Heritage Lives: Corner Was Downtown’s Start

In

 

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This building at the high-profile East Main and Burgar street intersection was home to the local daily newspaper for a few decades. But earlier in its history, as the photo shows, it was actually a “mini mall” in downtown Welland. (Photo courtesy Brian Garrard)

By Terry Hughes

Time can dull our senses of persons, places and things that we have encountered over the years but for some of us certain places stand out. Growing up, this intersection marked the beginning of downtown Welland.

The structure that dominated this intersection (East Main and Burgar)  was Gram Bros. car dealership which sold a variety of cars. Pictured here, it stands as a Chrysler dealership and it would end as a General Motors business. It housed cars where they were repaired in a variety of situations. Cars could be stored on the roof by the use of an elevator. In 1954, it became the home of the Tribune until several years ago.

Next door was a Welland institution. It was the home of Ideal Fish and Chips. How many times did people stop in for a cone full of chips or an order of fish and chips wrapped in  newspaper, like after a ball game at nearby Burgar Park.

Across the street and to the right was Harry Holcomb’s Shoe Store and Hamilton and Ferguson’s Grocery. The latter became famous for their fried grasshoppers and chocolate-covered ants. Across the street on the south side stood a City Service Gasoline Station operated by the Baxter family. On the southwest corner for a long time were private homes but later, it  was occupied by Welland Glass and Paint. Next door was Mason Kells that sold Hudson and later, Ford products.

But the most intriguing part of the image is in the centre of the street. Just look at that stop light! Two lenses facing each street versus that  ‘Christmas tree’ of lights that adorn  streets today. I can recall a similar traffic light at the intersection of Main and Duncan streets where the new provincial offences court now stands. There were no lenses for caution. As the lights changed both lights remained on for a short time and then it went to red. For those who were colour blind the words stop and go were painted in black on the lenses. Imagine……eight lenses controlling an intersection as opposed to twenty four!

I guess this tells us something about our driving habits today. Oh, and by the way, we didn’t need hooded lights to cross an intersection.

Next column: Ninety years and counting!

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

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