Illumination Building

 The daytime, street-level view of the illumination building.

The Round Structure is a ‘Surge Tank’ and is a relic of the old power station that was torn down long ago. ‘Google Earth-it’ and you will see that it’s roofless and empty, with weeds growing inside it.

For as long as I can remember, I’d been very curious about the Niagara Falls Illumination building.  Knowing it was the only surviving portion of an old power station demolished many years earlier, I’d have given anything for just a peek inside… but I was always told the Illumination Building was closed to the public.  As luck would have it, my wish came true one day.  Through a friend of a friend, I was invited to see the operation first-hand… and I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait.

Peter, illuminating the falls since 1960… a staggering 50 years!

 Upon walking through the door the first time, I realized exactly why the Illumination Building is closed to the public.  Aside from the usual security reasons, it’s simply too small to be an attraction.  It consists of a rustic office and a very Spartan control room, each about the size of an average bedroom.  The floors are worn plywood and were never intended to withstand a constant barrage of foot traffic.  Seeing this, I realized I was very lucky for my invitation, and I still do!

Dick, at the controls for 30+ years, posing with another Niagara Parks employee

There is no doubt that the Illumination Building is amazing, but you can’t talk about the Niagara Falls lights without first talking about the two men who make them possible. I’ve since become friends with Dick and Peter, the two exceptional individuals who bring daylight to the falls every evening without fail, and who have done so for decades to the delight of literally hundreds of millions of people.  I’m now able to visit them whenever I’m at Niagara and I’m honored that they seem to enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs, sharing coffee and conversation as they cycle the colors on the falls.

 Still plays hockey… amazing!!

Of all the qualities I’ve noticed in Dick and Peter, the most telling is one they share… their basic love and pride for what they do.  Together they keep their office like a mini Niagara Falls Museum, and it speaks volumes about how they feel about their professions.  Tacked to the walls are newspaper clippings and photos about anything to do with Niagara Falls.  The walls are so replete with clippings that it’s like wallpaper in some places, with barely enough room for even one more clipping.  The walls are a testimonial to the devotion these men have for ‘being the Light Guys’ at Niagara.  Additionally, thick and bulging photo albums store even more informational tidbits about the falls… all maintained by Dick and Peter.

Dick checking out his display

Once on a rainy night, Peter drove me back to my hotel room in his truck after the lights were extinguished at midnight.  On another day, my family and I had lunch at Tim Horton’s with Dick and his Lady Friend Helen.  These men are pure Gentlemen, through and through.  When I’m at home on my computer, watching a live video feed of the Niagara Falls lights, I always wonder who’d on duty.  I visualize Dick and Peter at the control panels mixing up another masterpiece of color, then going back to their magazine for a few more minutes as the cameras begin to flash in the crowd below!

Dick the Light Man at Niagara Falls… overseeing the world he’s created!

Evening is falling and the music crowd is gathering… the view of the festivities from the illumination building.

Racoons are common here as evening descends

Looking for handouts… Dick and Peter’s Greatest Fans!

Niagara dusk scene reflected in the illumination building light

In only a few short moments, this light will blaze forth, bringing man-made daylight to the falls.

Looking along the ledge of the Illumination Building, toward the Horseshoe Falls

The Old Control Panel with Twist-On Color-Coded switches… how it was done for years!

The New Control Panel for the Canadian Falls... all 'Touch Screen'!

Likewise, a 'Touch Screen' for the American Falls!

It's always exciting when the lights first switch on in the early evening!

Without the lights, there would be no evening activities down by the falls.. no festive atmosphere... nothing. The lights on the falls make it all possible once the sun goes down!

A look at two of the huge lights, just outside the control room door.

A view of the falls from behind the row of lights, standing on the 'porch'.

The lights are amazing, even when standing behind them. Their power is unbelievable!

A view from the 'Porch'. Although downstream, the distant American Falls lights are still controlled from the same control room.

The light source is white, but framed colored films called 'Gels' are dropped from above to produce the colors.

A red gel dropping in

A look up and behind... the lights are above you on the Illumination Building, as well as around you!

Tuft of grass growing on the ledge, with colors on falls in the background... it made for a pretty photo!

The view from street level

The Light Operator's view, from inside the Control Room


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