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The Skylon still a towering attraction in Niagara

The locals in Niagara Falls, Ontario had something big to talk about in 1964. The city skyline was about to change drastically with the construction of what is still a major icon and the $7 million outlay to bring one of the most well-known structures to fruition was no chump change at the time. The Skylon Tower, as it was named, was the brainchild of the architectural firm Bregman and Hamann of Toronto.

In wanting a stand-out design, the architects decided to give the tower a similar look to Seattle’s Space Needle. At 520 feet high, the Skylon would eventually dwarf the Seagram Tower which opened in 1962 and stands at 325 feet high.

Unique construction considerations

Because of the tower’s height, it had to be constructed to withstand wind forces of about 110 mph. Its close proximity to the U.S. border also meant consultation with transport authorities with both nations before construction could begin.

As locals watched the tower take shape, what they were oblivious to were the challenges it was taking to build the now famous structure.

In what is known as a slip form technique, for 38 days, builders poured concrete non-stop into a form that was constantly moving.

No easy task

The tower presented a first in construction because of its tapered configuration. As the slip form ascended, it also had to be reduced in diameter – a challenge for builders, to say the least and the first time this was ever attempted.

Once the actual tower was complete, builders had the arduous task of building and placing the dome on top of the tower.

Over eight days, the dome was built on the ground and raised to the zenith using hydraulic jacks and jacking rods. Once in place, the globe was reinforced with 800 yards of concrete and 125 tons of steel.

The Skylon and a new skyline

Sixties kids were enraptured by the three high-speed elevators travelling up and down rails mounted on the outside of the tower. These were the first outside elevators in Canada. Many children were more interested in seeing the yellow “ladybugs” on the outside of the Skylon Tower than looking at the Falls.

Each of these lifts can hold 30 people and are enclosed in glass to give riders maximum views as they ascend and descend the tower.

Created a sensation

When the Skylon Tower formally opened its doors to the public on Oct. 6, 1965, people were lined up in droves for the chance to see Niagara Falls like they’d never seen it before – from the top of the city’s then highest structure.

Visitors were not only impressed by the views, but by everything the tower had to offer and stood for. It was home to shops, exhibits, a 360-degree revolving restaurant at the top and was a place that envisioned positivity for a future that looked bright.

A must see

After 55 years, the Skylon Tower continues to be a must-visit attraction on any trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. In addition to the spectacular views and the 52-second ride to the top, there are still many things the tower has to offer such as a 3D/4D movie theatre, shopping centre, specialty shops, an arcade, and restaurants.

It continues to be visited by dignitaries, celebrities and families from the world over. You might want to add your name to the list!

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