A passion is being rekindled in Niagara Falls for a nearly forgotten piece of history.
There's an effort to save a relic dating back more than 250 years, connected to the times when the French and British occupied the region.
It's known as the Old Stone Chimney, and to those who want it's story told, it represents an opportunity to boost area heritage tourism efforts.
The chimney, which was part of French and British forts here and by virtue of its location at the upper landing of the Niagara Portage on the trade route connecting the Atlantic to the upper Great Lakes, is full of stories.
The chimney also connects the Falls to a time when plenty of powerful and influential people involved in the production of electricity and in other industries had their eyes on the area, said Christopher J. Puchalski, who's heading an effort to preserve and protect the two-story, 60-ton hearth.
The Old Stone Chimney, which has been disassembled, moved and reassembled twice, sits in an embankment of the Robert Moses Parkway near John B. Daly Boulevard. That area's going to be the site of heavy construction activity later this year when work starts on reconfiguring the section of the parkway from Daly Boulevard towards Niagara Falls State Park.
There's money included in the state's budget for the parkway reconfiguration project to disassemble the chimney, but supporters want to broaden the effort, give the chimney a better place to be displayed and make sure it doesn't end up packed away in some warehouse.
Channeling the ideas and energy to save the chimney was one of the ideas behind a public meeting held Monday night in the historic Niagara Club where Puchalski and others talked about its history and its potential future.
The City of Niagara Falls has developed proposals for relocating the chimney, including as recently as 2011. The plan calls for it to be located in an area along the Niagara River next to where the New York Power Authority's icebreaker is docked, not far from the chimney's current location.
Both the Power Authority and the state parks office have expressed support for the plans, Mayor Paul A. Dyster told the crowd at the meeting.
The next step is to put together a proposed site plan, which both agencies want to review, Dyster said.
Project supporters believe funding may be available through a number of channels, including Niagara River Greenway funding, the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, the Power Proceeds Allocation Board, as well as local foundations and others.
The photograph at the top of the post shows the Old Stone Chimney in the background, with, from left, City Historian Christopher Stoianoff, Christopher J. Puchalski and historian Paul Gromosiak.
(Photo by James P. McCoy/Buffalo News archives)