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Inaugural has Falls Painting

By James Hufnagel

When you visit the Niagara Falls State Park website, the first thing you see is a photo of one of their restaurants. The Park has become a food, souvenir and parking business, abandoning the Olmsted principles of managing the park.

Last week the iconic 1856 painting "Niagara Falls" served as an impressive conversation piece for President Obama's inaugural luncheon. A well-known classic of 19th-century American landscape portraiture, the Ferdinand Richardt work provided a distinctively Western New York presence at the Washington, D.C., venue. Thanks and appreciation are due Sen. Charles Schumer, who seems to have taken a special liking to the city of Niagara Falls and has worked hard on its behalf for many years, for honoring us by arranging to conspicuously display this symbol of local pride, front and center, at the national celebration.

One of the striking aspects of the Richardt is that it portrays the Falls in a natural setting surrounded by trees and green space, precisely in the way his contemporary, renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, intended it to be when creating his visionary plan for what was then called the Niagara Reservation.

A century later, Maid of the Mist owner James Glynn, along with his sidekicks at New York State Parks, felled the beautiful trees on Goat Island attending the mighty cataracts in order to construct toll booths and parking lots, opening up the reservation to car, bus and trolley traffic, effectively ruining the Olmsted plan. Fast-food purveyor Delaware North joined in, with the result that the present-day Niagara Falls State Park is cluttered with food booths, snack bars, busy trolley stops, parking lots, gift and souvenir shops, coin-operated binoculars and all manner of man-made contrivances including floodlights on the falls and fireworks. All of which served to change the natural wonder of Richardt's and Olmsted's day into an exploited, Disneyfied money machine benefiting Glynn, Delaware North and State Parks.

So imagine the acute disappointment of the tourist who travels to Niagara Falls expecting to see the famous attraction as depicted in the historic painting. Instead of a work of God and nature that inspires awe and respect, that visitor will encounter crass commercialism, giving rise to confusion and regret.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jan 29 , 2013