This photograph captures the objective manifestation of the physical and metaphorical power that colonizers exert over nature and the native land upon which it rests.
This photograph was taken on Frontier Road near 74th Street in the LaSalle neighborhood of Niagara Falls, NY. LaSalle was incorporated as a village in 1897 and was annexed as part of the City of Niagara Falls in 1927. Most of the homes in the area where the photograph was taken were built between 1940 and 1950. Utilizing multiple tree aging methods, this tree is estimated to be 105 years old. This means it was conceived in 1916. The section of Frontier overhead power lines captured in the photograph were installed in 1920.
Niagara Falls and the overhead powerlines are another depiction of how we are all interconnected. The water that flows, the power that transmits, and the land where we reside make up the bonds that connect us all together. We need to find ways to coexist which allow for the gifts of all living things to synergistically combine to propel all of humanity forward.
The partially fallen leaves on the tree indicates humanity’s partial acknowledgement of the impact that we have had on Mother Earth. Humanity has made awe-inspiring achievements; however, there is more progress to be made so that inventors and developers are more cognizant about the resources they demand from Mother Earth.
The original Haudenosaunee myth indicates that Niagara Falls was formed by the result of a maiden undergoing a free will suicide attempt. The revisionist’s version indicates that the maiden was part of an annual human sacrifice ritual which was part of traditional native custom. Another myth tells of a young girl in a canoe accidentally getting swept over the falls. She was rescued by the Thunder God who shows her how her people can destroy the monster snake residing in the river. The ensuing battle between the girl and the snake created the Niagara Falls that we see today. And yet another myth indicates that the falls formed when the Great Good God killed a monster serpent that spread disease. As the serpent was suffering a painful death, it floated down what is now known as Horseshoe Falls. When it became lodged at the brink, its body was twisting and turning in agony which bent back the massive rocks and formed the shape of the falls that exists today.
In 1712, Tuscarora Indians migrated from their North Carolina homeland to New York State in order to seek the protection of the powerful Iroquois. In 1805, the firm Porter, Barton, and Company made a bid to lease the rights for the Portage Trail, which was a trail to carry goods on land around the Falls and to connect Lewiston with the upper river. The bid was accepted and they controlled traffic along the trail until 1822. The original 12-year lease was extended an additional four years in recognition of the interrupted traffic along the trail during the War of 1812. In 1850 there were just two houses in what is known today as the LaSalle neighborhood. The first settlement was called Cayuga Creek, which was renamed to LaSalle in 1862.
The use of Niagara Falls as a power source spurred the industrial development of the City of Niagara Falls which led to an influx of 30,000 residents between 1900 and 1920. The LaSalle neighborhood became a part of the city of Niagara Falls in 1927 when it had a village population of 6,258 people.
The transmission lines of the Ontario Power Company extend 6 miles down the Niagara River where it connects to circuits underneath the river. The Niagara, Lockport and Ontario Power Company takes the electric power at the international boundary line in the middle of the Niagara River. Nikola Tesla’s invention of alternating currents helped transmit the power 20 miles south. In the fall of 1894, a project was proposed to construct a 26-mile transmission line from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, NY. On November 15th, 1896, the first transmission of power from Niagara Falls, NY to Buffalo occurred.
On July 7, 1906, a 160-mile power line was put into service by the Niagara, Lockport, and Ontario Power Company. The company was strictly a transmission company only to supply power over a wide area of northern and western part of New York. The line ran mostly on steel towers 16 miles east to Lockport then 57 miles towards Rochester, 10 miles to Fairport, and 71 miles to Syracuse. In 1907, a duplicate line was erected running parallel to the first. The power line and all of its branches totaled 400 miles and contained 7,000 steel towers and 23,000 insulators. In 1920, the Frontier overhead lines Niagara-Gardenville (#180) and Packard-Gardenville (#182) were installed. These lines are comprised of a total of 89 wood structures and 327 steel structures. These are the overhead lines captured in the photograph. To this day, the Niagara Power Project is the largest producer of electricity in the state of New York.