Of the two houses that have been located at 8 Centre Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake, little is known about the first. Records show that on May 6, 1796, James Clark, Sr., received by patent from the Crown a piece of property designated as Lot 193 in the town of Niagara. The house that Clark erected passed on to his son George, but was undoubtedly destroyed when the Americans burned the town as they retired across the river to Fort Niagara in December 1813.
The story of the present house begins with the next-door-neighbors, the Claus family. Colonel Daniel Claus had been Assistant Superintendent of Indian Affairs in New York until the American Revolution. During the war he was forced to flee from the Mohawk Valley along with other United Empire Loyalists. A fine four-acre property in the new town of Niagara was granted his wife after his death. His son, Colonel William Claus remained to raise his family there and his daughter Catherine married Lieutenant Geale, an Irish-born officer of the Forty-First Regiment. During the war of 1812 Lieutenant Geale was wounded and taken prisoner, and as a result of these privations he died in 1820 at age thirty, leaving Catherine to raise two small children, Bernard and Julia . In 1825 Catherine’s father bought Lot 193 from George and Sarah Clark for 125 pounds and when he died the following year, the property was passed to Catherine.
On June 15, 1833, she married John Lyons in St. Mark’s Church. Mr. Lyons, who was the registrar for the counties of Lincoln and Haldimand, had opened a land agency office in the town of Niagara in 1832. In 1835 the ownership of Lot 193 was registered in the name of John Lyons, and it is probable that the present house was built in that year. Though John died in 1844 the name ‘Lyons” is still associated with the house. Through Catherine’s descendants, the house remained in the Geale family until the early twentieth century.
There still exists a pleasant watercolor of the house done by an anonymous artist about 1850. The painting shows the front view of the house, a square, two story building with a high basement, hipped roof, large shuttered windows, and chimneys in the center of the front and back walls.
The property was bought by Michael Green early in the twentieth century and the Greens lived in the house until 1963. Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Jones of Toronto bought it in 1964 when Ted Jones was looking for a place in which he could carry on his business as a mechanical engineer. The elegant doorway was hidden by a late Victorian porch that stretched across the front of the house, supporting straggling white wisteria. In order to preserve its character, Joyce and Ted Jones sought the advice of restoration architect Peter Stokes. Both sets of stairs were rebuilt, innumerable layers of wallpaper were removed, and some replastering was necessary. All the windows in the house were redone by craftsmen who had preformed similar tasks at Upper Canada Village, and a new picket fence was specially designed for the house. Altogether, the Lyons house is one that retains the charm and gracious appearance of the Regency period.