Willowbank’s historic campus is located in the Village of Queenston, halfway between Niagara Falls and Niagara-On-The-Lake. This region is known for its temperate climate which has allowed for local vineyards and fruit orchards to thrive and has fostered a wine and food tourism industry. This region has been a place of human habitation for millennia and the natural and cultural history of this area is incredibly rich and interwoven.
Queenston itself has been defined by its relationship to the Niagara River for millenia. Indigenous peoples identified the Queenston waterfront and the Willowbank ravine specifically as an important terminus on the river. The mouth of the ravine was the logical starting point for a portage route that would bypass the falls -a route that to this day is known as Portage Road. Archaeological remnants on the Willowbank site, have been found dating to the Archaic period, over 9000 years ago.
European settler society has also defined this area for its proximity to the Niagara River, with Queenston once existing as a bustling merchant town, the Hamilton family of Willowbank established a wharf at the base of the ravine and installed a railroad that made its way up the ravine to bypass the falls and bring goods to the region.
The War of 1812 was one of the area’s defining colonial historical events and Queenston is marked by this event by two heritage sites - the Laura Secord Homestead and the Brock Monument. Queenston is also home to the restored printing shop where William Lyon MacKenzie began his career as a political reformer.
For nature enthusiasts, the Niagara region offers a wealth of biodiversity. Both the Bruce Trail and the Niagara River Trail begin in Queenston and there are many hiking, cycling and horse trails throughout the area. The Niagara Escarpment, designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve runs through the centre of the Niagara Region and is home to more than 300 species of birds, 53 mammals, 36 reptiles and amphibians, 90 fish and 100 varieties of special-interest flora including 37 types of orchids. A favourite spot for Willowbank students is the Niagara Glen, a Carolinian-forest wonder complete with beautiful rock formations that trace the geological history of this area. On campus, our own Ravine has been identified as an important area for encouraging native species to thrive.
The mouth of the ravine was the logical starting point for a portage route that would bypass the falls - a route that to this day is known as Portage Road.
Historic old town Niagara-On-The-Lake is now noted for its fine Georgian and Victorian-era buildings but its two forts —Fort George and Fort Mississauga belie its once strategic military importance with its location at the confluence of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.
Niagara-On-The-Lake is also known for its Shaw Festival, one of the worlds pre-eminent repertory theatre companies. The festival has spurred a cultural resurgence in Niagara-On-The-Lake with many musical and festival events occurring throughout the year.
A favourite spot for Willowbank students is the Niagara Glen, a Carolinian-forest wonder complete with beautiful rock formations that trace the geological history of this area.
For those who have not seen it, the nearby Niagara Falls will not disappoint. Known not just for its natural wonder Niagara Falls is a tourism mecca where novelty museums and haunted houses abound.
The city of Niagara Falls is experiencing an urban resurgence and many of our students live in the affordable downtown core where they can experience this urban reclamation first hand.