The rich black history here in Western New York cannot be exaggerated. This post showcases one of the most monumental displays of that history – the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. As one of the most significant pieces of black history in WNY, this center does an inspiring job of highlighting and preserving the stories of the Underground Railroad as it existed in Niagara Falls.
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is entirely dedicated to the preservation of local history. Specifically, they seek to reveal authentic stories of freedom seekers and abolitionists in order to inspire visitors to recognize modern injustices that stem from slavery and take action toward an equitable society.
The center itself serves as a museum-like space with information and historical exhibits for guests. The importance of this center is unwavering, as it resurrects the legacies left by the Underground Railroad and the ways in which it led to the development of the city of Niagara Falls today. It celebrates this profound cultural history and ensures it is remembered and honored as a unique and important part of the foundation of WNY.
The center opened in May of 2018 after years of envisioning and planning what it could be. It’s located in the 1863 U.S. Customs House attached to the Niagara Falls Amtrak station. While this historical location was not a site of the Underground Railroad, it is across from the location of what was once the International Suspension Bridge. This bridge served as a border crossing that was readily accessible via transportation for many freedom seekers and is visible from the Center. Among the crossers was Harriet Tubman.
The Erie Canal played a large role in accessibility of this location. The network of Abolitionists and activists that existed in WNY ran deep. The Center also highlights specific sites across the city that were points on the Underground Railroad. Undoubtedly, it sits at a crossroads of historical spots in the fight against injustice.
What To Expect When You Visit
The Center offers several options in terms of the guest experience. To immerse yourself in this important piece of local Black history, you have the option of tours, exhibits, and events. You can visit the museum at any time during their business hours. Additionally, they currently offer virtual group and school tours of the museum which can be accessed via their website.
When you go, you can expect to see their permanent exhibit “One More River to Cross.” This exhibit highlights what is at the core of the center, which is the history and stories of the Underground Railroad and the importance the location and city played in facilitating freedom. A number of interactive pieces are featured and guests typically take about an hour to go through the exhibit.
“The exhibition highlights modern connections to this history and invites visitors to consider their own choices when faced with present-day limitations on people’s freedoms. The new Heritage Center focuses on stories of courageous self-emancipation by freedom seekers. Throughout the exhibition visitors will experience these stories and hear from individuals past and present with the hope that these stories and connections will allow for deeper engagement, consideration of new or different perspectives, and motivation to action.”As described on niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.org
Pro-tips For Visiting
- Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center features a walking tour on their website and in an app that will guide you through the Underground Railroad sites across the city of Niagara Falls.
- The stunning “Black Lives Matter” Mural by artist Ashley Kay is located right across from the center – don’t miss it!
- Check out the Center’s merch store, offering creative pieces to support their cause! Shop online here.
For more information on how to visit and support the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, we encourage you to visit niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.org and follow the center on Facebook and Instagram.
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
825 Depot Ave W Niagara Falls, NY 14305
The Heritage Center’s mission is to reveal authentic stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls that inspire
This post was originally published in 2021 and has been updated.