The Echo: Present, Past and Haunted History in Niagara Falls
By Moose Jr.
Debbie Sirianni has had an interesting life. Born and raised in Las Vegas, she worked as a real estate broker, stockbroker, gemologist and a cosmetologist. She also has a degree from a culinary institute. Her father Don Anderson was the food and beverage director for the Sahara Hotel for 27 years and owned Bob Taylor’s, often said to be the oldest steakhouse in Nevada
After Debbie’s father died and they sold the steakhouse, she moved to Lewiston and started buying investment property to rent and re-sell. Sirianni loved the Lewiston/Niagara Falls area and realized that this is where she wanted to stay. She loves the area’s history, the falls, and especially the people.
While searching for a property to buy, Sirianni -- along with husband Anthony and brother-in-law Carl Sirianni -- saw the former Echo Club and fell in love. They bought the club and spent five years repairing the roof, plumbing, heating and decorating the place with antiques, memorabilia and furniture. She has done an amazing job and created a true “throw back” to Niagara Falls past.
The Echo consists of an outdoor bandstand with a bar and barbeque, a first floor main bar with an adjoining restaurant, a billiard room with an antique gaming wheel, a basement music room with 2 vintage baby grand pianos, a bar, a banquet hall on the second floor with a kitchen and bar and a secret basement that held liquor and beer during Prohibition. In fact, the Echo has doorbells inside that were to warn patrons of police raids during the Prohibition Era, and secret passageways for customers to escape arrest. The building is so immense that it requires seven new, forced hot-air furnaces to effectively heat it.
The Echo Club was built by philanthropist Thomas V. Welch in 1885 as a 24-room mansion. Welch was the founder of the Niagara Free Movement, and helped convince the state of New York to tear down the fences around Niagara Falls and allow free admission. Welch, along with Frederick Law Olmstead, created the first state park in the country and worked to preserve the park from pollution and industrial waste.
Following Welch’s death in 1903 from typhoid fever, the Echo was purchased by banker Alexander Zaleski, who opened the building as a credit union. He died in the basement, and legend has it that his ghost still resides in the building. A recent SyFy Channel program, Haunted Collector, featured local historian Paul Gromosiak, who told the timeworn tale. Ghost hunters from the show brought electronic equipment into the building and, according to their readings, determined that paranormal activity still occurs at the Echo Club.
Famous visitors to the Echo Club were: President William McKinley, who had dinner at the Echo Club just four hours before his assassination in Buffalo in 1901; President Woodrow Wilson who dined there during his Presidency while visiting the falls; Harry Houdini, who performed magic and escape tricks; Marilyn Monroe, who visited during the filming of her movie “Niagara,” and Pope John Paul who visited the building on his historic Niagara Falls trip when it was the Polish Club.
Deborah Sirianni opened the Echo last Saturday (April 6) with a professional production of the Broadway hit, “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,” an audience participation event that included dinner. She intends to continue dinner theater along with mansion tours showing two historical films, banquet rentals for showers, birthdays and bar mitzvahs, running three bars featuring live music inside and out, pig roasts, an ice cream parlor and a souvenir store.
The Echo holds 500 people, has three liquor licenses, restaurant certificates and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. It is a mega tourist stop that embraces the history of Niagara Falls. With a hostess as charming as Debbie Sirianni how can it miss?
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||