The Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, the first bridge over the Niagara River, opened in 1848. It could accommodate pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages. Soon afterwards, the Great Western Railway line was extended from Hamilton to Elgin, which caused a considerable increase in visitor activity. Without a railway connection across the river, train passengers had to be dropped off at the Elgin station (often needing overnight accommodation) then take a carriage across the bridge and board another train on the other side.
A number of hotels sprang up near the station, including the Elgin House, a two-storey frame structure at the corner of Bridge Street and River Road. “A splendid view of the great Suspension Bridge, and the magnificent scenery of the Niagara River is obtained at this House.” It boasted warm meals at all hours and trusty porters to convey baggage.
The Rosli was another hotel, built in 1855, and then rebuilt after a fire. It was the “coziest and most homelike hotel in Niagara Falls”. It existed later as the Royal Inn.
A large brick building had been erected around 1853, which initially housed the Zimmerman Bank and the Clifton Custom House and Post Office. Over the years, it held a coal business, a private bank, a law office, a shoe merchant and the U.S. Consulate. Hotel Savoy was established here in 1899.
The Windsor House, “convenient to all railways”, had electric lights, telephone and baths. The Suspension Bridge Hotel, later known as the Arlington, served “first rate liquors” and had “good stabling” available.
Today, there are a number of empty lots where the grand old hotels used to reside.