The harnessing of hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls at the end of the 19th Century helped turn the area into a manufacturing powerhouse boasting names like ALCOA, General Electric, Union Carbide and Westinghouse. In 1901, the Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Power and Manufacturing Company (NFHPMC) was one of two major electricity companies in Niagara Falls.*
Pictured in the middle of the photo is NFHPMC’s “Schoellkopf Plant,” named after the company’s founder Jacob Schoellkopf, which was located in the Niagara Gorge north of the Falls. Water was diverted from the upper Niagara River before the Falls via a canal and tunnel system running under the city. The water then flowed down through the vertical pipes pictured into the power house at river level which contained the generator turbines.* This is the same site where a later, modernized Schoellkopf Power Station collapsed into the river on June 7, 1956 killing one worker.
Just to the right of the Schoellkopf power house is the Cliff Paper Company (note the name painted on the roof) which generated its own electricity and shared Schoellkopf’s engineer, W.C. Johnson.** Notice also the various plumes of water falling into the Gorge from all along the cliff. These appear to be from the numerous mills above that employed water wheels utilizing water power provided by the same type of canal and tunnel systems used by the Schoellkopf plant.
*Source: “Electricity and its Development at Niagara Falls” http://library.buffalo.edu/pan-am/exposition/electricity/development/#diversion
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