Tag Archives: Heritage

Heritage Lives: Yachting On The Welland Canal

By Terry Hughes

The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, in recent years, has been more friendly towards private boat owners and in particular, those folks who own luxurious yachts. 

They range from 60 to 110 ft. in length and one featured its own bow and stern bow thrusters. The cost of purchasing and operating these vessels must be astronomical but as the saying goes, ‘if you got it, flaunt it!’

At one time, while traveling with my parents to Port Colborne on the old Highway 58 on the east side of the old canal, a vessel that lay across from the Robin Hood Mill caught my eye. As the photos show (top right, bottom right) she had the lines of a sailing vessel yet featured a funnel indicating her power source was steam. Two stars stood out on her funnel and her hull was painted in an off-white colour scheme. Much of her trim was gilded in gold. Some time later I found out she was owned by Capt. Scott Misener and her name was Venetia. 

Built in Leith, Scotland, this 198-foot vessel served as a subchaser and armed with two deck guns sunk two submarines, one of which sank the Lusitania during the First World War.

After returning her to the American owner, she came to the Great Lakes and in 1940 became the property of Capt. Misener. Again she was involved in the Second World War as a training vessel and returned to peacetime service as a yacht. She set sail for the upper lakes in 1947 and picked isolated bays to catch a bountiful supply of fish along with some consumption of alcoholic beverages.

 After returning home to Port Colborne, the owner let it be known that she was available for charter. Whether she left her berth afterwards is unknown because operating this vessel was expensive!  The photos were taken by the late George Shook at her berth across from the Robin Hood Mill in the early 1950s.

1959 marked the first year of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Queen Elizabeth was invited as a special guest at its opening. She arrived here on HMS Britannia (above, left) but had departed the vessel before it arrived on the Welland Canal. 

Along with a destroyer escort (not in photo) we see her rounding the curve near Notre Dame College School and being greeted by four ambassadors (in the water!) from the local community, a custom of some boys in those days for any ship passing through Welland.

One of the ship’s masts was too tall to fit under the bridges so it was hinged to enable her to safely pass underneath. 

Next Column: The City Puts the Bite On Feeder Lock Park

(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.)

Heritage Lives: Some Unknown Stories About The Forkes Road Bridge

By Terry Hughes

Historical maps from the 1880’s tell us that Forkes Road was an important land route serving Humberstone Township and would require a canal crossing in what is now known as Dain City. By 1903 the federal government had initiated a bridge replacement program that included the Forkes Road crossing with a steel swing span in 1903. 

Our first picture (top left) was taken from the wooden pilings of that bridge looking north to the railway crossing the canal. This spot is where the rowing course is presently found. The third canal was half as wide as it is today. Notice the road on the right of the photo and how close it was to the canal. It would pass behind all of the buildings that now are found on Canal Bank Road. It connected Welland and Port Colborne and became known as Highway 58. In the background beyond the tracks can be seen the beginnings of the John Deere facilities. 

The second photograph (bottom left) shows the Forkes Road swing bridge opening over a widened canal in 1927 and the railway bridge is being dismantled in the foreground. It was at this time that soil tests indicated that the canal banks were unstable. That fact meant the approach spans to both bridges needed to be lengthened. The photo showing the two bridges (top right) bears this fact out. That issue would require that the highway would have to be moved to its present location forming an “S curve ” near the former John Deere site.

Triumph & Tragedy, The Welland Ship Canal, a recent publication concerning the 137 persons who perished building the last canal contains a picture showing a bank failure (centre right) to the north of Bridge 17 and opposite the John Deere in 1939. It was attributed to hardened clay giving way at its base below the waterline. Shipping was able to get around it until some form of remediation took place.  

The fifth picture (bottom right) shows the Forkes Road Bridge raised to allow the CSL vessel Tadoussac to pass by just before this portion of the canal was closed. I had the opportunity to ride this bridge and the bridge master pointed to a pair of binoculars sitting on a desk in the control cabin from where he works the lift span. He said that a car drove into a group of trees that bordered the east bank of the canal and often visited this spot. The occupants in the car were safe from peering eyes but when the bridge was up …..well you can imagine what could be seen with those binoculars.

Thanks to a developer, the city and two levels of government, the bridge will be replaced with a more substantial span, rejoining this community to some form of normalcy.

Next column: Yachting on the canal.

(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.)

Heritage Lives: Showcasing Welland

By Terry Hughes

It’s 1982 and Billy Joel who had recorded many hits sees one of his songs hit number 17 in popularity called Allentown. The lyrics tell the story of how this place in Pennsylvania was in a state of economic decline because their steel factories and related industries were closing, leaving many families who had generations of people working there now finding themselves unemployed.

Ironically, the same thing was happening across the eastern United States and here in Ontario and specifically in Welland. Almost all of our industries were extensions of these firms and were closing, the last being John Deere. The forecast of better things to come with the Welland Canal Bypass opening did not happen and the mood here in the city was becoming negative. Earlier on with the opening of the Seaway Mall, downtown Welland reflected that mood.

A group of responsible citizens having concerns about the status of the community set about looking for ways to create a more positive image and feeling within the city.

From the year 2001 a number of steps were initiated but with little success. After some careful thought, the idea of bundling a number of positive events and holding them in key locations including downtown were initiated. Along with city hall who brought fire and police vehicles to Cross Street and closing East Main Street for local merchants to put out their wares, Welland Museum hosted cultural activities for children. The opening of the Court House and Jail with tours proved to very popular with community. Live entertainment was held in the Market Square until the late hours. The accompanying poster lists the many events of that Saturday. 

Whether this event marked the beginning of change here could be argued but what lay ahead was the initiating of a program that would bring to Welland  concerts on the canal and international activities that would harness our recreational waterway with many aquatic events.

Next column: Some Untold Stories About The Forkes Road Bridge in Dain City.

(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.)

Heritage Lives: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes And Everyplace Else

By Terry Hughes

It’s 1939 and Canada which had just shaken its colonial bonds with Great Britain was about to embark on a six-year journey. It would make us a nation that would gain the respect of the world for our contribution during the Second World War. For a nation of a little over ten million we would contribute over a million participants to this conflict and end up with the third largest navy, the fourth largest air force and fifth largest army on the planet. We would serve as the birthplace for America’s CIA known at that time as the OSS, train ten of thousands to fly in the Commonwealth Training Program and act as a clearing house for aircraft headed to Great Britain coming from a neutral United States until Pearl Harbour.

A war cannot be won without the home front and an industrial base to support it. Like a lot of towns and cities in eastern Canada, Welland had the beginnings of a strong industrial base that had started when Byron “Byde” McCormick had initiated growth here in the early 1900s and promoted us with the slogan, “Watch Welland Grow!”. Add a healthy manpower base from across Europe before this conflict and you have a community ready to respond to this effort. Along with expanding the size of factories like Atlas Steels, it was at this time that we see government funding for wartime housing south of Lincoln Street in both Welland and Crowland.

Maps of the city show industrial development on the east side of the city along the CNR tracks and “French Town”but predominantly in Crowland Township. And every facility used coal, coke and a few natural gas as energy sources in manufacturing. With the war in progress production increased significantly particularly when items were made for military purposes. It was at this time that air pollution became part of daily living. All the factories were producing smoke but winning the war was more important. 

With the end of hostilities and a temporary shift to peacetime needs the economy picked up again. Smoke emissions were still tolerated but were becoming an irritant. But a new pollution source came with the rapid increase in the number of cars.

Our first picture (all three photos are from Celebrating 150 Years, Walking Through Welland) taken from the Broadway lift bridge shows a heavy blanket of smoke moving to the north-east while smoke plumes rise from the ovens of the Union Carbide. In the second aerial photo smoke can be seen from all of the chimneys heading in an easterly path towards the Maple Leaf / Mathew School areas. Until the cessation of production at Union Carbide and Page Hersey, they remained a major source of pollution. Even the last photo shows a couple standing along the canal looking at the smoke plumes coming from the furnaces at the Carbide in the 1970s.

Today our industries along with the coal-fired furnaces in our homes are just a memory and with their demise, the air pollution they produced.

   Next Column: Making Welland Feel Good About Itself.

(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.)

Canada Helps Central Fire Station Project With Major Grant

The Government of Canada, through a $500,000 grant, will assist in the revitalisation of Welland’s Central Fire Station.

The Canadian Heritage Legacy grant, spread over three years, will help cover the costs of architects, engineers and specialists as well as costs for restorations.

A volunteer not-for-profit group, the Central Station Education Initiative (CSEI) leases the Central fire Station from the City of Welland.

The project involves renovating the designated historic site in downtown Welland. It will reopen as a multi-use community centre, which will include original fixtures and artifacts from 1920, when the classic fire station opened.

 The restored fire hall will house a heritage display illustrating the building’s history, a hall of honour for first responders, rentable office space for not-for-profit cultural groups and artists and an innovative co-working space for businesses, artists and artisans, the Heritage Department said.

“The heritage display and restored fire hall will increase access to local heritage in the community,” the ministry said. “It will celebrate and raise awareness about the local history of firefighting, as well as the fire hall’s role in the community over the years.”

Canadian Heritage’s Building Communities through Arts and Heritage Legacy Fund provides funding for community-initiated capital projects intended for community use on significant anniversaries.

This grant to the Central Station Education Initiative commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Central Fire Station’s opening on December 17, 1920. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, altered a planned celebration.

It has been said that “the greenest building is the one still standing”. CSEI recognizes that the most significant artifact is the 100-year-old building itself, the only historic fire hall in the Niagara Region intact with its original interior fixtures.

The group continues to raise funds to preserve and update the three-storey firehall and convert it to a multi-use community centre with a “time capsule” heritage display on the first floor using the original fixtures and artifacts as well as other donated or loaned items.

The upper storeys, formerly offices, firefighter’s sleeping quarters and meeting/recreation room will be rented to community groups with the exception of one firefighter’s bedroom for display. The rental income will help to make the historical preservation project self-sustaining.

In addition, this project will stimulate tourism and enhance existing downtown features such as the recreational canal (former Welland Canal), farmers market, retail businesses and restaurants, City Hall, the Welland Museum, and the area’s parks and multi-use trails.

CSEI president Nora Reid expressed thanks to the Government of Canada and Canadian Heritage for their generous support of this project that will have historical, environmental, cultural and economic benefits to the City of Welland. The Legacy Grant, along with a grant of $100,000 over the next two years from the City of Welland, means that the not-for-profit group now has half of the $1.2 million needed to complete the project.

If the general public would like to help CSEI complete this project, donations can be made through our website, http://www.centralfirehall.ca, Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wellandcentralfirehall, by cheque to Central Station Education Initiative, P.O. Box 432, Welland ON L3B5R2 or by e-transfer to wellandcentralfirehall@gmail.com.

To get involved in transforming this beautiful building as a volunteer please leave a message on our Facebook page and a Board member will call you to let you know how you can help.

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au gouvernement du


(Source: news release)

Heritage Lives: Was The Cross Street Pool A Lock Or Aqueduct?

By Terry Hughes

In a recent article in the “Welland Then And Now” series, the author states that the Cross Street Pool was a lock that was part of a man-made island with the diversion of the Welland River. However, photographs and historical texts say no.

First of all, during the building of the first three canals, a man-made island that was much wider separated them from the river. At that time the river followed a winding course causing the canal builders to construct those early channels further west. That would place them where the area known as the dikes are located. This area served as a place of deposition using hydraulic dredging covering the three canals when the present or fourth route was constructed.

Until the building of the last canal, the river had flowed under the Niagara Street bridge and instead of swinging to the north, it went straight across the present canal and then turned abruptly north flowing behind the Civic Centre, courthouse and through the parking lot in that depressed area before rejoining the river. It would take the river directly under the swimming pool because it carried shipping over the river as the second aqueduct. In the accompanying photo from the year 1870, we see on the right the spillway that drained excess water from the canal into the river known today as the Boardwalk, the aqueduct itself through which ships would pass and just out of sight at the north end was a lock that carried river traffic in and out of the canal.

In the second photograph, labelled the Parking Lot behind…., we see the east wall of the second aqueduct and a wooden bridge sitting on a wall of the third aqueduct that was replaced by the steel Alexandra Bridge at Main Street. Looking north, the island between the canal and the river shows the location where the water filtration plant would be located thus dating this picture between 1906 and 1910.

The third photo, taken from an airplane in 1920, shows both the second and third aqueducts side by side with the river still flowing in its original channel and emerging at the end of Cross Street. and the County Buildings. The lock which is just out of the picture on the lower left was still there.    

The last photo, labelled Today Parking Lot Behind Civic Centre, shows the parking lot behind the present day Civic Centre as it was part of the old riverbed at the end of Cross Street. The river was now flowing in its new channel as we know it today. This muddy cavern of the abandoned river is about to be filled in. 

As shown in the photo used by the author in his Welland Then And Now column, this structure would stand as a dead end portion of the canal during the 1930’s, not the 1950’s as was reported. In 1945-46 the city’s water works department designed a filtration system and placed a dam across the end of this structure and opened it as the Cross Street Swimming Pool. After several modifications over the years it was closed in 1984. At no time did it ever serve as a lock as was reported in his piece.


(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.)

Heritage Lives: Did A Murderer Escape The Hangman?

In this photo from yesteryear, courthouse prison wall dominates the north side of East Main Street with Registry visible at far right./ Photo courtesy Welland Public Library

By Terry Hughes

Today, tabloid news dominates the media and yet if this particular case from 1858 were to appear, it would get top ratings by the viewing public. It involved two murders, more than a hundred witnesses and a wide variety of locales on both sides of the border. What makes this case so intriguing is that it happened right here in the Welland County Courthouse and left the public enraged with its outcome. 

The man, William Townsend, along with several accomplices, was accused of murdering a farmer in North Cayuga, robbing his household of its valuables and leaving the area. Several weeks later, a person matching Townsend’s description was seen in a tavern in Port Robinson by the local constable and was placed under arrest. Unfortunately, the officer was unarmed and Townsend turned around with his own gun and killed him. Several days later, Townsend escaped capture in Woodstock after arriving on the train but was finally apprehended in Cleveland, Ohio. 

The authorities had placed the suspect on trial in Cayuga but was acquitted because the jury could not agree on a verdict. The issue was whether or not the accused was Townsend or someone else.

By the time the trial was held in Welland there was no doubt that Townsend was guilty of two murders. Instead the Crown had to prove that the accused was Townsend.They had hoped that an overwhelming number of witnesses would guarantee a conviction To ensure that many people could identify Townsend, witnesses were entitled to a small fee for their credible evidence.Sixty-two people testified on behalf of the prosecution but the reward tainted the quality of their testimony and brought to the courtroom some unsavory people to boot. Their testimony was circumstantial and could not guarantee they saw the witness committing these murders. Finally, they failed to identify the accused sitting in the dock because their testimony about his appearance was conflicting.

The defence countered with the revelation that the accused was not Townsend but Robert McHenry! They introduced some 80 unpaid witnesses some of whom came from as far away as California. He had lived in Scotland before coming to Canada. The Americans said that he was working in California at the time of the murders. Others claimed that they saw letters from the accused that he had sent from California. 

After 11 days of testimony and cross examination, the judge charged the jury with whether or not the accused was Townsend or McHenry. The following day, the jury returned the verdict that the defendant was McHenry and was not guilty. Public outcry was so great that a petition was circulated demanding that the governor general intervene. It was hoped that a new trial could be held in Haldimand County. Apparently, no such trial took place.    

Our photo, compliments of the Welland Public Library, shows the austere wall that surrounded the courtyard where most hangings took place. They would not, however, see William Townsend nor Robert McHenry meet the hangman for the deaths of the farmer and constable. 

Next column:  Come to a 175th Birthday Celebrating Our Heritage!

(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.)

Heritage Lives: How Merritt Island’s Nature Trails Developed

By Terry Hughes

In 1983, Mike Franklin, project director for Public Works Canada, indicated that Merritt Island was to be the place for a number of development sites that would include nature trails. A group of university students using the title, Nature Development Project, under the supervision of the Welland Canal Advisory Group was to research the plant and wildlife that inhabited the island and develop trails as a way that people could enjoy them at their leisure. To organize the trails, the Grade 6  Environmental Studies Unit for the Niagara South Board of Education was used.

The trails were called Willow Walk, Wildflower Trail and Forest Track. A variety of places of interest on each were highlighted with red posts and a number on each. The numerals were painted blue, yellow and green to designate the three different trails. A booklet was published for each trail as a guide for use for elementary students as well as the general public. The booklets were a temporary issue until a more formalized issue were to be made. Unfortunately, they were never published because the federal election of 1984 halted all projects and they were later cancelled. 

Over time the trails were neglected until 1994 when the renewed Welland Canal Parkway Development Board was constituted. With the assistance of the Niagara Conservation Authority, some management was renewed but the trails were left on their own.

 As a member of a committee made up of the city, the office of our Speaker of the House of Commons, Gib Parent and the Welland Business and Community Development Corporation, a Millennial Project to clean up Merritt Island was instituted. It would involve three high schools (Eastdale, Centennial, Notre Dame) as noted in the accompanying poster. In 2003, after five weekends of cleanup supported with plenty of pizza and pop the job got done. Efforts by the newly-created Welland Recreational Canal Corporation (WRCC) under Mayor Cindy Forster to involve local schools for maintenance of the island as a way to establish ownership by students of a local asset were not successful.       

What more can be said about the trails on Merritt Island (now owned by the City of Welland). They have acted as ambassadors for numerous triathlons as well as a pleasant place to enjoy the wonderful assets that it offers. Luckily, it serves as a reminder of what we could have had if politics of the time had been in our favour. 

Next Column:  Developing A Historical Tour Guide For Welland’s Canal.

(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.)

(File photos/Joe Barkovich)

Recognize Junction Lock’s ‘Cultural Heritage Value’: City

Plaque on site at Feeder Lock Park. (File photo/Joe Barkovich)

WELLAND  – City council is seeking to have the Feeder Canal Junction Lock designated as having Cultural Heritage Value.

The property is located between Prince Charles Drive South and the Welland Recreational Waterway at Broadway.

Reasons for the proposed designation: “Key attributes of this structure that reflect its value as one of the earliest surviving structures in the City of Welland and one that was central to the establishment of the community: Lock dimensions are 150 feet by 26.5 feet and 9 feet deep. Lock walls are constructed of dressed cut Queenston limestone (dolomitic limestone) running the length of the lock backed by rubble fill. Number of the lock is carved into a stone near the top layer of masonry at its entrance. A portion of the lock  approximately 45 feet long remains unburied and is filled with water. Carved iron fittings are visible on the top of the lock walls across from each other on either side of the lock in this area. The remainder of the lock is buried with only the tops of the stone walls visible in some areas in the grass. The stone lock “fenders” are exposed and visible on the banks of the old Welland Canal (Recreational Waterway).

Terry Hughes, who writes Heritage Lives, a column that appears here, offered this comment: “Finally, a structure that played an early role in the development not only of the city but the region has finally been recognized. Ironically this is the second time it has been recognized by city council, the first happened during Mayor (Roland) Hardy’s administration along with the Cross Street Pool. 

“The lock site needs a little tweaking with the plaques (already on site) being turned around for safety reasons, removal of the tall plants that hide the structure and by placing railway ties to show its entire length. Proper signage, like the neighbouring dog park has, would finish the job.” 

More information about the proposed designation is available from the city.

Notice of objection to the proposed designation can be filed with the city clerk no later than Jan. 25, 2021.

(Source of proposed designation information: Welland Civic News posting)

HERITAGE LIVES: After 80, Some Reflections

The way we were. /Supplied photo

By Terry Hughes

Like some of you, I have reached my eightieth birthday and I am overwhelmed about these eight decades and what has occurred. You might as well say that the impact of events of the past eight decades could be summed up as being greater than the events that occurred since man inhabited this planet! And the push to go higher, faster and farther continues. 

Our picture for this column offers a contrast to today, showing a boy and girl from “our” time….the nineteen forties. Here we see two children immersed in a book on the steps of a school. And it’s easy to imagine aside from the information that they are gleaning from this text that their minds are centred on things of that decade that interested them. Having adjusted to having dad close after returning home from the war, their thoughts might include the Tinker Toys they got for Christmas and the fun of playing board games like Snakes and Ladders. A miniature tea set like the one that my wife got to play house with for her birthday or the hopes of getting a pair of skates like Canada’s Babara Anne Scott wore in winning the world figure skating championship come to mind. 

For the boy, the completion of that machine made with a Meccano set when he gets home or the electric train featured in the Eaton’s Catalogue he hopes Santa will bring Christmas Eve are important. For both of them radio has created cowboy heroes like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and finally Hopalong Cassidy. Cap guns help to play the role of each character as they act out their unscripted plays of good and bad guys. And don’t forget the Shadow and Inner Sanctum! Sports heroes will happen with the coming of television in the next decade. 

In our retirement years our thoughts recall the values and beliefs that we learned from three sources. They were the family, the school and the church. Fair play and putting in a hard day’s work earned us these retirement years that other generations will struggle to attain. And aren’t we lucky we were children during that decade!     

On behalf of Gene, Roy, Dale and Hoppy, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  

Next column: Building a swimming pool on the recreational waterway.

(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.)