Once in a while, I’m asked to try and date a painting or photograph of Niagara Falls. I try and do my best by looking at what is seen in the painting.
There are buildings or landmarks that I look for to at least narrow down the date the painting or photograph were done.
One is whether Terrapin Tower can be seen .This observation tower was built in 1829 at the edge of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls near the U.S. side of the border. It was blown up in1879. You accessed this tower by walking along a platform from the U.S. side that crossed from the shoreline to the tower. If I can see the tower, I know the painting was most likely done between 1829 and 1872.
Another building I look for is the Loretto Academy found on the Canadian side of the border on the banks above the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. This building was built in 1879 and still exists today. Therefore, I know the painting or photograph was done after 1879.
If you can see a white three story white clapboard building in the Fallsview area (The Oakes Inn Overlooking the Falls now sits here) that would be the Pavillion Hotel which stood here between1822 and 1836.Chances are the painting was done between these dates. Photography didn’t really come in until the 1840’s.
The Upper Steel Arch Bridge, also known as the Honeymoon Bridge, existed near the falls from 1898 until 1938.If it can be seen we know the painting or photo was most likely done between those dates.
I won’t go into now that I look for to date these paintings or photographs several other land-marks.