The Skylon Tower, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is an observation tower that overlooks both the America Falls, New York, and the larger Horseshoe Falls, Ontario, from the Canadian side of the Niagara River.
HistoryConstruction of the Skylon began in May 1964 and was officially opened October 6, 1965 by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Ontario Premier John Robarts. Costing $7 million at the time of its construction, the Skylon Tower was owned by a private partnership called Niagara International Centre, which was financed by the The Hershey Company shareholdings of Charles Richard Reese, former co-owner of the H.B. Reese Candy Company of Hershy, Pennsylvania. Canadian Pacific Hotels, was hired to operate the tower restaurants and lounges.
On October 1, 1975, CP purchased the tower from Mr. Reese and his partners for $11 million cash. The tower's summit features a verdigris-green copper roof similar to CP's other properties, including the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Banff Sprinfs Hotel in Banff, Alberta. CP owned and operated the tower until 1986, when it was sold for $18 million cash to two local Niagara hotel owners, John Gruyich of Michael's Inn and George Yerich of the Holiday Inn. In 1988, George Yerich bought out John Gruyich's ownership share of the Skylon for $13 million cash, however Milicent Gruyich continues to own the land underneath the Skylon. Mr. Yerich's Skylon land lease will expire in 2064, at which time the Skylon Tower will revert back to total ownership by the heirs of Milicent Gruyich.
While much redevelopment has taken place in the surrounding city, the Skylon Tower complex still retains much of its look and feel from the 1970s and 80s. However the property has recently been expanded to include a 3D/4D Theatre, two Starbucks franchises, other quick service franchises and a bridge connecting the complex with the newly completed Falssview Casino. In August and September 2008 the roof of Skylon was restored to its original bright copper colour.
FeaturesStanding at 160 metres (520 ft) from street level and 236 metres (775 ft) from the bottom of the falls, the tower required approval from both Canadian and Unitrd States air transport authorities, due to its proximity to the international boundary. It was the second tower to be built using the slipform method, in which concrete is continually poured into a form moving slowly up the tower. It was built by Pigott Construction of Hamilton, Ontario. The same methods were also used to build the Inco Superstack in Sudbury, and the CN Tower in Toronto.
The tower features three outside mounted "Yellow Bug" elevators. At the time of their construction they were the first such elevators in Canada. They were designed, engineered and maintained by a division of the Otis Elevator Company from Hamilton , Ontario and can carry passengers to the top of the tower in 52 seconds. Unlike conventional elevators that are guided by side rails, the Skylon elevators operate with a guide rail on the backside only. Special equipment is employed to prevent the cables from becoming tangled in the wind or impeded by snow and ice in the winter. A curtain wall on the outside of the tower behind each elevator protects the counterweight and traveling cables from the elements.
The tower has two restaurants at its top, the lower Revolving Dining Room and the upper Summit Suite Buffet. The Revlving Dining Room seats 276 people and revolves once every hour by resting on a circular rail that is propelled by a 3 horsepower (2.2 kW) motor. An observation deck sits at the tower's summit. The base of the tower features a number of gift shops, fast food restaurants and a large amusement arcade. A floor for conventions is also available, but has been seldom utilized in recent years.
The Skylon Tower is seen in Superman II. It is also used as a police lookout in the 1979 film Search and Destroy starring Perry King and George Kennedy.