The Niagara Gorge and the power of the Niagara River were essential to the rise of Niagara Falls industry in the late 19th century. Machines and turbines could be run cheaply and efficiently utilizing the vast amounts of hydropower produced here.
This old wall and staircase was once part of a giant aluminum plant located here in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Pittsburgh Reduction Company built three aluminum plants in the city of Niagara Falls and later named them the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA).
The first aluminum plant was completed in 1895 a few miles from here on Buffalo Avenue. The other two, completed in 1896 and 1897 respectively, were located on the rim of the Niagara Gorge.
Bauxite Mining + Alumina Refining + Smelting - Aluminum Metal.
The aluminum plants in Niagara Falls based their smelting upon a revolutionary electrolytic process discovered by Charles M. Hall for extracting pure aluminum from common clay. Aluminum smelting traditionally required huge amounts of energy. Hall's process used less electricity and reduced waste by allowing further processing of the aluminum ore. Although today's smelting is more advanced, it is still based on the method Hall invented in his kitchen over 100 years ago.
Did you know? By 1907 ALCOA had contracted with local power companies for 75,000 horsepower, making it the largest aluminum works and user of hydroelectric power in the world.
The Final Product. The aluminum produced in Niagara Falls was refined into masses of metal cast in convenient form for shaping, melting, or refining. These metal "ingots" were sold to other companies at 30 cents per pound. The aluminum was used for airplanes, auto parts, cooking utensils, clock parts, office furniture, and wire.