By Terry Hughes
The recent announcement about moving a Workers Monument from its original location, Dain Avenue, to Merritt Park, led me to a photo in my file of another monument that was to be destined for this location.
When Merritt Park was built over a garbage-infested body of water called McCarthy’s Pond, a beautiful bandshell was erected near the centre. A cannon was placed on the site, near the Welland Club, but was later removed in favour of the Branch 4, Royal Canada Legion building located at the time on East Main Street.
With the end of the First World War, local politicians from both Welland and Crowland Township felt a monument should be built celebrating the end of the war to end all wars as it was known and honouring those who gave up their lives in it.
Funding was very slow in coming and was further hindered by the onset of the Great Depression. The design was finally complete and the location that was initially selected was Merritt Park. Here in this photo taken from the Main Street bridge, circa 1935, the location is marked with an “X”.
However, the decision-makers of the day for various reasons felt recently-completed Chippawa Park would be more suitable. The monument, the Welland-Crowland War Memorial, was completed there and dedicated in 1939, just after the Second World War began.
Now, moving back to the Workers Monument at Dain Avenue on the former Lakeside Steel (Page-Hersey) site. Although arrangements have been made and supported by city council to move it to Merritt Park, a better location may have been Memorial Park, not far from a cenotaph paying tribute to those from Crowland Township who gave their lives in the two world wars.
Eli Turonski, a parks board member and long-time Crowland booster back in the day, wanted Crowland to have a park that would compete with Chippawa Park in Welland. That was why Memorial Park had the first swimming pool separate from Cross Street pool. It was in the shape of a figure eight, complete with underwater lighting for night swimming, one-metre and three-metre diving boards and a concession stand to serve refreshments.
But changes occurred over the years particularly with construction of the canal bypass and now the park is the site of baseball diamonds and other recreation features. Placing the Workers Monument here would have made more sense, in my opinion, because most of the industries were situated in Crowland Township and the majority of workers who were employed there were from the township.
Maybe next time this park could be looked upon as a site where appropriate monuments might be placed.
Next column: Oh, Henry And It’s Not The Candy Bar!
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)