Tag Archives: Heritage

Heritage Lives: Capital Punishment, Death By Hanging

By Terry Hughes

In the British tradition, capital crimes resulted in the guilty party being hung by the neck until dead. But such an act was not as simple as it sounds for there is a method that was to be followed. The drop from the gallows was determined by the body mass or weight of the victim. The lighter the weight, the greater the drop. In Kingston a woman had to be hung four times before her neck was broken. If the drop was too great it could result in a decapitation. The average drop was twelve feet. In the one hundred years of capital punishment, a total of thirteen people would be hung in Niagara-on-the Lake, St. Catharines and Welland. During his ten-year tenure as governor of Texas, George W. Bush saw almost as many executions.

The first public hanging in Welland occurred in 1859 on Cross Street opposite the county building. John Byers, a black man, was found guilty of murdering Thomas Phillips and seriously injuring his wife. The accused had fallen on hard times and was looking for work to support his family. Mr. Phillips said that there was no work to be found here and refused to share any food for the hungry Byers family. In an act of desperation Byers struck Phillips many times with a club and then struck his wife. A daughter who was in another room witnessed the incident and ran off as Byers searched the house looking for food and any money. He was apprehended the next day. Byers never denied his crime and pleaded guilty.

On the morning of the execution, some three to five thousand people gathered to witness the execution. Stands were built for the spectators and seating was provided on the roof of a nearby hotel offering an advantageous view of the proceedings. After saying a few prayers and asking the audience to pray for him he closed with words, “Good-bye, I’m gone,”  as witnessed by a large number of women who were in the crowd. 

According to a report by the St. Catharines Journal, “he died without a struggle dropping eight to ten feet almost severing his head. Officials governing the hanging congratulated each other and the crowd looked on and smiled!”

The next executions took place in 1946 when a husband and wife team was found guilty of robbing and murdering a Thorold man. The wife of George Popowich, Elizabeth, had an intimate relationship with Louis Nato before their marriage and was aware of large amounts of money he had accumulated at his place of business. After being forced to bring this money, Nato was robbed, beaten, tied up and left for dead on a country road.

Nato was found the next day and supposedly put the blame on the Popowichs to an attending physician and nurse before passing away due to his injuries.

Since 1900 hangings were to be held in less public venues so in the case of Welland the guilty couple were to be hanged in the courtyard inside the walls shown in the accompanying photo, top left. They were not allowed to communicate with each other and were hanged separately.  

On January 17, 1958, Thomas Plante was the last person to be hung at the jail using the steel gallows and trap door shown in the photo, top right, for the knife and hammer murder of a Hamilton man. Parliament removed the act of hanging from murder cases a few years later. 

Although the idea of capital punishment has been abolished, the case could be made that certain victims may have paid the price when a more intense effort to review the evidence may have revealed that some folks were not guilty. In the case of the Popowichs, a Toronto Star article revealed that the attending persons were not fans of new Canadians with foreign names and lied about Nato’s story. In the Byers case the refusal to help a destitute black man in a time when pioneer folk were always offering help to others may raise the issue here of racism. On the other hand the kidnapping and horrendous murders of two St. Catharines girls, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy during our time, suggests that capital punishment, in my view, is still warranted!      


During the time that prisoners were housed at the county jail no major escapes were made. When the county building caught fire next to the jail the prisoners were moved to the walled exercise yard without incident. At one time prisoners had to clean the streets as part of their responsibility of maintaining their keep.

A resident artist who often found himself inside these facilities was well known for his artistic talents. Thomas Foster often fell off the wagon during the late fall, his winter time was spent doing beautiful paintings on the walls of the county buildings. When he was not incarcerated he had sold some of his paintings for as much as  $5,000. Unfortunately five of his six paintings suffered damage from the dampness under the plaster and were all but destroyed. One still survives in the museum room where the gallows are found.

Acknowledgement: The late George Banks, a former city solicitor, was involved in arranging the courthouse tours and Dave Thomas, a court official, provided information about cases cited above.

Next column: A pictorial history of scenes of local interest, now and then.

(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: Public Access To The Court House

By Terry Hughes

As we entered the new millennium, public sentiment about downtown Welland was waning and the overall municipal feeling was the city was in need of an uplift. A group that later was called Partners For Community Pride had been working on some strategies to change that feeling. A focus on getting people downtown required the teaming of city hall and the downtown merchants to close East Main Street from the bridge and Cross Street to traffic, cleaning  the street and having some merchandise placed on the sidewalks for people to see and purchase. Thanks to Cindy Forster, the city placed city equipment and fire trucks on Cross Street so that people and their children could get a close-up look at where their tax dollars were going to work. 

But one area of attraction that had never been available for tours was the court house. Having had a private tour as a teacher from Gordon School, the lack of opportunity for the public to see and hear about this facility was baffling. After making some enquiries as how to make this happen we learned that the building was leased to the province and we needed to negotiate with them. That required some legal help so George Banks, the city solicitor, went to bat for us and it was not until two weeks before the big day that word came that we could use the facility….but with conditions!

Security was the main concern so the auxiliary police volunteered to help. Management of the crowds that we expected was a second issue and who would help us with conducting the tours was also considered. Thanks to the Welland Historical Society that goal was achieved. Dividing the tours to stations at which each guide had a script to use and explain what was happening was also needed. The accompanying diagram shows how the flow of the tour evolved. Fortunately, most of this preparation was in place so that the day when tours were to start we were ready! The other shows rules in place for the visitors.

Additional help would come in the following years. Joe Mocsan and L.A.C.A.C (Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee) joined us in the building while Diane Grenier from city council had her ponies available for children to ride across from the courthouse. The Arts And Culture people joined in with activities in Merritt Park and night time music and dancing occurred at the Market Square.

But the response to the court house tour was AWESOME! 


In Canada the criminal courts are based on the British model. While we see the operation of courts in the U.S. and each state has their own model, our system is far more formal. As you enter the main court room the audience is seated at the back of the room. The front of the room has a coat of arms with a picture of the Queen just behind the magistrate’s bench. Officers of the court and the lawyers are dressed in garb and based on rank can only approach the bench to speak to the presiding magistrate. The accused is placed in the prisoner box and if required can be restrained with a steel ring in the floor of the box. During the proceedings, the utmost quiet is required or you can be removed from the court room. The jury sits on the right and lawyers are not allowed to communicate with their client during the proceedings. Witnesses are not allowed in the court room until they testify and leave immediately afterwards. 

 Unfortunately, because of security reasons, we were declined access to photograph and show the beautiful restoration that was done. The total cost of restoration for the exterior as well as the interior and addition of extra court rooms and security features was eleven million dollars. Based on what the visitors saw, they felt the facility was worth it!  This building was rated as in the top ten facilities in the province at the time it was reopened.


The jail portion of the county building held seventy-two prisoners….twelve women and sixty men. Each prisoner was confined to a five by seven foot cell that you could not stand up in and without heat or light. Natural light came from outside windows and a few light bulbs hung from the ceiling in the hallway running parallel to the cells. Heat came from a radiator along the corridor wall. Toilet facilities were provided at the end of the corridor opposite the last cell without walls for privacy. If you gave the jail staff any trouble you were given that jail cell opposite the toilet as a reward. Food was prepared in kitchens located at the opposite end of the corridor. Those prisoners who were the worst offenders had to eat in their cells. 

At the time of restoration, the decision was made to leave the jail cells and their facilities in their present state. At the time of its closing in 1973 that portion of the facility had served one hundred and eleven years and was declared unfit for habitation. The jail was a multi-floored building with cells assigned to prisoners based on the offence with which you were charged. The greater the offence, the lower the cell placement you’d be housed……a very cold and damp place! The top level was for women prisoners and painted pink.

(Captions: Top left, Side view of the court house, 2015 file photo by Joe Barkovich); Bottom left, Frontal view, supplied photo courtesy Welland Historical Museum; Exterior plaque, file photo by Joe Barkovich.)

Next column: Capital punishment at the courthouse and some jailhouse trivia. 

(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: What Kind Of Year Will We Have To Look Forward To In 2022?

 By Terry Hughes

Our postcard from the past dated 1909 shows an image of a very young person representing the coming year, a symbol that often appeared in publications of the day as we welcome the New Year. And when you look at the times in which it was issued many events were about to take place that showed signs of hope.

 In Canada the passing of Victoria would be followed by the death of her son a few years later and begin the reign of George V that would last until 1936. All of their passings were due to health issues. 

 Here in Welland we were just beginning to enjoy the availability of hydro-electricty for both home and industrial use due to our proximity to Niagara Falls. With the promise of significant traffic, Michigan Central railway was double tracking their lines to Buffalo, Niagara Falls to the east and Detroit to the west that would require a new double track swing bridge across the third canal. Until this was done, the N.S. & T. line was halted just across the Welland River. 

Merchants on East Main and West Main streets were enjoying the placement of a steel swing bridge across the canal that would join these two entities after a thirty year absence. It was christened the Alexandra Bridge after a member of the royal household. 

Our neighbours to the south were going through a change of leadership in a manner that was significantly different than here in Canada. Thanks to an assassin’s bullet, President Teddy Roosevelt would become the new leader and one has to wonder whether this would set a precedent for gun violence in the coming years!  This decade would also mark the growth of the United States as a major industrial giant along with “Jim Crow” in the south. 

Today, we have had to deal with the COVID that has had a negative impact on how we interact with each other. Common courtesies have fallen by the wayside because our daily routines have been interrupted. The imposition of rules and regulations that once were observed by my generation as set down by the authorities are subject to questions by so-called experts through a variety of media today. In an effort to gain respect of the general public we, instead, are confused and tired of long-term solutions that don’t work because we are not pulling in the same direction. And what really has clouded our judgment is that this health issue has become political in both countries! Needless to say, patience is in short supply.

Race and gun issues are very much a part of daily life in the U.S. While doing an interview with a reporter over the devastation of the tornadic storms earlier this month, a local politician was wearing a holstered revolver on his belt. Would you believe that in this day and age, making lynching a federal offence is still opposed by some local politicians in the south. Major cities in both countries but in particular the U.S. are seeing ballooning crime due to gun violence.  

The two hundred-year experiment in democracy is in doubt because extreme right and left wing groups have opposing agendas. Every institution is now questioned and consensus building is now a thing of the past. 

Here in this country political games have led to disruptive feelings of doubt. The resignation of two federal cabinet members because they questioned the leadership is unnerving. In the meantime the opposition is unable to develop clear and common proposals that are agreeable to all of its members

And then we have our own race problems. For too long issues involving treaty, health issues and natural resources have been neglected.  

And what do we say about how the indigenous populations who have had their dignity taken away and placed in residential schools that were supposed to bring them the benefits of Christianity.  

The answers may be found in the many spiritual teachings that we all have been exposed to and mixing them with some common sense, compassion and civility we may eventually find some answers.


Next column: Hanging Out In the 1950s. 

(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: Halloween Refloats Columnist’s Memories Of ’50s Screen Monster

By Terry Hughes

Today, the realm of Halloween and associated monsters is enhanced by high-tech special effects. The best would have to be Michael Jackson’s Thriller! And poor Jamie Lee Curtis has had to come out of retirement to kill her brother off dozens of times in the Halloween horror movie franchise, the latest of which is 2021’s Halloween Kills.

In the past certain characters dominated the movie screens such as werewolves, vampires and the infamous Frankenstein monster. The 1950s were influenced, however, by the Atomic Bomb and its associated issues of harmful radiation. Creatures affected by such exposures may have frightened your girlfriend but the stories were far fetched. Those that did gain popularity were The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Thing and Them. The latter movies involved a radioactive alien and giant ants. Their story lines and actors made them enjoyable and for some, even credible.

Our feature creature was discovered by skeletal remains found along the Amazon jungles of South America which were still largely unexplored back then. A follow-up expedition to learn more about this specimen yielded the real thing. Along with the plot is the work that went into the costumes needed –  one for land scenes and a second that required a built-in aqua-lung for underwater photography. Of course we must throw in the attractive young  fiancée  to one of the scientists and their multiple efforts to escape the monster and there you have the story line. The motion picture would yield sequels and as a horror-movie fan I devoured all of them. 

The creature was known as Gill-man, also known as the Creature as in Creature from the Black Lagoon. He could breathe outside of water for short periods of time but his webbed hands and feet armed with claws were its sole weapons. Our photo features the creature with one of the doubles who played in the underwater scenes in a more friendly pose.

Next Column: The Great Land Sale Of Your Canal Lands 

(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: 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.)