Street Sense: Bustling area was known as ‘The Village’

Some of the former Cordage houses lining Plymouth Road, this scene at Second Street. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

Some of the former Cordage houses lining Plymouth Road, this scene at Second Street. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

Welcome to Street Sense, where street names get the story they deserve

I grew up a stone’s throw, sort of, from this week’s real estate. Plymouth Cordage Subdivision is the name of the property acquired by Plymouth Cordage Company for their industry in Welland, a game changer. The plan was registered in 1906 but construction had already started the year previous. Plymouth Road was one of its main streets.

DSC_2473 (2)Here is the account as provided by Welland Historical Society’s What’s In A Name. Once again, because of the richness of the history and heritage, the content is provided in full:

“When the first labourers arrived from Plymouth, Massachusetts to start up the new Plymouth Cordage branch plant in Welland (maker of cordage, rope and binder twine), their homes were ready for them. The company had purchased a roughly rectangular plot of land surrounding the new Plymouth Cordage plant, bounded by Lincoln Street, the Welland Canal, the Michigan Central Railway and the Canadian National Railway. When purchased, the land was occupied by three farmsteads, and the company maintained the three houses as residences in the in the initial years as well as one of the farms where they grew wheat and raised horses (later the site for First Street School). A large labour camp was moved in to build the Cordage houses and workers lived in tents on the site. By 1905, when the Plymouth employees arrived in Welland, the quadriplex homes along King Street and duplex homes on First Street were erected for them. The duplex houses on First Street were erected about a year later. Some of the houses were boarding houses for single men. The Plymouth Road and First Street houses were reserved for foremen. The last Cordage houses built were the quadriplexes along Lincoln Street in 1918.”DSC_2520 (2)

Worthy of note: Plymouth Road was created as an extension of Hellems Avenue from Lincoln Street to Ontario Road.

I could end here, but won’t. There’s a lot more story to share and for a small portion of the details I turn to Book 3 in the trilogy by William H. Lewis, A History of the City of Welland – The 20th century.

Plymouth Cordage is given eight pages of text and several photos in this interesting volume.

Lewis wrote: “The first brick for Plymouth Cordage’s three-quarter-million-dollar plant in Welland was laid on November 3, 1905 and the first bale of binder twine was turned out exactly 55 weeks later. The company’s American management had insisted that, as much as possible, all construction and operational material be of Canadian manufacture.”

Lewis provides detailed information about the company’s social concerns and policies:

“In Massachusetts, the company had been noted for the liberal benefits accorded its employees, and this policy, years ahead of its time, was followed in Welland. Party because of a housing shortage in the town, some 50 two-and four-family homes were built between 1905 and 1918 on Lincoln Street, Plymouth Road and South Main Street (today’s King Street) and employees were offered low rent in maintenance-free living.

“To reduce heating expenses, Cordage workers were permitted to buy wood and coal from the plant. The homes were attractive and very modern for their time, and thus the promise of both a job and housing was a compelling persuasion for workers to come to Welland. In 1917, the company adopted a policy of offering the ‘Cordage houses’ for sale to their employees, and within two years, all but 13 of the homes had been purchased.

The Cordage area, known as ‘The Village’ also included Plymouth Hall (on Plymouth Road), a recreation centre erected in 1905. The building provided facilities for kindergarten classes as well as for instruction in sewing, cooking and carpentry and was later expanded to include a library and reading room, billiard room, dance hall and bowling alley. An athletic field complete with grandstand and dressing rooms, was also provided by the company, as well as tennis courts and in winter, a skating rink.”

As street signs here bear witness, the area was designated a heritage district several years ago.

Now, to make a long story short, Plymouth Cordage curtailed operations in Welland in July 1969 after 63 years of production, Lewis wrote.

All this, and lots more to be found in his book, should help explain how Plymouth Road got its name.

Plymouth Cordage staff, 1952. (This photo can be seen in at least two locations: the Plymouth Cordage Retirement Home on Plymouth Road and, in Welland County General Hospital's dialysis unit foyer.)

Plymouth Cordage staff, 1952. (This photo can be seen in at least two locations: the Plymouth Cordage Retirement Home on Plymouth Road and, in Welland County General Hospital’s dialysis unit foyer.)

(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. Street Sense is a recurring feature.)

2 thoughts on “Street Sense: Bustling area was known as ‘The Village’

  1. Frank Hracs

    Quite the story. Despite living in the GTA I never get tired of learning more about Welland. That little area is like my home universe as I went to First St school, then St. Mary school, I was an altar boy at St John Greek Catholic, played lots of sports (who of us can forget the rock concerts in the 60s on the soccer field).

    Reply
  2. Brenda Wolak

    Great article! My father was born in a Cordage house in 1919, as was I in 1959. My grandfather came to Welland to work for the Plymouth Cordage, and bought the Cordage house that I was born in. Thank you for the staff photo from 1952. I can clearly see my grandfather’s smiling face!

    Reply

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