restaurant; a 460 square-meter roller rink; a tea garden; theaters; and the Administration Building. The buildings, along with the park itself, were brilliantly illuminated with electric lights. About 20 amusement devices were brought in and run by the various concessionaires, whom paid a percentage of their receipts to the partnership. A highlight of the park was a 21-meter high observation tower overlooking the cataracts, gorge, and upper rapids of The Niagara River. All was surrounded by a fence and transversed by wooden boardwalks.
Unfortunately, the park did not do well, although it's not known if this was due to low patronship or bad management. In August of 1908, the company declared bankruptcy. The Niagara Daily Record newspapers of April 12th 1909 and July 10th 1910, report the Judicial Sale of the Frontier Amusement Park was begun pursuant to the Winding Up Order dated August 27th 1908, under the guidance of J.E.P. Rothwell - liquidator acting under the provisions of the Winding Up Act Chapter 144 RSC (Revised Statutes of Canada), with the approbation of George W. Wells esquire. The park was sold off for a bargain of approximately 12 cents on the dollar and shortly thereafter torn down, likely in 1909.
A discrepancy is that a "Figure 8" roller coaster was erected on adjacent land, likely by Fred Ingersoll or John Miller. The ride operator (Olympia Company) paid a concession fee to the park just as did those running rides within its boundaries. One source gives the opening year as 1909, but it seems odd that such a ride would be erected if the park was bankrupt, so that installation date may be wrong. If it had been put in a year earlier it may have run until August when the park went under, after which it was removed.
Another possibility comes from a report that Edward Davis' lease was for 900 square meters - just about the space needed for a small roller coaster. It appears that this space was separate from Alma Bender's. The problem with this is that if Davis was a partner from the start, the coaster went in sometime between the late 1890's and the early 19-0's, which does not jibe with another source.
One final possibility is that National Park may have started on this adjacent land in 1909 and the coaster was one of the first rides brought in. No information as to the exact use of the name "National' has yet surfaced, so this cannot be confirmed.
Researcher Victor Canfield of Hershey, Pennsylvania has submitted another coaster name as mentioned during a review of newspapers of the era. A "Cupid's Coaster", owned by W. L. McAllister, was erected in 1908. The research shows that The "Figure 8" was built the same year. If so, then one or both may have been removed after the park went under, or one or both continued on under the "National" name. Research continues.
Thanks to Rick Berketa of Niagara Falls, Ontario for providing
information on this park.
Thanks to Victor Canfield of Hershey, Pennsylvania for coaster information.
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