150 Welland Historical Facts

Interesting facts and photos about Welland from the past 150 years. 

early welland

1. At Confederation, Welland’s address becomes Welland, Ontario, Dominion of Canada.

     Moses Betts is the reeve of The Village of Welland

2. The Welland Public Library, formed in November of 1824, is one of the oldest continuously operating       institutions in the City of Welland. The story of The Welland library goes back before there was a settlement on the site of Welland. A group met at Brown’s Bridge, where South Pelham now meets the Welland River, to create a private company to run a lending library. Some shares were bought by donating books. It was called, “The Welland Library” because it held meetings along the Welland River at Brown’s and O’Reilly’s bridges. In the late 1850s, the library blended with the new Welland Mechanics’ Institute, which offered education to adults through reading and lectures.”

3. In 1867, Miss Bertha Hooker becomes Welland’s first appointed librarian.

4. The Welland Courthouse, built in Palladian style, was designed by Kivas Tully for $100,000 using Queenston limestone. It survived a major fire in 1913.

Welland Canal Company5. With the coming of Confederation, the Welland Canal Company fell under the control of the Dominion of Canada. In 1868, the second Welland Canal ran from Port Dalhousie to Port Colborne with 27 stone locks and a depth of 10 feet (2.7 metres) for navigation. Water from the canal was used to power industry along its banks and was sold through water leases. By 1868, more than 60 water leases were given to power sawmills, grist mills, flour mills, dry docks, wharves, a shingle factory in Port

Dalhousie, St. Catharines, Allanburg, Port Robinson, Welland, and Port Colborne as well as Marshville and Dunnville along the Feeder Canal.

welland county fair6. The Welland County Fair was founded by The Welland County Agricultural Society at Port Robinson in 1853. They acquired 6 acres of land at Denistoun St. and moved to the site in 1857. In 1974, The Welland County Fair held its last year on Denistoun Street. In 1975, it opened on Niagara Street and became The Niagara Regional Exhibition

7. In 1869, for the first time, the Reeve and Village Councilors started receiving a token payment of $8 for their services. Andrew G. Hill served as village reeve in 1869.

8. By 1869, Welland County officials moved into the impressive county court house in Welland. Welland County covered the southwest half of the Niagara Peninsula. It consisted of eight townships: Wainfleet, Humberstone and Bertie along the Lake Erie shore; Crowland and Willoughby, south of the Welland River; and Pelham, Thorold and Stamford, between the Welland River and the brink of the escarpment.

9. To attract loyal subjects of the King to Upper Canada (now Ontario), Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe put English names on everything including London and York (Toronto). In the Niagara Peninsula, he imprinted his home County in eastern England, Lincolnshire. Other names of English origin are: Grimsby, Humberstone, Casitor, Gainsborough, Louth, Lincoln, Willoughby, Wainfleet, Grantham, Stamford, Crowland, and the River Welland.

Not all of the names stuck. The Welland River informally continued to carry its original name, Chippawa Creek, right through the 1800’s and 1900’s to the present.

10. In 1870, The Dexter Hotel was built on East Main Street by Elias Hoover, named after Hoover’s teenaged son.

11. In 1870, The Feeder Canal was beginning to fail and water levels in the Welland Canal had dropped substantially that summer making navigation between Lake Erie and Ontario difficult. Local political leaders stressed the urgency of deepening the Welland Canal to allow a greater flow of water from Lake Erie making the Feeder unnecessary.

12. The 1871, the census for the Village of Welland states that there was a total population of 1110. The number of males was 554 and the number of females was 556;  820 were born in Canada with a diversity of ethnic background including 450 English, 181 German, 285 Irish, 100 Scottish, 18 French, and 16 African.

13. In 1872, a bylaw for regulations on streets states that, “pedestrians must pass to the right and no galloping of horses on streets.” Both are subject to fines.

14. On Dec 17, 1872, armed with buckets of water, Welland residents of the bucket brigade worked to extinguish a blaze at the Tremont House. Although the Tremont House was destroyed, residents still had the Dexter Hotel, a popular bar at the time. This event sparked the beginning of the fire brigade five years later.

Welland High15. In 1872, the enrollment at Welland High rises to 60 pupils and an assistant teacher is hired.

16. Canal expansion began in 1873. The canal was dredged out to a depth of 12 feet and widened to 100 feet. By 1875 its depth was increased to 14 feet.

17. In 1873, the village council under Reeve Andrew G. Hill approved the school board’s request to build a central public school.

18. Unpaved streets in the summer of 1873 were dusty and damaged local store goods. A watering cart was used to help keep the dust down.

19. On Aug 12, 1874, a notice was distributed to squatters living along the banks of the Welland Canal instructing them to leave the property to prevent them from acquiring title to the property. 

20. On Sept 3, 1875, a ship owned by the Northern Transportation Co. was approaching Allanburg when it crashed into a lock and broke four of the gates loose dragging them down the canal. The ship’s captain rang the bell to reverse the ship, but to no avail. The collision closed the canal to navigation for nearly two weeks.

21. On April 24, 1876, a Canada Southern Railway engineer and a brakeman were killed when a 33-car train failed to stop for an open swing bridge on the Welland Canal.

22. In 1876, Molsons Bank, which received its Canadian charter in 1865 and is the ancestor of The Bank of Montreal, closed its Welland branch. The Imperial Bank, a precursor to the CIBC, announced it would assume the Molsons business in Welland.

23. In January of 1877, Welland’s first fire hall was built on the north end of Cross St. at the river. It was a two-storey building of frame construction with a hose tower. A fire alarm bell was added to the building. One of two rooms on the second floor would serve as council chambers.

24. The tug boat J.H. Doyle that carried the Fenians across the Niagara River during the raids 10 years earlier, was purchased by Captain James Brampton and put into service on the Welland Canal.

25. On Feb 2, 1877, two trains collided on the Welland Railway at Port Robinson. While one train was crossing the bridge over the Chippawa Creek, the other train collided with it causing heavy damage to both trains and knocked some of the train cars into the creek. Most of the crew on the train saw it coming and jumped to safety except for the brakeman whose legs were broken.

26. To ensure water level in the ‘deep cut’ in Thorold was maintained, a dam was built across the Welland Canal at Port Robinson and a second one at the guard lock in Allanburg at a cost of $4,000.

27. In 1878, Welland was incorporated as a town.

28. In 1878, Holy Trinity Anglican Church at 77 Division Street opened.

29. On July 29, 1879, The Independent Hook and Ladder Company was formed under the leadership of Captain T.F. Brown. A used fire truck was purchased from the City of Toronto with funds provided by Welland residents. In April 1883, it merged with Merritt Fire Company no 1. The amalgamated fire companies changed their name to Merritt Fire Company No. 2

30. In 1879, Welland’s first high school opens.

31. In 1880, work had started on the Third Welland Canal.

32. By June of 1889, work had started on a third aqueduct using stone cut from Queenston and Beamsville quarries. Most recently used as a swimming pool, its remains can be seen today along the canal near the parking lot on Cross Street.

33. By 1881, lowering the level of the canal was completed. Water was supplied directly from Lake Erie at Port Colborne removing independence of the Feeder Canal.

34. In 1882 at age 72, Dr. John Frazer died of injuries sustained in a fall from a carriage. He established the Welland Herald in Fonthill in 1854 which was the forerunner of The Welland Tribune. In 1856, he was warden of Welland County helping to establish Welland as the County seat. He was a local doctor who served the community from 50 miles around often not collecting fees. His funeral in Fonthill drew more than 2,000 people with 10 doctors serving as pallbearers and flags on public buildings were at half- mast.

35. In 1882, approximately 5,000 people attended The Welland County Agricultural Society Exhibition at Denistoun Street in Welland. It was the forerunner of The Niagara Regional Exhibition.

36. In 1883, a raceway used water to power saw, grist and woolen mills along the Welland River.

37. In 1884, The Welland Railway was absorbed into The Grand Trunk railway system. Students from Welland County took trains to Welland to attend high school.

38. In 1885, the first telephones came to Welland, primarily in businesses.

39. In May 1885, The Welland Roller Rink opened with 150 people in attendance. People skated to local band music and prizes were awarded for races.

welland electric company40. In 1887, The Welland Electric Light Company was incorporated as a private company located along the river at Catherine Street using water power from the raceway. There were electric lights on the main intersection of east, west, north and south main (Niagara/King) streets.

41. In 1887, the Third Canal opens along a new route from Port Dalhousie to Allanburg. The second Canal between Port Dalhousie and Thorold stayed in use until 1915. The new canal was 14 feet in depth. The route from Port Dalhousie was east of the Second Canal and straighter. The route of the Second Canal was enlarged and deepened to Port Colborne. There were 25 stone locks, one guard lock and a new limestone aqueduct at Welland to carry the canal over the Welland River.

42.-In 1879, Welland High School was built at the corner of Denistoun & West Main Street at a cost of $11,500. It was a two-storey brick structure with a tower.

43. In 1886, the first steel dredge constructed in Canada was built by Matthew Beatty’s Welland Iron Works on what is now Niagara Street and launched into the Welland River

David Ross44. In 1888, David Ross was The Mayor of the Town of Welland. He owned the Ross and Co. clothing and department store in downtown Welland. The building still stands on the corner of East Main & King streets. Ross was also a school trustee. Ross school on Niagara Street is named after him.

45. Merritt Fire Company No. 2 formed a band in 1888. They provided concerts throughout the town and were the highlight at local parties.

 46. By 1889, The Welland Iron Works, founded by Matthew Beatty in 1862, was the major industrial employer in Welland. It stood on the Welland River near the aqueduct and a lock linking the canal and the river at North Main (Niagara Street). They made agricultural implements for farmers as well as road scrapers, hoists, boilers, scows and steam dredges, derricks and shovels. It sold its products in Ontario, Quebec and the Northwest, shipping them through the canal and by rail.

47. In 1892, The Mutual Natural Gas Company was formed, supplying gas to Welland.

48. Welland’s first Town Hall was built in 1899.  For the first time city streets were lined with concrete sidewalks.

49. In 1900, mild weather predominated at the turn of the new century. The roads were muddy, the river quiet, and the canal devoid of ice. The Tribune and Telegraph hockey match had to be postponed.

central school50. Central School opened in January 1901 on Division Street on what is now the Market Square.

It brought together students from schools on Aqueduct, Bald, and Dorothy Street. It was torn down in 1968.

town hall51. In 1901, Crowell H. Reilly became Mayor. The town council began meeting in the new three-storey town hall on the corner of (South Main) King and Division Street. It was also opened to the public for viewing. It had a 76-foot tower that held a 39 inch brass fire bell. The town bell tolled each hour and served as a fire alarm. This bell is now in front of the present City Hall on East Main Street.

52. Welland Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 was formed in 1901 under Fire chief Charles Stapff. Police officers would ring the brass fire bell to tell volunteer firefighters where the fire was located. The number of rings represented a specific section of town.

53. The St. Lawrence Canals System was opened in 1901 with a 14-foot channel that included the Third Welland Canal and canals along The St. Lawrence River.

prize ribbon54. In 1903, The Welland County Fair on Denistoun Street opened its competitions to women.

55. In April of 1904, The Queen Alexandra Bridge was opened. It was a swing bridge across the Third Canal connecting East and West Main Street. A large celebration was held on the bridge.

56. In 1904, Welland won the Ontario Hockey Association District Intermediate Championship with a score of 5-4 at Victoria outdoor rink in Hamilton. Players and fans took the Toronto, Hamilton, and Buffalo train to the game and returned with $1,000 in betting winnings.

57. In 1904, an order was put in for electricity to be used to light and power the whole extent of the canal. Two thousand cedar poles and 200 steel poles were ordered.

trolley58. The NS&T (Niagara, St. Catharines, and Toronto) Electric Trolley serviced Welland between Fonthill, Thorold, Welland, and Port Colborne. It was built from 1907 to 1911 and operated until 1959.

Two trollies ran hourly service from 6 am to midnight daily. It was a popular commuter service with students from local communities taking it to attend Welland High School.

skate59. In 1905, Hockey was a major entertainment in Welland with many games held in the local area.

Plymouth Cordage60. In 1906, Plymouth Cordage, a Massachusetts rope and cord manufacturer, opened a new plant in Welland. Housing was built for workers on Plymouth Road and many are still in use today. By the summer of 1907, 600 workers including Hungarians, Romanians, Germans and Italians were expected to be employed. 

61. The first new Baptist Church began construction in 1906 at West Main and Frazer Street.

62. In 1906, the site of the first hospital in Welland was a converted home at the corner of King and Young Street. It operated until 1908, when the first official hospital was constructed on Riverside Drive.

63. In the early 1900s, the Welland Industries of Plymouth Cordage, Electro-Metals and Page Hersey were established along the canal attracting many immigrant workers. Soon multicultural neighbourhoods began to flourish.

64. In April of 1909, hurricane force winds swept through downtown Welland causing much damage, almost causing the fire hall tower to topple.

65. The Michigan Central Railroad Station was built on King Street (South Main) in 1909.

66. In 1910, Merritt Park was established along the canal on King Street. It had previously been ‘a rat infested dump’ lined with discarded junk called, “McCarthy’s Pond.” The canal was straightened and the excavated earth from the canal was used to fill in the pond. Topsoil was added and trees were planted.

A gazebo bandstand was added as well as a trail close to the same location as the current Welland Canal Parkway Trail.

67. In 1910, Women’s Institutes were started, establishing many local community and education services.

68. In 1910, The Welland Library Board applied for grant to build a new library.

69. On March 23, 1912, an Electric Trolley system opened in Welland. Heated cars held 32 passengers.

70. In 1912 approval was given to pave Welland city streets with concrete and bricks, some of which can   still be seen on Catherine Street.

john deere plant71. In 1912, sod was turned in Welland Junction for the John Deere plant.

72. On June 11, 1913, a fire started in the cupola of The Welland Courthouse. It quickly spread throughout the building. A heavy metal roof confined the flames. Firefighters were forced to enter the burning building, carrying a hose up the stairs before they were forced back downstairs. At one time there were eight hoses on the fire but the fire still spread. A half hour later the cupola collapsed into the blazing building beneath. Firefighters were forced back into the building with their hoses and worked until 6 o’clock the following morning. No one was injured in the blaze. The cause of the fire was faulty electrical wiring. Damage was over $40,000.

73. In 1914, during World War One, 153 men volunteered from Welland and Lincoln Counties giving up wages for low salaries. While the men were away at war, their families struggled to pay bills. Welland County raised $25,000 in patriotic funds to aid these families. This amount was the largest per capita of any other community in the Dominion of Canada. Welland and Crowland lost 91 men and 1,000 were injured, which was substantial given the population of Welland was 7,000.

74. In 1914, Trade and Labour Councils opposed borrowing from The Carnegie Foundation to build a new library because of the harsh treatment of employees at Carnegie’s steel factories.

75. In 1915, The Welland Public Library moves out of the town hall and takes up residence in the old post office location at 20 South Main (King) Street.

welland high school76. In 1915, Welland High School officially opens to 170 students. The cost is $63, 000 with $3,000 for the latest new equipment.

77. In 1916, an NS&T trolley car collided with the Grand Trunk passenger train killing Welland residents Robert Abbey and Robert Adams.

78. On July 1, 1917, Welland celebrated 50 years of Confederation at Merritt Park and also the transition of the Town of Welland to the City of Welland. In 2017 The City of Welland will be 100 years old.

79. In 1919, The Welland Farmers’ Building at Market Square is built. It was designed by Norman Kearns in Spanish and Prairie styles.

fire hall central80. In 1920, Central Fire Hall is built at Division Street and Hellems Avenue. The 50-foot tower used to dry hoses features a four-faced clock. There is also a meeting room used for training, political, and social events.

81. On October 1, 1920, two competing newspapers, The Welland Tribune and The Welland Telegraph, amalgamated. The new paper was named, “Welland Tribune and Telegraph.” Both papers started in 1863. The Tribune was liberal and The Telegraph was conservative but in the 1920s’ papers were becoming independent of political parties. Louis Blake Duff, owner of The Tribune, acquired the Telegraph to create Welland Tribune and Telegraph. In 1921, it moved to a new building on South Main (King) Street and Avenue Place.

gencorp82. In 1920, sod was turned for Mansfield-Denman plant at Kennedy & Ross streets, which later became Joseph Stokes Rubber, Gencorp, and GDX Automotive.

83. In 1921, Helen Kinnear of Port Colborne became the first female lawyer to appear in the Welland Courthouse.

84. In 1921, Lookout Golf Club officially opened. The club was described as having one of the finest layouts on the continent. The property of 106 acres began at the top of the Fonthill kame and north to the valley.

85. In 1921, Empire school opened.

86. In 1922, Sir Adam Beck, head of Ontario hydro, was in Welland to support the purchase of the NS&T by Niagara municipalities. Railway trolleys powered by electricity ran from Port Colborne to Thorold through Welland and Fonthill with branches to St. Catharines, Port Dalhousie, Niagara Falls and Niagara on the lake. In the 1922 municipal election, Welland and Port Colborne supported this purchase.

87. In 1923, The Welland Public Library on King Street officially opened. It was built with $25,000 from the Carnegie foundation along with local fundraising. Building designer, Norman Kearns, followed architectural standards set by the Carnegie Foundation including a main entrance, classical detailing, and a symmetrical arrangement of windows.

88. In 1923, Plymouth Cordage Company shipped 10 bales of red binder twine to one of the estates of King George V of England.

89. In 1923, The Lambert Theatre was the place for live entertainment in Welland with magic shows and travelling theatre companies.

90. The first municipal election in which women could vote was in 1924.

91. In 1924, work continued on the Fourth Canal. It would be 27 feet deep, almost twice that of the previous third canal.

92. The Welland Tribune and Telegraph began carrying a syndicated column by Canadian Humourist, Stephan Leacock.

93. In 1925, The Welland Historical Society was incorporated by The Ontario Historical Society.

94. The first recorded earthquake in Welland was on March 2, 1925.The Toronto seismograph recorded two or more tremors lasting more than an hour.

95. In 1926, an Ontario newspaper syndicate purchased The Welland Tribune & Telegraph and shortened its name to The Welland Tribune. It came out three times per week.

96. The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 4 was formed. It was one of first branches in Canada to assist war veterans and their families.  

97. Ross Public School opened in 1927.

98. In 1927, the dance hall at Morgan’s Point was very popular.

99. In 1928, bus service operated a round trip six times a day between Welland and St. Catharines.

100. In 1940, The Capitol Theatre had an $11,000 renovation removing box seats and improving the balcony staircase and marquee. The Capitol was Welland’s upscale theatre that could seat hundreds of people.

101. In 1928, there was a removal of buildings and businesses on West Main Street as the Fourth Canal was widened to swing to the west.

102. Our Lady of Hungary Roman Catholic Church was built as many Hungarians moved to Welland to work on the Fourth Canal, and in factories along its banks.

103. In 1929, Welland adopted Day Light Saving time.

104. Talking motion pictures began in Welland at The Capitol Theatre in May of 1929.

105. In April of 1930, the new Main Street Bridge replaced the Alexander Swing Bridge. The new bridge had 2,700 ton counter weights. The Twin locks at Thorold were not yet completed, so boats were directed between the old and new channels to navigate between the lakes. The S.S. Mapleton was the first ship to travel between the lakes

106. The Welland Horticultural Society under Col. Hugh A. Rose donated 2,300 climbing rose bushes to be planted at Chippawa Park and other locations throughout the community as part of International Peace Garden Project in 1930. One of Rose’s personal rose gardens can still be seen on Fraser Street (the old Rose home).

107. In 1932, a new bridge was built across the Welland River on North Main Street (now Niagara Street). It cost $100,000, half of which was paid by the provincial government.

108. After 80 years, Welland’s fall fair broke all previous records for attendance of 18,000 people on Sept 30, 1931.

109. Carrying 512,000 bushels of grain in her hold (enough to make 12 million loaves of bread), the largest grain carrying vessel in the world, The S.S. Lemoyne passed through Welland at 9:30 am on August 6, 1932. Her passage marked the official opening of the new Welland Ship Canal after more than 20 years of work. Canada’s Governor General Lord Bessborough was in Thorold along with 5,000 people from across the Dominion of Canada, New York, and beyond with the proclamation, “I hereby declare the Welland Ship Canal open to the commerce of the world.” The $130 million project started more than 20 years earlier also cost the lives of 115 men who were killed during the building of the seaway. The federal minister of railways and canal vowed a memorial would be built. ”In due course, we shall see that the names of these workmen are suitably preserved and made an enduring portion of this great structure.”

110. In 1932, The Welland – Port Colborne Evening Tribune began running comics as a regular feature. The first comics were Cap Stubbs and Minute Movies.

111. In July 1934, under new provincial legislation, The Reeta, Dexter, Commercial, New Welland House and Station Hotel were again allowed to sell beer.

112. On Sept 4, 1939, the day after the start of the Second World War, The Welland Crowland War Memorial dedicated to the men who died in First World War was unveiled in Chippawa Park. The granite sculpture of a soldier protecting a woman gathering wheat was made by artist, Elizabeth Wynwood.

113. The Bell Telephone Company moved into a new office at Cross and Division Street in December of 1942.

114. Lt. Col. Cecil Merritt was Canada’s first Victoria Cross winner of the Second World War. He was related to William Hamilton Merritt, builder of the first Welland Canal. Cecil received this highest award for bravery during the Dieppe raid of August 1942.

115. The largest number of passengers to use the NS&T in a single day was 5,000 for the Atlas Steels picnic on July 22, 1942.

116. In 1942 Welland’s population grew from 2,061 to 14,899 in one year.

117. The Welland – Port Colborne Tribune reported regularly about local men and women serving in the Canadian army, navy and air force in Europe. In 1945, the War ended and all of Welland County celebrated the end of the war with cheering, ringing bells, and parties.

118. In 1945, the new Crowland Fire Hall opened on King Street with celebrations parade, speeches, and dancing.

119. Welland and Lincoln Counties welcomed home The Lincoln and Welland Regiment when it returned from the war in Europe. On January 29, 1946 at 10:30 am, more than 2,000 friends and relatives greeted a 14 car train carrying 401 members of the regiment at the St. Catharines station, which was decorated with Union Jacks.

120. In 1946, George and Elizabeth Popovich became the first married couple to be hanged in Ontario. They were executed separately at the Welland County Jail courtyard behind the court house. They were not allowed to see each other or their children before they died. They were convicted of beating Louis Nato, Mrs. Popowich’s former employee. Nato identified the couple as his attackers on his death bed. The rest of the evidence against them was considered circumstantial. Apparently Nato had an affection for Mrs. Popowich that was not mutual. Today we may have considered it a case of sexual harassment by an employee that had fatal consequences for all.

park theatre121. In 1948, drive-in theatres were popular for their nightly double features. The Canadian Theatre was on Merrittville Highway and the Starlight in Chippawa. Movie theatres in Welland were the The Park, Capitol and Community Theatres.

122. In 1949, Notre Dame College School, which had operated at the Cooper Mansion on Niagara Street, moved to its new school building on Smith Street. Students attended from all over the Niagara Peninsula.

123. In 1947, The Welland-Crowland Arena was being used by hockey teams, figure skaters, and other recreational events.

124. On February 11, 1950, Bell Telephone reported 697 new telephones bringing the city’s total to 6,537.

125. In May of 1950, a flying saucer was seen heading towards Welland “My husband and I believe we saw a flying saucer,” Mrs. Ivankovich told the Tribune,” it was heading towards Welland.” She described the phenomena as a light the size of a bulb which, “kept throwing sparks behind it.”

126. In the Tribune editorial of January 10, 1952, “It is announced that Canada will receive 1,200 immigrants from Holland most of them farmers …the number is not high enough …Canada could profit  a great deal from a much larger number of these farm immigrants who bring great skill and knowledge of sound agricultural methods ….”

127. On Good Friday April 12, 1952, approximately 500 pairs of stockings were included in a robbery of two stores on East Main Street.

coronation128. On May 30, 1953, The Evening Tribune published an entire issue dedicated to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. There were photos and stories from London and of Welland residents who visited there to watch the coronation. Banners reading, “Long live the Queen,” were strung across Main Street with parades and a ceremony in Chippawa Park.

129. In 1954, ‘temporary’ one-way streets were made permanent in downtown Welland. Merchants and their customers were opposed while employees and management of industries, along with some residents, supported this move.

130. In 1956, The Page-Hersey and the Steel Company of Canada came together to build a $10 million plant in Crowland for manufacturing of the largest metal pipe in Canada. They made use of electro welding processes to make pipe 20-36 inches in diameter, providing jobs for 200 employees.

131. In 1956, fluoride is added to the water supply system after recommendation by the Welland and District Health Unit.

132. In 1958, Welland’s Centennial was celebrated. From July 21-27, 1958, a bomb was detonated at 9 am each day by a member of The 57th Regiment. Celebrations were held including a Decoration Day parade, special services at the fountain in Merritt Park, daily performances at the arena, and a carnival at Central School.

133. In January of 1958, Arthur LaPlante became the last man hanged at the Welland County Jail. He donated his eyes to the CNIB. Within an hour of the execution his eyes were removed, packed into a cooler with dry ice and shipped in an OPP cruiser to an undisclosed destination for a corneal transplant operation.

134. In 1958, Welland city council purchased a building on East Main Street from The Atlas Steels to be used as city hall at a cost of $80,000 plus $80,000 for renovations and $20,000 for furnishing.

135. In 1959, city clerk Doug Watt pulled the city bell from the wreckage of Welland’s original city hall at the corner of King and Division streets which was being torn down. In 1979 Dave Barrett, also the city clerk pulled the old bell out of storage and had it restored. It was unveiled in 1981 at the city hall on East Main Street on April 25, 2008. Welland re-dedicated its historic town bell outside of the downtown Civic Square. Current city clerk, Craig Stirtzinger, told the gathering that the ceremony was to recognize the bell’s history and to inspire our community.

136. In 1960, the new $4.25 million Welland County General Hospital opened to a gathering of 25,000 people. The city’s population was 18,000 at the time.

137. In 1960, Sacred Heart Church opens on Empire Street at a cost of $500.000.

138. In May of 1960, a new plaza was built on Lincoln Street with Dominion Store and five other tenants. Fitch Street plaza opened with 15 stores.

139. In 1961, Welland expanded to include all of urban Crowland, part of Humberstone, Pelham, and Thorold. All of these communities opposed annexation except Thorold Township, but Welland was granted the request by the Ontario Municipal Board. The expansion increased Welland’s population to 35,000 people.

fire at olympia restaurant140. In 1961, there was a fire on East Main Street completely destroying the upper levels of a building, which housed The Olympia Restaurant, Welland Winery and Agnew-Surpass Family Wear. It also caused heavy smoke damage next door to the Woolworth store, which is now the East Main Bingo Palace.

141. Canada’s Centennial was celebrated with a Mardi Gras parade, dignitaries, beard growing, costumes, community groups, bands that included Dixieland, teen bands and go-go dancers. At midnight, firefighters sent out bombs signifying the ‘official beginning of Canada’s second century,’ along with church bells and factory whistles.

142. In 1970, the Municipalities of Welland and Lincoln Counties combined to form the Niagara Region.

143. At a cost of $110 million, the Welland Canal Bypass was completed at the end of 1972, and the first ships passed through the following spring. With the Welland Canal Bypass open, ships no longer went through the city, but travelled through a new straighter, wider, and deeper channel without six bridge lifts. Two tunnels were created under the by-pass at East Main St and Townline Road. Canal traffic increased from 35.4 million tons in 1953 to 64.1 million tons in 1972. This was the busiest period in canal history. 

144. The plug, a causeway across the cold canal joining West Side Road with the Townline Tunnel created a gradual grade to allow trains to go through the tunnel was completed in August 1973. The plug ended navigation along the length of the old canal, and later accommodated the creation of a rowing course to the south, and water skiing area to the north.

145. In December of 1972, The Main Street Bridge was lowered for last time. This was the end of an era as no more ships passed through the heart of Welland creating traffic snarls and excuses for being late. Over the next three decades the city’s retail, commercial, residential sectors shifted to the north. By the 1980s, heavy industry started to leave the city changing the city’s economic base.

146. On Sunday, August 25, 1974 at 4:10 am, the Port Robinson Bridge was hit by the laker, “Steelton.” It was cited by The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority as the worst navigation accident in 43 years history of the Welland Canal section. Residents said the impact was so powerful it caused houses to shake. Two people were hurt; the bridgemaster from Welland with a minor back injury, and one crew man suffering from shock was taken to the Welland Hospital. The Steelton, a 620-foot carrier with 9,057 gross tonnage was on route from Buffalo to Quebec.

147. In 1975, Guinness Book of World Records recorded the first ever transcontinental telephone dart match ever played. The Welland Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion defeated the Kingsway Tavern of London, England.

148. In 1979, the 150th anniversary of the Welland Canal was celebrated with many festivities.

149. The Festival of Arts outdoor art gallery of 29 murals by local artists celebrating Welland’s heritage began in 1986.

150. In 2002, The Welland Canal Parklands Trail for walkers, cyclists, wheel chair users, and rollerbladers was almost complete and part of The Greater Niagara Circle Route.

All facts taken with permission from:

1. “140 Years of people places and events that changed our lives” published by The Welland Tribune, 2002 and

2. “Welland at 150” published by The Welland Tribune, 2008

Thank you to Penny Morningstar of the Welland Museum for putting these facts together for us. 

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  • Canada 150

  • 150 Alliance

  • Community foundations of canada logo

  • Canadian Garden Council logo

  • Downtown Welland BIA logo

  • Tymbrel

  • PRowl Communications logo

  • Toes Niagara
  • north welland bia
  • Enviro Niagara
  • My Welland logo
  • Great Signs and Graphics
  • David Chev
  • Connecting Niagara
  • Presstime
  • GiantFM
  • Taris on the Water
  • Country 89
  • bujold
  • Reuter and Reilly Insurance
  • Seaway Mall
  • Niagara College
  • La boite a soleil
  • oecta
  • Casa Dante Italian Club