Frontier House (Lewiston, New York)
The Frontier House facing the Niagara River
|Location||460 Center Street,
Lewiston, New York
|Architectural style||No Style Listed|
|NRHP Reference #||74001278|
|Added to NRHP||July 8, 1974|
Frontier House was home to several Niagara County businessmen and honored guests. It was considered to be a premiere hotel in its day. The house is recognized as a landmark and a structure on the list of National Register of Historic Places listings in Niagara County, New York since 1974. The structure served as a hotel, private home, a fine dining restaurant, museum, fast food establishment (McDonald's), and several unwelcomed spirits. It is found in Western New York, about ten minutes from Niagara Falls.
The Frontier House, built in 1824, is situated at 460 Center Street, Lewiston, New York, of Niagara County and was hailed as the best hotel west of Albany. Prominent business men of Lewiston, Benjamin and Samuel Barton along with Joshua Fairbank headed the building of the tavern. Its walls were shaped with stone from Canada by 18 men over 18 months. As the structure was erected, Lewiston attracted more people than the city of Buffalo, New York. The structure when completed stood four stories high. Its rectangular shape, double parallel chimneys, oval windows, full width porch and hipped roof is characterized as the Federal style of architecture The first floor served as offices, the second was a luxurious ballroom. The third floor included fourteen bedrooms with fireplaces and the fourth floor was used for meetings, famously for free masons. The structure was added to the National Register of Historic places on July 8, 1974.
Dewitt Clinton, President William McKinley, Samuel Clemens, Charles Dickens, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John L. Sullivan and Jenny Lind were all honored guests of the Frontier House. In the 1800s ten coach trains arrived and departed from the Frontier House hotel daily carrying these among other influential people.
Opera star Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale"
The hotel was maintained by its descents and later turned into a private home. George Rector purchased the inn and added the Frontier House Restaurant. Daughters of Rector inherited the hotel in the 1930s. In the economic boom of the 1960s area factories in Niagara Falls were welcoming newcomers at a rate of 11,000. The Frontier House rented its rooms to sleep three for each eight hour shift because of the growing demand for housing. In June 1964, Mr. and Mrs. James Russell of Buffalo renovated the hotel into a museum and restaurant. Dining rooms, the Lafyette Ballroom was named on the second floor, a Victorian parlor and Early American bedroom styles were presented on the third floor and the fourth was private quarters. In September 1973, the manager and chef of Frontier House were rescued in a fire. One dining room was destroyed along with widespread water damage. Two years later the historic hotel of Lewiston's future was handed to William McDonald, who restored the interior and leased it to the McDonald's food chain. McDonald's closed in 2004, and the structure has been vacant ever since. It was acquired by the village of Lewiston in July 2013.
Frontier House of Lewiston is believed to be haunted by a bricklayer who opposed the Free Masons. William Morgan was kidnapped and held behind the house until he allegedly was imprisoned at Fort Niagara. Hotel employees claimed doors opened and closed voluntarily. Workers during the remodeling of the house for the McDonald's restaurant found tools and other equipment disappear before their eyes. Contractors heard strange sounds and windows opened. Ghosts of an elderly man have been seen in the pantry and an employee showering in the residence saw a silhouette of a woman. There is a theory that while the structure was being built, one worker fell from the third floor into the basement and died. The legend says that two of his fellow workers stuffed him in a stone used to build the wall of the basement to cover up the evidence.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- Dictionary of New York Historic Places, Volume two. New York: Somerset Publishers, 1997.
- Dietz, Suzzane Simon. Lewiston. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
- Laurie, Margaret S. Lewiston:Crown Jewel of Niagara. Niagara Falls Book corner, 2001.
- "Historic Restaurant is damaged in fire." Niagara Gazette, 1973.
- Revai, Cheri. Haunted New York. Mechaincsberg:Stackpole Books, 2005.
- Media related to Frontier House (Lewiston, New York) at Wikimedia Commons
- A Picture History of Lewiston Landmarks
- Frontier House
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. NY-6087, "Frontier House, 450 Center Street, Lewiston, Niagara County, NY", 5 photos, 2 data pages, 1 photo caption page