Crystal Beach, Ontario

Crystal Beach is a community within Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada with a population of 8,524 at the time of the 2016 census.[1] It was named for the "crystal-clear" water conditions present when it was founded on the northeast shore of Lake Erie, across from Buffalo.[2] More recently, however, water quality can be a problem in the area.[3][4]

Crystal Beach Amusement Park occupied waterfront land within Crystal Beach from 1888 until the park's closure in 1989. The property was once a health spa whose buildings were sited near and on a natural sand dune fifty feet high and 1,200 feet long parallel to the shore. Part of the dune was excavated to open up land for the spa. In 1888, the spa was replaced by the amusement park, which has since itself been replaced by Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club, a gated community.[5] Today Crystal Beach also has some specialty shops, a yoga studio, a spa, restaurants and lakefront nightlife.[6]

Crystal Beach
Unincorporated community
Pier that once served the SS Canadiana and Americana boats. View from Crystal Beach Hill.
Pier that once served the SS Canadiana and Americana boats. View from Crystal Beach Hill.
Coordinates: 42°52′3″N 79°3′33″W / 42.86750°N 79.05917°WCoordinates: 42°52′3″N 79°3′33″W / 42.86750°N 79.05917°W
Regional municipalityNiagara
TownFort Erie
 • Total11.34 km2 (4.38 sq mi)
 • Total8,524
 • Density751.7/km2 (1,947/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
Forward sortation area
Area code(s)905 / 289 / 365
NTS Map030L14


This settlement started as a police village with a summer post office in 1898; a year-round post office opened in 1908. The village was incorporated in 1928, with a population of 298. In 1970, the village was absorbed by Fort Erie, Ontario under the regional government scheme.[7]

Crystal Beach Amusement Park

Cyclone coaster and exterior Crystal Ball Room Crystal Beach Ontario postcard cropped
Postcard image of the Cyclone, next to the Crystal Ball Room, circa 1930s.

At first, Crystal Beach Park was a religious retreat with a beach and "side-show" attractions started by John E. Rebstock in 1888. By 1890, he had decided to turn it into an amusement park.[8] By then, steamboats shuttled patrons from nearby Buffalo, New York to and from the park. At its peak in the 1940s and early 1950s, the park had about 20,000 visitors daily throughout the summer, from Victoria Day through Labour Day.[9]

Boat service connected Buffalo with the park until 1956. Initially, in the 1890s, a ferry service operated small boats, with a capacity of 500 to 1200. Later, the main passenger vessels used for these journeys were the Canadiana and, until 1929, the Americana,[10] each of which could carry 3,000 passengers per trip. In 1896, the Ontario Southern Railway began to provide connection between the park and the mainline rail station at Ridgeway. This service consisted of a unique elevated monorail style train, and ran for only three summers, through 1898.[11]

The owners made significant investments. For example, in 1909, the "Backety-Back Railway" roller coaster, or "Scenic Railway", was installed for $50,000. and in 1910, another was added, the "Giant", at a cost of $35,000.[11] In the late 1920s, the "Cyclone" coaster was built, at a cost said to have been $176,000. A newspaper report from 1948 indicates that the owners spent $165,000 on two new rides, including a new Comet roller coaster that replaced the Cyclone.[9] In the 1950s, the Lusse "Auto Skooter" bumper cars were added at a cost of $50,000. Although attendance was down by then, a half million dollars was spent after a 1974 fire damaged the dance hall and another $250,000 in 1975 to update some facilities.[11]

By 1983, the park was feeling serious competition from Darien Lake, Marineland of Canada and Canada's Wonderland. Crystal Beach was nearly bankrupt but was saved by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce after going into receivership. New owners took over in 1984 and spent over $2 million during the next three seasons for renovations and improvements including new rides. Financial problems loomed again in 1989 and the park closed due to bankruptcy at the end of that season.[11][12]

One of the memories that people have of Crystal Beach is the loganberry drink which was sold there. Even though the park is closed, several companies still sell varieties of loganberry drinks, mostly in Southern Ontario and Western New York.[13][14][15]

Following the park's closing in 1989, the rides and buildings sold by auction on October 17.[11] The Comet was moved to The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in Queensbury, New York where it still operates today.[16] A roller coaster known as the Silver Comet was built at Fantasy Island in nearby Grand Island, New York with a loading platform and signage similar to the original Crystal Beach Comet. The Ferris wheel from the park was sold to Centreville Amusement Park in Toronto, Ontario and remains in operation.[17]


Several books have been written about the history of Crystal Beach Amusement Park:[8]

  • Crystal Memories: 101 Years of Fun at Crystal Beach Park - Rose Ann Jankowiak-Hirsch (2004)
  • Crystal Beach: The Good Old Days - Erno Rossi (2005)
  • Steamers of the Crystal Beach Line - William Kae (2007)
  • Crystal Beach Live: Buffalo and Toronto Entertainers and More - William Kae (2009)
  • Crystal Beach Park: A Century of Screams - William Kae (2011)


Several documentaries have been produced about the history of Crystal Beach Amusement Park:

  • The Life and Times of Crystal Beach - Pacific Productions (1994)
  • I Remember Crystal Beach - WEX Studio (1998)
  • The Canadiana and Crystal Beach - WEX Studio (1999)
  • One Last Ride: Crystal Beach Amusement Park - Last Ride Productions (2000)
  • Thanks For The Memories - RDPK Productions (2006)
  • Remembering Crystal Beach Park - WNED-TV (2008)

Crystal Beach Hill Cottagers Organization (1983–present)

In the 1930s many amusement park employees were allowed to build cottages on the Crystal Beach sand dune, so that they could live near their jobs. The area was called "Crystal Beach Hill" and eventually grew to 43 cottages. Before the park closed, the residents of "the Hill", fronting on the lakeshore, jointly purchased it and formed the Crystal Beach Hill Cottagers Organization. Crystal Beach Hill is now a family-oriented community, with many cottages owned by second- and third-generation descendants of early residents. "The Hill", the highest vantage point for miles around, offers elevated views of the beach, Lake Erie, and Point Abino, to the West.

Crystal Beach Motel

The Crystal Beach Motel is the only lodging place left from that time. Back then it was called the Crystal Pool Motel, built in the mid '60's by Geza and Maria Banfai, who also built, owned and operated what was then the Lakeside Motel on Terrace Lane. The Lakeside Motel was closed for some years and reopened as an all-suites motel.

There were a few bars in Crystal Beach, keeping its visitors and residents well hydrated. The Palmwood Hotel still stands, despite a fire that all but destroyed it back in the 1960s. Its affiliate basement bar, Circus by the Sea, closed some time ago.

Other hotels in the beach area are long gone. The Park Hotel on Derby Road was destroyed by fire as was Hebert's Hotel on Ridgeway Road and the Imperial which was a two-storey structure with separate beverage rooms for men and women. Teal's Hotel on Erie Road is still open as a pub Sneaker's Beach Tavern. The Ontario Hotel now houses apartments. The Derby Hotel on Queen's Circle is now a Crystal Mart store.

Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club (1992–present)

Land where the amusement park stood was converted into a gated community called Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club in 1992.[3] The pier that at one time served the Canadiana and Americana remains in a state of disrepair, as evidenced by the fenced off area, is currently owned by the Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club development. The canopied section still stands however the end section which has been falling into the waters of Lake Erie was crushed and removed in the winter of 2013-14.

Crystal Beach is still a popular vacation and second-home area. The town of Fort Erie operates a free public beach directly adjacent to and to the west of the Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club and Crystal Beach Hill. West of the public beach are private homes, as well as frontage owned by the Bay Beach Association, which provides beach access for a membership fee. Crystal Beach Waterfront Park is a municipally-owned park with a publicly accessible boat-launch and picnic area immediately east of the Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Census Profile". 2016 Census. Statistics Canada.
  2. ^ Hirsch, Rose Ann. Western New York Amusement Parks.
  3. ^ a b Israelson, David (2014-11-05). "Get off the roller coaster in Crystal Beach". Globe and Mail.
  4. ^ Dubé, Kris (July 11, 2013). "High levels of bacteria at Bernard and Bay beaches". Fort Erie Times/Niagara Advance.
  5. ^ "Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club - Family Friendly Beach Community".
  6. ^ "Fort Erie, Ontario - Development".
  7. ^ Rossi, Erno. Crystal Beach: The Good Old Days.
  8. ^ a b "Crystal Beach Park - 3 books explore the history of Crystal Beach Park - its roller coasters, rides, live entertainment and steam boats to and from Buffalo". crystalbeachhistory.
  9. ^ a b Hendershott, Len. A Spot On The Lake.
  10. ^ "S.S. Canadiana Facts".
  11. ^ a b c d e "Closed Canadian Parks - Crystal Beach Amusement Park". Coaster Enthusiasts of Canada.
  12. ^ Rossi, Erno (31 July 2015). "Opinion - The life and death of the Crystal Beach Amusement Park".
  13. ^ StaffMay 6, Buffalo; 2013. "What Is Loganberry? The Story Behind The Unique Buffalo Drink". Mix 96 Buffalo.
  14. ^ CBN (12 May 2016). "Brimstone Brewing Releasing Last Ride Loganberry Saison". Canadian Beer News.
  15. ^ Christmann, Samantha (26 September 2016). "A shifting loganberry love: PJ's Crystal Beach slowly passing Aunt Rosie's".
  16. ^ "Comet". The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom.
  17. ^ "Centreville Amusement Park".

External links

American Coaster Enthusiasts

American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) is a non-profit organization focusing on the enjoyment, knowledge, and preservation of roller coasters as well as recognition of some as architectural and engineering landmarks. Dues paying members receive the quarterly magazine RollerCoaster! and bi-monthly newsletter ACE News. Amusement parks have also invited members to exclusive ride events at amusement parks as well as sneak peek events at new roller coasters under construction.The organization maintains an online database of roller coasters including ride specifications and archives of published news articles. The club also recognizes of historically significant roller coasters with Coaster Classic and ACE Roller Coaster Landmark statuses.

Backety-Back Scenic Railway

Backety-Back Scenic Railway was a wooden roller coaster located at Crystal Beach, Ontario. The ride opened to the public in 1909 and operated until 1926. The Backety-Back Scenic Railway was notable for a backward-traveling innovation which would be adopted many years later in more modern steel roller coasters. It was also one of the earliest shuttle roller coasters to be built, as well as being the second roller coaster to be built in the Crystal Beach amusement park. The coaster has been cited as a particularly beautiful example of roller coaster architecture.

Canadiana (disambiguation)

Canadiana refers to things related to the country of Canada.

Canadiana may also refer to:

Canadiana (comics), a webcomic created by Sandy Carruthers

Canadiana (horse), a Canadian Thoroughbred racehorse

SS Canadiana a passenger ferry that operated between Buffalo, New York, United States and Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada, a non-profit digital library dedicated to preserving Canadian culture

Cyclone (Palisades Amusement Park)

Cyclone was the name of two wooden roller coasters which operated at Palisades Amusement Park in Bergen County, New Jersey. The first operated from 1927 through 1934, and the second between 1945 and 1971.

Figure 8 roller coaster

Figure 8 roller coasters are a category of roller coasters where the train runs through a figure 8 shaped course before returning to the boarding station. This design was one of the first designs to be featured in roller coaster design, along with the out and back roller coaster. The figure 8 design allowed for more turns than the out and back design, offering riders an alternative experience.

An early and famous example of a Figure 8 is the Leap the Dips at Lakemont Park, in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Many figure 8 roller coasters carry the name "Figure 8."

Fort Erie, Ontario

Fort Erie is a town on the Niagara River in the Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada. It is directly across the river from Buffalo, New York and is the site of Old Fort Erie which played a prominent role in the War of 1812.

Fort Erie is one of Niagara's fastest growing communities, and has experienced a high level of residential and commercial development in the past few years. Garrison Road (Niagara Regional Road 3) is the town's commercial corridor, stretching east to west through Fort Erie.

Fort Erie is also home to other commercial core areas (Bridgeburg, Ridgeway, Stevensville and Crystal Beach) as a result of the 1970 amalgamation of Bertie Township and the village of Crystal Beach with Fort Erie.

Crystal Beach Amusement Park occupied waterfront land at Crystal Beach, Ontario from 1888 until the park's closure in 1989. The beach is part of Fort Erie.

Frank Kelly Freas

Frank Kelly Freas (August 27, 1922 – January 2, 2005) was an American science fiction and fantasy artist with a career spanning more than 50 years. He was known as the "Dean of Science Fiction Artists" and he was the second artist inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Fred Barker

Frederick George Barker (1901–1935) was one of the founders of the Barker-Karpis gang, which committed numerous robberies, murders and kidnappings during the 1930s. He was the youngest son of Ma Barker, all of whose children were criminals. He was killed in a lengthy gunfight with the FBI in 1935.


A funhouse or fun house is an amusement facility found on amusement park and funfair midways in which patrons encounter and actively interact with various devices designed to surprise, challenge, and amuse the visitor. Unlike thrill rides, funhouses are participatory attractions, where visitors enter and move around under their own power. Incorporating aspects of a playful obstacle course, funhouses seek to distort conventional perceptions and startle people with unstable and unpredictable physical circumstances within an atmosphere of wacky whimsicality.

Harry Traver

Harry Guy Traver (November 25, 1877 – September 27, 1961) was an American engineer and early roller coaster designer. As the founder of the Traver Engineering Company, Traver was responsible for the production of gentle amusement rides like the Tumble Bug and Auto Ride. However, Traver's coasters became legendary for their unique twisted layouts and thrilling, swooped turns. At a time when most coasters were built from wood, Traver was the first coaster builder to utilize steel for the primary structural material.

Joseph P. Moran

Joseph P. Moran (1895–1934) was an American doctor known for catering to the Depression-era criminal underworld in the early 20th century. He was also a peripheral member of the Barker-Karpis gang, and was possibly the last physician to see the mortally wounded John Hamilton, a member of the John Dillinger gang, whom Moran refused to treat.Moran disappeared in July 1934. He is believed to have been murdered by Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis.

List of summer colonies

The term summer colony is often used, particularly in the United States to describe well-known resorts and upper-class enclaves, typically located near the ocean or mountains of New England or the Great Lakes. The term is not popular in Canada, where cottage country is often preferred. Many of these historic communities are considered quiet bastions of old money, though some, such as The Hamptons, are now well known for their celebrity-driven social scenes. Additionally, their economies tend to be driven largely by this tourist trade, particularly those communities that are remote or on islands.


The loganberry (Rubus × loganobaccus) is a hybrid of blackberry (Rubus ursinus) and raspberry (Rubus idaeus).The plant and the fruit resemble the blackberry more than the raspberry, but the fruit color is a dark red, rather than black as in blackberries. Loganberries are cultivated commercially and by gardeners.

Ontario Southern Railway (Ontario)

The Ontario Southern Railway was a short passenger carrying line which shuttled patrons of the amusement park at Crystal Beach, Ontario, to and from the main line Grand Trunk Railway station at Ridgeway (both communities now part of Fort Erie, Ontario). The line was approximately 1 1⁄2 miles (2.4 km) long and operated from 1896 through 1898.

Point Abino Light Tower

The Point Abino Light Tower is a lighthouse on the rocky north shore of Lake Erie at the southern tip of Point Abino peninsula west of Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada. The Greek Revival white square tower with red accents is attached to the fog alarm building, and a lighthouse keeper's residence is located on the shore to the north.

The site was considered for a lighthouse as early as 1855 by a United States lighthouse inspector, but its shoal was only marked by buoys until 1912, when the Buffalo Lightship was installed nearby. The lightship sank as a result of the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, and four years later the Canadian government commissioned the construction of the tower citing increased traffic at the eastern end of Lake Erie.

SS Canadiana

The SS Canadiana was a passenger ferry that primarily operated between Buffalo, New York and the Crystal Beach Amusement Park at Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada from 1910 to 1956. The Canadiana was also noted for being the last passenger vessel to be built in Buffalo, New York.After being sold in 1956 the Canadiana changed owners numerous times and by 1983 she was berthed in Ohio needing major restoration. A nonprofit group, the "Friends of the Canadiana", brought the ship back to Buffalo in 1984 with a hope of restoring her to service. When restoration efforts failed the ship was scrapped at Port Colborne, Ontario in 2004.

South Buffalo, Buffalo, New York

South Buffalo is a neighborhood that makes up the southern third of the City of Buffalo, New York. Traditionally known for its large Irish-American community, this community also has a strong presence of various other nationalities. The once-heavily industrialized district was home to many steel mills, automotive parts manufacturers, petroleum refineries, foundries, and machine shops. However, due to increasing deindustrialization and rising unemployment, the area has experienced growing problems with poverty and population decline.

South Buffalo, as officially designated by the Buffalo City Council, is bordered by the town of West Seneca on the east, the City of Lackawanna on the south, Lake Erie on its western edge, and the Buffalo River on its northern border. New York State Route 16 (Seneca Street), Abbott Road, and South Park Avenue are the major streets serving South Buffalo.

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