NIAGARA FALLS, New York — The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center opened recently in the former 1863 U.S. Custom House, which is attached to the new Niagara Falls Amtrak station.
Its exhibitions feature digital media, graphics, scenic built environments and facilitated dialogic programming to tell the stories of escaped slaves being helped to freedom by local residents.
Its re-creations include the Cataract House, a premier international hotel that employed an entirely African-American wait staff who helped freedom seekers cross to Canada just across the Niagara River, and the International Suspension Bridge used by Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers to cross the imaginary line from slavery to freedom.
“From the very beginning, the objective for the heritage center was to create an immersive experience that brings to life the stories of ordinary individuals who fought for freedom,” said center director and curator Ally Spongr.
The Heritage Center’s permanent exhibition, “One More River to Cross,” features the stories of the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls, the crucial role played by its location and geography, and the actions of its residents, particularly its African-American residents.