Lewiston is a village in Niagara County, New York, United States. The population was 2,701 at the 2010 census. The village is named after Morgan Lewis, an early 19th-century governor of New York. It is part of the Buffalo–Niagara Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The Village of Lewiston, NY (also known as Yehęwakwáʼthaʼ in Tuscarora) is within the Town of Lewiston. The Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park lies at its southern border. Lewiston was selected by Rand McNally as one of the "Top Ten Best Small Towns in America" in November 2012.
Lewiston is situated on the Niagara River, just across the river from Canada. The Niagara River intersects the Niagara Escarpment between Lewiston and Queenston, Ontario, identifying the Lewiston-Queenston section of the escarpment as the geologic origin of Niagara Falls. Over a roughly 12,500 year span, the falls has eroded nearly 7 miles south from Lewiston to its present location in Niagara Falls, NY, creating the 7 mile long Niagara Gorge. Lewiston lies halfway between the world-famous Niagara Falls and historic Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York. Niagara Falls is about a ten-minute drive to the south. Visitors from Canada can take the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge across the Niagara River.
Popular summer festivals include the Outdoor Art Festival (the second weekend in August) and the Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival (the last weekend in August). The famous Kiwanis Peach Festival takes place during the second weekend of September. Several other festivals, such as the Harvest Fest, take place during the year. Most are held on or near Center Street, the Village's main street (18F North).
Lewiston recently won an online voting contest sponsored by USA Today and Rand McNally for "Best for Food" small town in America, beating 176 other communities. Lewiston has over 30 locally owned and operated restaurant/food establishments within a mile, located primarily on Center Street, catering to a variety of tastes. It was also designated in the same contest as one of the "Top Ten Best Small Towns in America."
Various cultures of Native American tribes inhabited the Lewiston area for thousands of years, with the earliest known artifacts dating to 5000 B.C. By the 14th century, this area was inhabited by Iroquoian-speaking peoples. Before the mid-17th century, they had coalesced into the Five Nations, the historic Iroquois tribes of the Haudenosaunee based in present-day New York. In the early 18th century, they were joined by the Iroquoian Tuscarora from the South, who centuries before had migrated from the Great Lakes area to North Carolina. In 1722, the Iroquois accepted the Tuscarora as the Sixth Nation of the confederacy. The Tuscarora had a village here before the American Revolutionary War called Yehęwakwáʼthaʼ.
During the war, Tuscarora and Oneida Iroquois bands allied individually with the colonists or the British. Those who allied with the British went north with Joseph Brant before the end of the war and are part of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario. Those allied with the American colonists stayed in New York. The Tuscarora Nation of New York is federally recognized and has occupied a reservation at Lewiston since the early 19th Century, although in the 1950s state and federal authorities took 22% of their reservation by eminent domain to construct what is now the Robert Moses Power Plant reservoir.
The Village of Lewiston (formerly known as The Landing) was the site of the first European settlement in western New York in 1720, where trading started along the river. French explorers arriving from Canada across the river had visited the area as early as 1615. The village, incorporated in 1822, claims to be the "most historic square mile in America". It was named after Morgan Lewis, an early 19th-century governor of New York.
In addition to its ancient indigenous settlement, Lewiston became historically significant during European development of North America, and strategic in United States and Canadian history. It was the site from which the US invaded Canada in the Battle of Queenston Heights which took place October 13, 1812. It was the first major battle of the War of 1812. A commemorative sign marks the location where the American force embarked to cross the Niagara River. After the Americans lost the battle, a British retaliatory raid in December 1813 burned Lewiston to the ground and killed several civilians. While most American militia deserted, the local Tuscarora natives stood and fought a delaying action which bought enough time for the surviving citizens to escape. The Historical Association has constructed a large scale bronze monument of thanksgiving to the Tuscaroras entitled Tuscarora Heroes Monument that was unveiled on the 200th anniversary of the attack on December 19, 2013.
The earliest recorded railway in the United States was an inclined wooden tramway built here in 1764 by John Montresor (1736–1799), a British military engineer. Called "The Cradles" and "The Old Lewiston Incline," it featured loaded carts pulled up wooden rails by rope. It facilitated the movement of goods over the Niagara Escarpment in present-day Lewiston.
For many African Americans' escaping slavery in the 1840s and 1850s, Lewiston was the final stop on the Underground Railroad before they crossed the Niagara River to secure freedom in Canada. Lewiston is the setting for the book, Freedom Crossing, by Margaret Goff Clark. Many schools use the book as required reading for thousands of grade school students across the United States as they learn about the Underground Railroad movement. The Historical Association of Lewiston has prepared a "Freedom Crossing Study Guide". They dedicated the Freedom Crossing Monument on October 14, 2009. The large-scale bronze monument stands on the bank of the Niagara River.
Catherine Hustler was credited with inventing the "cocktail" mixed drink in Lewiston in the 19th century. She was featured as a character in James Fenimore Cooper's novel . Built in 1824, the Frontier House was known for a time as the finest hotel in the United States west of the Hudson River. Lewiston was a trading center on the Niagara River. As economic development changed, it became a destination for recreation and vacationers.
Lewiston has completed a multi-million dollar upgrade of its business district, which has been renovated with brick sidewalks and period lanterns. Its waterfront park is also being improved with more green space and additional parking. A new landmark hotel has just been opened near the waterfront. The village has a number of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These have contributed to the sense of place that anchors the village and formed the base of its main street renovation.
Tourists and visitors flock to Lewiston, primarily in the summertime, to enjoy its many festivals, fine restaurants, Artpark, and to learn about its history. Thousands enjoy taking the Whirlpool Jet Boat ride, which shoots through the Niagara River Class 5 rapids and is considered one of the top five adventure rides in North America.
In proximity to the Village of Lewiston, a hazardous chemical waste landfill is privately operated on land within the towns of Lewiston and Porter. The company is paid to accept hazardous wastes from jurisdictions across the state and is regulated by the state. It is the only such landfill left in the Northeastern United States. Nearby is the former Army Ordnance Depot, which has a landfill containing heavy metal contamination, as well as radioactive material from the Manhattan Project of World War II, conducted at Tonawanda, New York. This landfill is supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers (COE).