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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Walking tour highlights key scenes from NOTL’s Black history
Jan King-Watson stopped at popular town locations, including the Queen's Royal Park gazebo during the Voices Of Freedom tour. Each spot came with a bit of Black history along with it. Julia Sacco

The Olde Candy Shoppe on Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake once housed a barbershop.

In the 1880s, a Black man by the name of Lewis Ross owned the barbershop and was a successful businessman in NOTL.

When the building burned down in a fire in 1886, Ross relocated across the street.

This and many other bits of Black history were shared during the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum’s “Voices of Freedom” tour led by Jan King-Watson on Friday.

It was the first in a month-long series of sold-out tours organized by the museum.

With highlights including Voices of Freedom Park, details on important figures like Black soldier Richard Pierpoint and Fannie Rowley, daughter of freedom seeker William Rowley, King-Watson’s tour focused on the town’s Black history. 

“I really connect with Fannie Rowley,” King-Watson said.

“I just think that she would have been such a powerhouse and an amazing woman.” 

The Fannie Rowley house on King Street was a highlight of the tour, as ticket holders took time to admire the architectural beauty of the pink structure facing Simcoe Park. Many will remember it as one-time home to artist Trisha Romance’s gallery.

The grave site of Rowley, who was the step-daughter of the barber Lewis Ross, is at St. Mark’s cemetery. Her tombstone, which was visited on the tour, is next to that of her mother, Fanny Ross. 

An important part of leading these walking tours for King-Watson is sharing these details with people who otherwise wouldn’t know where to look.

“I get the opportunity to meet a lot of people who are (NOTLers) and also a lot of people who are coming from other places.”

“As a Black person, I’m just highlighting now some of the things that were missed in the Black community,” she said. 

King-Watson began her tour by noting that Black history is just history and told The Lake Report she hopes one day her great-great-grandchildren can “open up a history book and everybody would be in there, not just the Brits and the Portuguese, the Spanish and the French. It would be all of us included.”

The NOTL Museum‘s next sold-out tour this Friday in the Neighbourhood Walk series is “The Commons,” led by Richard Merritt.

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