St. Catharines from Confederation to 2017

At the start of our arbitrary 1960 – 1990 time period, Canada continued to grow and prosper. The popularity of the automobile endured and the Trans-Canada Highway officially opened in 1962. The baby-boomer generation began to reach adulthood, creating a demand for post-secondary education and the construction of universities. In 1967, Canada celebrated its 100th birthday, with centennial projects and events across the country. However, the 1970s and 1980s saw unrest over the price of oil and increasing inflation. There was also rising activism with the founding of Greenpeace and a push for Women’s Rights. Canada entered into an economic recession during the early 80’s and at the same time, gained political independence from Great Britain with the signing of the Constitution Act in 1982.

Locally, in 1961, we saw the amalgamation of St. Catharines, Port Dalhousie, Merritton and part of Grantham Township. The economic boom from the 1950s continued with the opening of a new university, shopping centre, and the Garden City Skyway. In 1970, 12 municipalities came together to form the Regional Municipality of Niagara, and as a consequence, St. Catharines absorbed parts of the old Louth Township, further extending its boundaries. Also,during this period, new office buildings and a Centennial Library were built, plus construction of Highway 406 was completed to the QEW. Historical preservation and environmental protection strengthened with the development of the Local Architecture Conservation Advisory Committee and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. However, despite efforts, there was still destruction of some historic buildings in St. Catharines, including St. Joseph’s Convent and the old Carnegie Library. The city also played an important part on the world stage with the World Rowing Championships held at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta Course.

Aerial view of Brock University with Lake Ontario in the background,
St. Catharines, Ontario, c1973

In 1964, Brock University was incorporated as a university, with the passage of the Brock University Act. The first classes took place in the Christian Education Wing at St. Paul Street United Church (now Silver Spire United) since the Glenridge Campus was not quite ready for students. The ground breaking for the current DeCew Campus was held in 1965. In 1966, the first four floors of the Arthur Shuman Tower opened. Those floors housed the library as well as several classrooms. Over the years, Brock University has continued to grow and offers many different programs and areas of study for students from around the world.

St. Joseph’s Convent, Church Street,
St. Catharines, Ontario, c1970

St. Joseph’s Convent was located on the corner of James and Church Streets next to St. Catherine of Alexandria Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Separate school system was established in 1856 in St. Catharines and the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto were asked to take charge of classes. The nuns were first housed in a small dwelling on Church Street and then, in 1874, moved to the new convent, which boasted 40 rooms, a chapel, stained glass windows and fireplaces. In 1946, the convent housed St. Joseph’s High School for Girls, which later became part of Denis Morris High School. Although the sisters continued to teach until 1977, the convent was torn down in 1973. The photograph shows the convent a couple of years before it was gutted by fire in 1972.

St. Catharines Public (Centennial) Library from James Street,
St. Catharines, Ontario, 1978

Margaret Beckman & Associates, Library Consultants, were hired to study the situation of the St. Catharines Carnegie Public Library building. Challenges with the building included no room for expansion, stairs difficult to traverse, little seating capacity, noise, and not enough public parking. Citing the report, the Library Board made a formal presentation to the city in 1974 to request a new main library. The request was granted and the architectural firm Macbeth, Williams, Woodruff & Hadaway was selected for the project. A new location for the library was acquired at the corner of Church and Carlisle Streets, and in June of 1977, the official opening of the Centennial Library took place.

Oille Fountain, at the corner of James and King Streets,
St. Catharines Ontario, 1981

The Oille fountain at the corner of King and James Street was the first public drinking fountain in St. Catharines. Dr. Lucius S. Oille - a physician, the second mayor of St. Catharines, founder of the St. Catharines Board of Trade, railway promoter and chairman of the Waterworks Commission among other things - donated the fountain in 1878. It was erected to commemorate the establishment of waterworks in St. Catharines, in part because of Oille’s own efforts. The fountain was designated by St. Catharines City Council as historically significant in 1978. In this picture taken in 1981, apart from a few minor repairs, the fountain looks much the same as it did in 1878, as does the old courthouse that sits behind it.

The addition to City Hall,
St. Catharines, Ontario, 1981

The Benson home on Church Street served for many years as City Hall for St. Catharines. Due to overcrowding, that building was torn down to make way for a new City Hall in 1937. The newly constructed 2-storey limestone building, designed by Robert Macbeth, opened on Church Street where the former City Hall once stood. Since then, a few updates have been made to the city’s municipal building. One significant change was the addition of a large 2-storey extension on the back of the building in 1981. The new addition was once again required because of overcrowding. City Hall had been renting extra space in the Lincoln Trust Building at the corner of James and King Streets. The picture, taken in 1981, shows the new extension under construction.

Taylor and Bate Brewery Ltd. prior to demolition, c1980

For many years, Taylor and Bate Brewery was a leading business in St. Catharines. James Taylor established the brewery on the banks of the Twelve Mile Creek in 1834, and took on Bate as a full partner in 1857. Together they produced ale, porter and lager. Business was booming. Over the years, the Taylor and Bate families continued to run the brewery until it was sold in 1927. The brewery changed hands many times after that. One of the new owners was E.T. Sandall, who operated the radio station, CKTB. Sandall named his radio station after the brewery – Cool Keg of Taylor and Bate. In the mid-thirties, Sandall sold the brewery, which then closed a short time later. The Taylor and Bate buildings came down in 1979 to make way for Highway 406.

Ethnic dancers in the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival Parade, c1965

The Niagara Grape Festival, later renamed the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, was founded in 1952 by the Ontario Grape Growers Marketing Board and the City of St. Catharines. It was believed to be the first of its kind in Canada. The Festival was originally a one-day event to celebrate the grape harvest in Niagara, but it has grown considerably over the years, now covering many days and including many events. This picture shows ethnic dancers in the Grape Parade taken around 1965. According to the St. Catharines Standard, “it was the largest and fastest (parade) ever with a 104 unit line”.

Royal Canadian Henley Regatta,
Port Dalhousie, c1986

A few different communities had hosted the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta since its inception in 1880. In 1903 the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen decided to give the regatta a permanent home on Martindale Pond in Port Dalhousie. However, it wasn’t until 1964 that Martindale was deemed a world class rowing course. A dredging program was conducted to deepen the waterway in compliance with International Rowing Federation Standards. The World Rowing Championships were held at the course in 1970 and again in 1999. Since World War II the number of days for the annual Royal Canadian Henley Regatta events has increased to four days and, in 1972, women’s races become a permanent event.

Looking east on St. Paul Street at the corner of Queen Street,
St. Catharines, Ontario, c1960’s

Looking at the image of St. Paul Street in the 1960s, a few changes have taken place since the early 1900s. A new Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has been built on the corner of St. Paul and Queen Streets. Cars now fill the street and streetcars have been replaced by buses. St. Paul Street was converted to one way traffic heading east, changing the flow of traffic through downtown. The telephone poles and wires were removed and buried underground. Many of the buildings on the south side of the street have been altered, but the north side still looks relatively the same. Businesses such as Diana Sweets Restaurant, Zellers Department Store, and Reitman’s can be seen on the left-hand side of the street.

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