Downtown Fort Frances


Since the late 1890's Front Street had developed as the village site. Located on the banks of the Rainy River, its immediate access to boat traffic led to the construction of hotels and businesses.

The business district of Fort Frances was changed forever on June 16th of 1905. On that date a $20,000 fire razed Front Street - the main business block of town. The fire destroyed Frank Strain 's barber shop, Charles Nelson's clothing store, Wells' Hardware, The Koochiching Hotel, Christie's Butcher Shop, The Alberton Hotel, Fraleigh's Drug Store, H. William's General Store, and Caspar's Photography Studio.

Ironically, a newly purchased steam-operated fire engine sat idle on a railway flat car as the business district burned. A disagreement between Town Council and the manufacturer was later resolved and the town accepted the fire engine.

After the fire, Scott Street was soon developed as the new Main Street. The high prices asked for Front Street property led many businesses to re-build in this location.

The name of Scott Street has been credited to either J.C. Scott, an early Fort Frances jeweller, or E.G. Scott, a local hotel keeper.

Born in Scotland in 1852, Mr. Edward Garden Scott apprenticed as a blacksmith. In 1869 he came to Canada, entering the service of the Hudson Bay Company. He was transferred to Fort Frances in 1871 and was chief blacksmith during canal construction in 1874. In 1882, he built the first hotel known as The Alberton and later on, Scott House. E.G. Scott served on the Alberton Council in 1894 and 1896. He was instrumental in establishing the Presbyterian church; he donated the land and assisted with the construction. Mr. E.G. Scott passed away in 1912.

Mr. John C. Scott was born in Trenton, Ontario in 1856. In 1898 he established one of the district's first jewellery business in a small store by the canal. Moving to the business section on Front Street, he relocated after the 1905 fire to the corner of Scott and Mowatt, selling his business in 1909 to George Gledhill. He was active in civic affairs, serving as a councillor in McIrvine in 1904, 1906-1910 and as reeve in 1911. He was also a Town Councillor. Mr. JC Scott passed away in 1934.

Fort Frances Heritage Murals

"Backus - Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce"

Artist: Brian Romanagli

The vision of E.W. Backus, Minneapolis entrepreneur, led to the damming of the falls located on the Rainy River between the sister communities of Fort Frances, Ontario and International Falls, Minnesota. As this was international water and permission from both governments was required, negotiations for the construction of a dam were difficult. In 1905 Mr. Backus procured the rights to begin construction and in 1910 finally completed the project.

Masonic Lodge 300 Scott Street

"Turn of the Century, Fort Frances"

Artist: John Hood

This mural celebrates the late 1890s and early 1900s and the heyday of travel by steamboats. Views of early Fort Frances include the large hotels located along Central Avenue, the wharf located below the falls, and activities such as the early ferry service and fishing at the falls, once called the Alberton, Couchiching, Koochiching, and Chaudiere Falls.

"Scott Street Business Improvement Area"

Businesses began being established in the first three blocks of Scott Street after the fire of 1905 razed the original business block, once located on Central Avenue. Once the site of large hotels and serving the travelers by steamboat, Central Avenue now has the Pulp and Paper Mill flanking it's western bank. One of the first buildings remaining on Scott Street is the Fort Frances Museum located in the middle of the 200 block.

Paper Mill

Encompassing the western part of the upper river and the far eastern portion of the lower river, the paper mill came into being as the result of the power dam and its ability to produce inexpensive hydro-electricity. The paper mill went into production in 1914, a Kraft Mill was constructed in 1971, and included storage facilities and wood yards. The paper machines were housed in the area located along Central Avenue, with the generating building and offices of the company located further east on Third Street West. In 2014, just a week shy of its 100th birthday, the paper mill was shut down and its many employees laid off. The mill's future remains unknown.