For over 200 years, honeymooners and tourists have flocked to Niagara Falls, drawn by the area’s natural majesty. Naturally, the tourist industry in the region has flourished. Numerous attractions have vied for attention from tourists to Niagara Falls over the years, but the area’s motels have always benefitted perhaps the most from the tourism industry.
The heyday of motel culture in North America also coincided with the heyday of Niagara Falls’ popularity as a honeymoon destination, between the 1920s and 1950s, when cars became popular and the release of the Marilyn Monroe film, “Niagara,” bolstered the falls’ reputation as a romantic destination. The [NO] VACANCY Exhibition, currently open at the Niagara Falls History Museum and the Niagara Artists Centre, offers you the chance to explore how your modern Niagara Falls hotel room evolved from the motel of yesteryear.
Where and When to See the Exhibition
The [NO] VACANCY Exhibition consist of two installations: one at the Niagara Falls History Museum and one at the Niagara Artists Centre. If you’re the nostalgic type, don’t miss the interactive exhibit at the Niagara Falls History Museum, located at 5810 Ferry St. on the Canadian side of the border. This half of the exhibition will explore the history of motels and motel culture in Niagara Falls.
You’ll get to follow the industry’s peaks and valleys as you learn about the experiences of tourists visiting the falls in the early half of the 20th century. You’ll get a firsthand look at the clothing, furniture, decor and cars of the period. You’ll hear the personal stories of Niagara Falls tourists visiting at the height of motel culture. Finally, you’ll learn how the architecture of the motel boom survives in Niagara Falls today. This part of the exhibition is open from May 17 to September 7, 2014.
The second part of the Exhibition, at the Niagara Artists Centre, examines the state of the Niagara motel industry today. The exhibition consists of member installations and a photography exhibit by artists Zach Slootsky and Oliver Pauk. This part of the exhibition is open from June 21 to September 20 at the Niagara Artists Centre at 354 St. Paul Street in St. Catharines, ON.
A Tourism Destination for Centuries
Tourists have been flocking to Niagara Falls since the early 1800s, when Theodosia, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr, visited the falls for her honeymoon in 1801. Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, also honeymooned here with his American wife in 1804. Since then, tourism has become inextricably woven into the fabric of the community, with Niagara Falls becoming one of the world’s most popular destinations for honeymoons and weddings. For many newlyweds visiting the falls today, honeymooning here has become a family tradition.
If you’re visiting Niagara Falls this summer, you have a rare opportunity to delve into the history of motel and car culture in North America in general and Niagara Falls in particular. Take in the [NO] VACANCY Exhibition at the Niagara Falls History Museum and the Niagara Artists Centre, and get a glimpse of the falls as your parents or grandparents would have seen them.