Established in 1895, the Niagara Historical Society is dedicated to understanding the history of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The most important aspect of the work of the Society is the maintenance of the Museum collection which began in 1896 and is one of Ontario’s most important collections. Plan a visit to the Niagara Historical Society Museum to discover the unique stories of historic Niagara-on-the-Lake. Located 20km north of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake provided a new home for refugees, was the capital of Upper Canada, was in the middle of a war zone and visited by millions as a place of recreation for over 100 years; these stories play a major role in the development of Canada.
Preserving Niagara’s History since 1895
The Society & Museum work in a symbiotic relationship. The Society owns and operates the museum and its collection. Our role is to provide the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake with a sense of what our past possesses and how it impacts the present we live in.
The Society was established in 1895 to foster an appreciation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Publishing, researching, collecting, educating and providing access to this knowledge is what drives the Society in its work. The Society has long been a leader in the community in the ways of educating the public on the fascinating history of Niagara and advocating for a controlled evolution of the community. The written history of Niagara was driven by Janet Carnochan, who tiredlessly collected and wrote about the history of the community. As a result, the Society has published or been the key contributor for over 50 books. Check out the Gift Shop section for a listing of available Society publications.
Within a year of the Society’s founding, the first president, Janet Carnochan, recognized the need to collect materials from the history of Niagara and preserve them for future generations. The Museum contains one of Ontario’s most important local history collections. Containing artefacts from native settlement to the present day, the Museum is home to over 8,000 artefacts, 40,000 documents, 2,500 photographs and 600 books.
Originally housed in the Courthouse, the Museum moved to its present location in 1907. Memorial Hall is Ontario’s Oldest Museum Building and is designated by the Ontario Heritage Trust as a site of provincial significance. Designed by W.B.Allan of St. Catharines and based on drawings by Walter S. Allward, this two-storey building with full attic has been unaltered since its construction in 1906. The foundation of the building is constructed from coursed rubble, reported to have been obtained from the ruins of the Indian Council House and Hospital (built in 1816/17 and destroyed by fire in 1881) on the Common. In the 1940s the Society took over the 1875 High School building next door and then joined the two buildings in the 1970s to create a facility that is very sympathetic to its surroundings. Check out our Architectural Guide to the Museum for more details on the significance of our building.