Then and Now: The Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara on the Lake

This photograph was taken in 1901.

Francis J. Petrie Collection


The building was established as a hotel in 1864, but the site itself has a long history dating back to the 1800s.  Originally, the building was known as Long’s hotel, then the Arcade hotel, The Niagara House and finally, after a visit from the Duke and Duchess of York in 1901, it was renamed ‘The Prince of Wales Hotel’.

In the 1970s, the hotel was bought by the Wiens Family, who undertook serious renovations to expand the hotel to the east and to the south. The renovations stayed true to the late Victorian architecture when the hotel opened in 1864. The architectural style is called “Second Empire”.

Second Empire architecture actually goes back to the 17th century designs of French architect Francois Mansart, after whom the mansard roof is named.  The mansard roof (as seen in the photo below) is the key identifying feature of the Second Empire. It was not only a fashionable element, but  functional one as well since it created completely usable attic space.


Other commonly seen details are a bracketed cornice beneath the mansard roof, round arched windows, quoining, decorative dormer windows, an iron crest at the roofline (present in the original 1864 hotel but absent from the post 1970s renovated hotel), and columned porches or porticoes.



Currently, the hotel is a temporary home to guests visiting the vineyards and historic Niagara on the Lake. The luxurious landmark offers a state of the art spa, restaurant with an in-house Sommelier and an afternoon high tea. These accommodations are fit for royalty (as I’m sure the Duke of York, George V, could attest…if he were alive), rates are approximately $300 per night.

At night the ghost of Mary, who was accidentally killed by an American soldier in room 207 during the war of 1812, can be heard haunting the hallways. Flickering lights, voices, empty showers turning on and off have been reported by frightened visitors.

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