Get To Know WNY’s History: Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

Written by Nora Hassan
Published on February 15, 2021
Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

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.

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History

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.

"One More River to Cross" Exhibit / Photo courtesy of The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
“One More River to Cross” Exhibit / Photo courtesy of The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

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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 while adhering to COVID-19 rules in place. Additionally, they currently offer virtual group and individual tours of the museum which can be accessed via their website.

"One More River to Cross" Exhibit / Photo courtesy of The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
“One More River to Cross” Exhibit / Photo courtesy of The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

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

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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

Address: 825 Depot Avenue West Niagara Falls, NY 14305

Tickets: Purchase Online

Hours of Operation:

  • Thursday: 11am – 5pm
  • Friday: 11am – 5pm
  • Saturday: 11am – 5pm
  • Sunday: 11am – 5pm
  • For the most updated hours, check their website here

Virtual Freedom Conversation Tours: Virtual Freedom Conversation Tours are offered every Wednesday at 7pm and Saturday at 2pm. Tickets available online under events.

Admission Prices: Adult $10, Seniors 62+ $8, Student 13+ & College w/ID $8, Youth 6-12 $6, Youth 5 & under Free

Virtual Freedom Conversation Tour: Family $25, Couple $12, Single $8

Website: niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.org

WRITTEN BY

Nora Hassan

Nora is studying Marketing and Fashion Business at Canisius College and FIT. She's really into local art and murals and always love to try new things!

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