The Silo Restaurant- History Never Tasted So Good!
Our story begins in the 1930’s, back when this area was referred to as the ”Hojack Country.” The waterfront was bustling and alive with tourists visiting by the thousands, traveling the Great Gorge Railway. The Lewiston Silo was home to the coal that fueled these steamers, and played an important role in housing the fuel that kept the waterfront alive. The waterfront became a hub of great activity, and locals set up stands to sell souvenirs and novelty items to visitors.
Sadly, with the demise of the Great Gorge Railway in 1938, the construction of a superhighway to Toronto, and excessive pollution strangling the river, the waterfront activity declined. An ice jam destroyed the terminal and The Silo sat alone, baring witness to the piling of sand dredged from the river bottom and the quiet sounds of pigeons roosting in the top of the decaying superstructure .
The old silo had a moment of glory during the winter of 1955 when it held back the huge ice jam that threatened to destroy homes along the river bank, then continued sitting quietly until In 1978 when a rebirth began. The Waterfront once again held promise. The village trustees purchased the land and opened it up to fishing, and a launch was put into place. Through the efforts of several municipalities the river was cleaned and cleared and began to attract fishermen from all over the northeastern United States.
Although the waterfront was once again breathing new life and new energy the old coal silo still sat empty. A constant query was what should be done with "The Silo" that had once supplied the steamers with fuel and protected the homes and people of the river bank. Suggestions ranged from tearing it down to putting in a bait shop, or turning it into an observation platform.
The answer came in the Spring of 1997 when Mr. Richard Hastings of Youngstown approached the Village of Lewiston trustees with a vision to convert the silo into a refreshment stand. Encouraged by Mayor Richard Soluri and using his own funds, he devised a plan which included building a platform which encircled the entire structure to create seating for his customers. The view of the river from this vantage point was and still is spectacular!
"The Silo Restaurant" opened its doors in April of 1998 and 30 days later Richard Hastings handed the keys over to his son Alan believing he had the energy and foresight to take the refreshment stand to new heights. It seems he was right. Alan Hastings set forth in the genuine spirit of an environmentalist and sought out ways to re-use and recycle items to outfit the restaurant. He created tables, seating and countertops from recycled church pews and has selected “Greenware” - plant based cups, lids and utensils, and is even using the grease from his fryer's to power a fleet of gas free vehicles known as "Veggie cars".
In 2010 Alan Hastings set sights on an old run down retired train caboose. Originally built in 1890 as a old wooden boxcar for The Canadian National Railroad, it was then converted into a caboose in the 30's having said to have derailed in the 70's. Alan Hastings saw both a great opportunity to recycle and preserve a piece of historical significance with the old box car and he knew it had to join The Silo as a "piece of history, allowing visitors to remember the waterfront as it once was". The boxcar has been restored and is now known as The Silo's Ice Cream Caboose, featuring a weekly custom custard, and housing over 40 flavors of ice cream!
Although The Silo remains a landmark, having observed the changing of the landscape of the Lewiston waterfront for nearly 100 years, it is now a thriving restaurant serving thousands of patrons from all over the world each week! Like The Silo itself, the restaurant has evolved over time and is now serving up a fantastic variety of high quality menu items that are in tune with the ever changing tastes of its patrons. They have recently launched a new catering menu, which includes carving stations and the option of having a real Silo chef join you at a location of your choice, making your event a gathering to remember! Let the Silo cater your next event, stop in for a meal, or take one away! History never tasted so good!
-Stacey Sheehan 2013 revised
Before people got around in automobiles, Lewiston was a major Great Lakes destination for steamship passengers who were traveling back and forth from Canada. Steamship service started around the 1830’s and lasted until 1959. Traffic was booming in 1901 during the Pan-Am Exposition in Buffalo when an estimated 25,000 passengers a day came through Lewiston to take a train to Niagara Falls and Buffalo and then on to destinations throughout the U.S.
Throngs of passengers entering Lewiston (the Silo is to the right out of the photo image) at the steamship docks which processed thousands of people a day. At the upper right you can see the Cornell house..
Pictured here is the steamship Cayuga at the Lewiston docks. The Cayuga made regular stops in Lewiston until 1959. Many area residents can still remember taking the Cayuga during the summertime to visit the CNE in Toronto.
The Silo and terminal were built as one complex to accommodate steamers and passengers replacing earlier structures. In 1938, most of it was destroyed by a river ice jam. Soon after, the terminal was torn down, while the Silo remained.
The Chicora, the Chippewa, the Cayuga and the Corona. This is the fleet of steamships that serviced Lewiston, owned by the Niagara Navigation Company, later to become the Canada Steamship Lines.
By 1918, these four steamers were arriving every day, unloading about 2,500 passengers each. But with the advent of the automobile, service declined. The Chippewa was retired in 1935 and the Corona in 1937. (The Chicora was actually a converted Confederate blockade running ship from the Civil War!)
The Ongiara was one of the smaller boats on the river. The larger steamships carried thousands of passengers daily. Today, the Black Pearl now docks at the same location and can be chartered for tours. View our link on the link page for information about tours.
This image is of the ice jam of 1938. It destroyed the steamship docking facilities and they were never rebuilt. The coal bin is the only evidence left and can be seen to the left of the building in this photo. The Silo was developed by the Hastings as a restaurant in 1997 and opened in spring of 1998.
This is a post card that shows the damage to the Great Gorge Railway Route after an ice jam backed up in the river in 1909.
This is a train car from the Great Gorge Route. This route went from Niagara Falls to Fort Niagara and cost 25 cents in 1901. This car was built by J.G. Brill and seated 40 people. This photograph, from the Petrie collection, was taken in April 1936 in Lewiston.