In Niagara Falls, Oak Hall is considered a classic site, with ties back to the war of 1812, World War II and the current natural beauty movement.
The building stands overlooking the Dufferin Islands Nature Area, south of Niagara Falls near the river, and currently serves as the administrative headquarters of the Niagara Parts Commission. The building of Oak Hall has been rebuilt and redesigned numerous times, but the estate has centuries of history tying in with Canada’s past.
Originally known as Clark Hill, the estate was first owned by Colonel John Clark of the Second Lincoln Militia, a soldier from the War of 1812. Clark’s home was not the one that stands today – the current structure was first built around the 1850s. The house and surrounding grounds changed hands numerous times between successful pioneer families from Ontario and New York until it was acquired by mining millionaire Harry Oakes in 1924. Oakes launched a massive rebuild of the estate to construct the current manor design.
The Oakes family officially deeded ownership of Oak Hall to the Canadian Government in 1943, to be used as a convalescent hospital for the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. The government would deed ownership back to the Oakes family for residency in 1952 before the Niagara Parks Commission purchased Oak Hall in 1959.
Since 1964 the building has been open to the public. The surrounding grounds have gone through various changes over the decades, included a golf course now located in the outer grounds. Many of the manor’s early 20th century furnishings have been preserved and three rooms on Oak Hall’s first floor are used to house the NPC’s art collection and are open to public viewing during business hours.
Although the building is officially an administrative headquarters, the NPC doesn’t impact much on the estate’s operation itself. Commission board members close the manor one a month for meetings, but otherwise Oak Hall is free to visit for anyone interested in a standing monument to the rich history of the region.
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