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The Skylon Tower – NIAGARA FALLS

Our visit to The Skylon Tower, in Niagara Falls, was long overdue! We’ve passed it many, many times for many, many years and each time we did, we would always say, “One day we’ll have to go up there”. Finally we did… and it was great!

The Tower at night
We had dinner up there, at the Summit Suite Buffet and the view, as was expected, was spectacular. I’m usually deathly afraid of heights but the ride up the tower I found, was too short and I remember wishing it would have lasted longer. I think it took under a minute to get to the top!

As we were heading to the top, I remember asking the guy who was operating the elevator: “You’re probably tired of doing this everyday?”, to which he replied, “oh, you get used to it”. He later mentioned he did this roughly over 50 times or more a day!

We also asked if he’s ever gotten stuck in these elevators but he quickly told us “.. things happen, but it gets fix quick though.” It’s just like any other elevator – it has it’s good days and bad.

The Skylon Tower is an observation tower that overlooks both the American Falls, New York, and the larger Horseshoe Falls, Ontario, from the Canadian side of the Niagara River.

It was interesting to note, those yellow elevators were the first of its kind during the construction of the tower.


Construction of the Skylon began in May 1964. The tower was opened on October 6, 1965 by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Ontario Premier John Robarts. Costing $7 million at the time of its construction, the Skylon Tower was owned by a private partnership called Niagara International Centre, which was financed by the The Hershey Company shareholdings of Charles Richard Reese, former co-owner of the H. B. Reese Candy Company of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Canadian Pacific Hotels was hired to operate the tower restaurants and lounges.

On October 1, 1975, CP purchased the tower from Mr. Reese and his partners for $11 million. The tower’s summit features a verdigris-green copper roof similar to CP’s other properties, including the Château Frontenac in Quebec City and the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta. CP owned and operated the tower until 1986, when it was sold for $18 million to two local Niagara hotel owners, John Gruyich of Michael’s Inn and George Yerich of the Holiday Inn By The Falls Motel. In 1988, George Yerich bought out John Gruyich’s ownership share of the Skylon for $13 million, however Milicent Gruyich continues to own the land underneath the Skylon. Mr. Yerich’s Skylon land lease will expire in 2064, at which time the Skylon Tower will revert to total ownership by the heirs of Milicent Gruyich.

While much redevelopment has taken place in the surrounding city, the Skylon Tower complex still retains much of its look and feel from the 1970s and 80s. However the property has recently been expanded to include a 3D/4D Theatre, two Starbucks franchises, other quick service franchises and a bridge connecting the complex with the newly completed Fallsview Casino. In August and September 2008 the roof of Skylon was restored to its original bright copper colour.

In recent years the lights that shine up the tower at night have gone from being the typical white lights to a selection of colours that interchange. This is done in a similar fashion to the lights that shine on the falls themselves.

Standing at 160 metres (520 ft) from street level and 236 metres (775 ft) from the bottom of the falls, the tower required approval from both Canadian and United States air transport authorities, due to its proximity to the international boundary. It was the second tower to be built using the slipform method, in which concrete is continually poured into a form moving slowly up the tower. It was built by Pigott Construction of Hamilton, Ontario. The same methods were also used to build the Inco Superstack in Sudbury, and the CN Tower in Toronto.

The tower features three outside mounted “Yellow Bug” elevators. At the time of their construction they were the first such elevators in Canada. They were designed, engineered and maintained by a division of the Otis Elevator Company from Hamilton, Ontario and can carry passengers to the top of the tower in 52 seconds. Unlike conventional elevators that are guided by side rails, the Skylon elevators operate with a guide rail on the backside only. Special equipment is employed to prevent the cables from becoming tangled in the wind or impeded by snow and ice in the winter. A curtain wall on the outside of the tower behind each elevator protects the counterweight and traveling cables from the elements.

The tower has two restaurants at its top, the lower Revolving Dining Room and the upper Summit Suite Buffet. The Revolving Dining Room seats 276 people and revolves once every hour by resting on a circular rail that is propelled by a 3 horsepower (2.2 kW) motor. An observation deck sits at the tower’s summit. The base of the tower features a number of gift shops, fast food restaurants and a large amusement arcade. A floor for conventions is also available, but is seldom utilized.

Plaque at the Tower Niagara International Centre SKYLON Officially Opened By the Honourable John P. Robarts Q.C.L.L.D Prime Minister, Province of Ontario and The Honourable Nelson A. Rockefeller Governor, State of New York October th A.D. 1965

What a view!

Needless to say, it was quite windy when we visited the observation deck, but the view was worth it!

Overall, it was a great experience on a wonderful day. The buffet was reasonably priced and the food was good, plus, now we can say we’ve been to the top of the Skylon Tower!

Skylon Tower Info: wikipedia

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