Our Heritage, Our History
Port Colborne is a city of 19,000+ residents located on Niagara’s South Coast where the Welland Canal connects to Lake Erie. The city’s modern industries and urban settings are complemented by a rich heritage. European settlement of the Port Colborne area began in the 1790s and bestowed an agrarian and grist-milling tradition that continues to this day and can be seen in many buildings and local landmarks. The Welland Canal was extended to Lake Erie in 1833 and proved to be instrumental in the formation of Port Colborne as a marine and industrial centre. It has also influenced residential growth and provides unique recreational opportunities.
1. Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum 280 KING STREET Built, in 1861 by John Williams, of the United Empire Loyalist stock, the frame house with its small window panes, slatted shutters, and pediments over the windows exhibit characteristics of Georgian Revival style Architecture. It was owned by John Williams’ daughter, Arabella, until her death in 1950, when the entire block of the property was bequeathed to the City. In 1974, the house was restored and converted into the Historical and Marine Museum. Note should also be made of the 1870s carriage house, and the 1915 era home which now serves as a tea room, both original to the site. Heritage buildings relocated to the site include the 1835 log schoolhouse and the 1850 log home, both of Pennsylvania Mennonite heritage, and the 1880s blacksmith shop.
2. Shickluna Garage 293 KING STREET A National Heritage Site designated by the federal government. One of the earliest remaining examples (it was built in 1925) of a building constructed specifically to service automobiles. Based on plans provided by the Imperial Oil Company, the building is a loose interpretation of the California Mission style. In the 1800s the Shickluna family owned one of the largest shipyards on the Welland Canal. Louis Joseph Shickluna, the builder of the garage, started out as a carpenter at his father’s shipyard in Port Colborne. When his bicycle shop on East Street was expropriated for the canal widening, L.J. wisely chose to rebuild on the west side of the canal and to cater exclusively to the growing automobile trade.
3. Railway Station 265 KING STREET Built, in 1925 by the Canadian National Railway, this brick structure served as a passenger and freight station. It also served as the terminus of the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Railway which operated a trolley line between Port Dalhousie and Port Colborne. Note the bell cast roof with the exposed rafters, creating a decorative eaves line.
4. Lift Bridge One of three remaining working lift bridges on the Welland Canal, the vertical lift bridge was completed in 1929 and has a span of 61 metres and a clearance of 37 metres when in the raised position. Bridge 21 replaced a wooden swing bridge. The fittings for the former bridge are still visible on the cut stone walls of the old locks opposite the L.G. Carter store location. Bridge 20 (the railway bridge) which crossed at the still visible iron swing bridge, was demolished in 1997.
5. Old Welland Canal Officially opened in 1932, the current waterway is the Lake Erie entrance to the fourth Welland Canal. The previous three canals were completed in 1833, 1853, and 1887 respectively. The two narrow channels, west of the canal, are the remains of the second and third canals. The walls of these channels are constructed of locally quarried stone and the indentations are the only remains of the old lock gate structures. The locks of the second canal were 46 metres in length.
6. L.G. Carter General Store 230 WEST STREET This structure was the first brick commercial building in Port Colborne. It was built in 1850 for Lewis Carter, later the owner of Roselawn, who operated it as a grocery then as a general merchandise store and Post Office. The building has an Italianate style featuring a flat roof, rounded windows, and a dominant cornice. The foundation of the structure is constructed of local limestone and the original building has been extended by an addition to the rear.
7. Imperial Bank of Canada 212 WEST STREET Constructed in 1911, the structure with its unique terra cotta exterior is an example of Classical Revival in the Beaux-Arts style. Note the dominant cornice, arched windows, and festoons of flowers, nuts, and ribbons below the window slip sills and along the sides of the windows. In 1905, the Imperial Bank of Canada purchased the “best business corner in town” for the bank. The building received heritage designation in 1983.
8. St. James Anglican Church 55 CHARLOTTE STREET Originally, a community church is known as the “Union Church,” stood on the site of the market square and was used by the various Protestant denominations in the community. The first Anglican church on this site was finished in 1867 and the congregation first worshipped in it on Confederation Day, July 1. It was known as the “marine church” because a large portion of the funding for its construction was received from captains of lake vessels. The present Gothic and Tudor revival structure with its solid crenelated tower was officially opened on April 22, 1917.
9. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church 123 KING STREET Constructed in 1879, the building has a steep roof and narrow pointed windows of Neo-Gothic Architecture. The rectory beside the church was built in 1871 and still serves the parish. Legend has it that originally a large stone statue of St. Patrick stood on the steeple, but in the 1890s it was struck by lightning and fell through the roof and floor of the church. It is believed the statue may still be buried in the ground beneath the building.
10. Lakeview Hotel 62 WEST STREET Known originally as the Lakeview Hotel, this structure was built circa 1840 and was located on the southwest corner of West and Sugarloaf Streets. In 1889 it was bought by Charles H. Carter, a tugboat captain, who moved it to its current location and converted it to a home. Note the almost oval “Port Colborne windows” on the north side, the two-story bay window, and the return on the eaves. The “Port Colborne window” is a straight-sided window with two rounded ends thought to be the mark of a local craftsman and not known to exist elsewhere in Ontario. The original two-story verandah had extended to the outer corners of the building but was destroyed during a wind storm.
11. Stone House 44 KING STREET The land on which this house sits was originally owned by William Hamilton Merritt, the chief promoter of the Welland Canal. Title records indicate that this building is one of only a few stone structures in Port Colborne. The walls, made of limestone taken from the Welland Canal, are more than half a metre thick. The Georgian style of architecture is evident in the balanced three-bay-facade and centred doorway. The house dates from about 1835.
12. Wildwood 14 CATHARINE STREET The house displays an eclectic mix of late Victorian styles with a mix of bays, an oriel window, and a turret on its north side in contrast to the restrained Greek Revival style of the east and south facades. It began as a small two-story brick house built by William Arnott on the lakeshore in 1876. In 1886 it was purchased as a summer and retirement home by Carolina residents Joseph and Alice Dickenson, who enlarged it to its current form. The imposing cast metal lions were imported from the Carolinas by the Dickenson’s. Wildwood received heritage designation in 1986. Several houses surrounding Wildwood were built and owned by INCO for the use of its senior staff from Bayonne, New Jersey. The New England influence is evident in the architectural styles.
13. Tennessee Avenue Gates Built in 1898, the limestone pillars and gates are a reminder of a once magnificent summer colony called the “Humberstone The Club,” commonly known as “Solid Comfort.” The gates were donated by the O’Fallon family, with the stone pillars named after
their two daughters – Josephine and Caroline. The stone used was local limestone with the masonry work done by Ed Wegerich and his father of Port Colborne. The wrought iron gates were manufactured in Toronto. The gates received heritage designation in 1983.
14. Humberstone Club Casino 19 TENNESSEE AVENUE The former Casino of the Humberstone Summer Resort Company ceased to be used in the 1930s. Constructed in 1912, it was used as a game and social centre. Like most of the summer residences along Tennessee Avenue, it is owned by a local citizen and used as a year-round residence. Architectural features of interest include the “eyebrow” window and chipped gables.
15. Steele Street School 214 STEELE STREET Despite one major addition and several renovations, the symmetrical red-brick facade trimmed with yellow terra cotta tile, and the impressive central pediment still boldly proclaim the dignified Edwardian Classical style. The style was at the height of its popularity in 1915 when the school was built. The school and the street were named for the Steele family, early settlers of Humberstone Township.
16. Kinnear House 232 CLARENCE STREET Built by lawyer Louis Kinnear in 1904, it was the home of his daughter, Judge Helen Kinnear from 1904-1943, the year she became the first federally appointed woman judge in Canada and the Commonwealth. Helen Kinnear was also the first woman in the Commonwealth to be granted in 1934, “King’s Council,” a distinction given to noteworthy lawyers. As well, Kinnear was the first woman lawyer to appear before the Supreme Court of Canada. A postage stamp honouring Judge Kinnear was issued by the Government of Canada in 1993. The house exhibits a combination of Edwardian and Victorian architectural styles.
17. Roselawn Centre for the Living Arts 296 FIELDEN AVENUE The magnificent stone and brick Victorian building was erected circa 1860 for Levi Cornwall. Lewis Carter had it redone into its present Italianate/Second Empire form circa 1879. Features added at that time include the ornately bracketed eaves, multiple bays, mansard roofs, impressive three-story tower (with four double-hung “Port Colborne” windows), and round-headed or elliptical shaped windows, some paired or tripled. In 1902, Charles Steele inherited the house from his uncle. In 1927, when Steele became mayor, he added the two-story sunroom with its pictorial stained glass. In the 1930s Harold Moseby designed the front gardens in the “gardenesque” style. The building has housed “B” Company of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment and the former Port Colborne Club. It now houses the Roselawn Centre and Showboat Festival Theatre. It received heritage designation in 1993.
18. Old Mennonite Meeting House 269 KILLALY ST. W. This was the site of the first church built in Humberstone Township by Mennonite settlers in 1825. The building was erected for the Reformed Mennonite congregation in 1872 and is the oldest existing church building in Port Colborne. The brick building exhibits an almost classical simplicity. Traces of Italianate style can be found in the original multi-paned windows with segmentally arched tops. The Mennonites ceased worship here during the 1970s and it has since become a private residence. It received heritage designation in 1995.
19. Ott House 518 KING STREET The house was constructed circa 1880 for Frederick J. Quinn and was later owned for about 30 years by Herman Ott, a member of Humberstone Village Council. An eclectic mix of late Victorian styles, it displays the lacy verge board (gingerbread) of the Gothic revival along its gables, the “round-headed” windows of the Italianate, and a doorcase of Georgian character. The building received heritage designation in 1983.
20. Thomas Euphronius Reeb House 380 KING STREET The only example of Romanesque Revival in Port Colborne, the home was built circa 1907 for Thomas Euphronius Reeb. The Romanesque is epitomized in its dark red brick and heavy cut stone window sills and lintels. The Queen Anne influence is evident in the octagonal tower with large “bandshell” verandah, wide round-arched first-floor window with etched leaded glass, and a line of terra cotta tiles with egg and dart motif under the eaves. The building received heritage designation in 1994.
21. The Rectory 346 CATHARINE STREET The former St. James Anglican Church Rectory (until 1957) was built in two stages. The eastern portion was constructed for Lewis Carter circa 1875 and the western (rear) portion was added about the time the house was purchased by the Anglican Congregation for use as a rectory in 1897. Note the two-story bay window (west wing) and round-headed windows capped with brick voussoirs indicative of the Italianate style. “Boston Gutters” are still found in some sections of the roof. The building received heritage designation in 1988.
22. Harvie House 326 CATHARINE STREET Built circa 1900, it is a typical Queen Anne Revival style home and features a wraparound verandah with offset circular tower, two types of siding, and a pyramidal roof. The interior boasts solid oak woodwork. The house takes its name from the Harvie family, owners of the dwelling from 1911 to 1951.
23. Ingleside 322 KING STREET Built-in 1867 for Charles H. Carter, and occupied by the Carter family for 118 years, including Port Colborne’s first mayor, Dewitt Carter. The two-storey structure displays the projecting eaves supported by paired brackets and corner quoins in contrasting brick characteristic of Italianate architecture. Its rectangular plan with projecting frontispiece and hipped roof indicates it is a version of a house plan popularized by the magazine “The Canada Farmer” in 1865. Still standing in the side yard are the original icehouse and smokehouse. The attached garage was originally the stable, with the carriage house connecting it to the main structure. At one time a third story was added but was removed in 1965, as was a one-storey verandah. The gardens are laid out in an early style and feature heritage roses. The grounds are surrounded by a locally produced cast-iron fence, one of the last remaining in Ontario. The site received heritage designation in 1987.
24. Old Robin Hood Flour Mill 2 SHERWOOD FOREST LANE One of two flour mills in Port Colborne, the other being the Maple Leaf Mill located north of the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. Until recently, Port Colborne was the largest flour milling site in Canada. The large steel structure to the left of the building as a guide for the 15-storey ship unloader called the “marine tower” (no longer used), which rolled back and forth on railway tracks. The elevator itself has a capacity of 2.25-million bushels of wheat.
25. The Weir The original shipping canal ran down this channel. The bridge was built as part of the fourth Welland Canal, replacing a swing bridge over the second and third canals at the same site. The weir (dam), below the bridge deck, regulates the flow of water to the rest of the canal, including the other seven locks leading down to Lake Ontario, and the hydro-electric generating plant at Decew Falls. The cities of Port Colborne, Welland, Thorold, and St. Catharines also take their drinking water from the canal.
26. Old Imperial Bank 220 MAIN STREET W. Built in 1903 as a post office, this building became home to the Humberstone Branch of the Imperial Bank in 1905. It is unique in having an apartment over the bank for the manager, who was frequently transferred. The apartment was still used by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the Imperial Bank’s successor, until the 1950s. It was closed as a bank in the 1980s.
27. Augustine House 145 MAIN STREET W. Built by Elias Augustine circa 1860, the house displays a mixture of mid19th century detail. The gable front arrangement and symmetrical placement of doors and windows are drawn from the Greek Revival, while the semi-elliptical shape of the openings is Italianate in inspiration. Of particular interest is the detailed woodwork of the verandah, with its small pediment framing the double-leaved front door. The land on which the house stands was owned by a number of early settlers of Humberstone (known as Stonebridge,
and later as Petersburg) before being purchased by Mr. Augustine, an owner of the carriage manufacturing firm of Augustine and Kilmer.
Some production was carried out in a blacksmith shop once located behind the house.
28. The White Block 115 MAIN STREET W. The handsome commercial building was built in 1885 and exhibits many of the details of the Italianate style. Note the deeply projecting eaves, elaborate cornice, and brackets. Simple cornices on business blocks began appearing in the mid-1800s, becoming progressively more ornate towards the end of the century. The small centre gable is an unusual classical detail.
29. Humberstone Township Hall 76 MAIN ST. W. The hall, a good example of a mid-19th century rural public building, is made from cut stone taken from the Welland Canal. The oldest portion of the building, with its multi-paned, arched windows and doors of Palladian influence was designed by architect John Latshaw. It was built by A.K. Scholfield in 1852, at a cost of £258, and was the first town hall for Humberstone. The small addition to the rear (south) was used as a lockup for wayward travellers. The hall received heritage designation in 1982.
30. Lock 8 – Welland Canal WELLAND CANAL At 420 metres, it is one of the longest canal locks in the world, and here you can see ships from every corner of the world. It is the first lift lock downstream from Lake Erie. It is also known as the guard lock, as it protects the rest of the canal from the changing levels of the Lake, rather than raising or lowering ships by a significant amount. When the fourth canal was built, the number of locks was reduced from 30 to eight. This was made possible by the invention of dynamite, which allowed builders to blast through the bedrock at the high point, rather than having to lock over it.
31. International Nickel Company (INCO) Administrative Buildings 187 DAVIS STREET Opened in June 1918 by INCO, now known as Vale, this was the largest nickel refinery in the world until the 1930s. Originally lured here by cheap electrical rates from Niagara Falls, the facility still produces cobalt and precious metals. The management building, the clubhouse, and the recreation hall, located at the main entrance on Nickel Street, are all original buildings. The recreation hall was used for sports and dances and was the home of the Port Colborne Operatic Society for many years. At 110 metres, the “big stack,” demolished in 1995 because of its poor condition, was the largest chimney in the British Commonwealth when it was built. It was a landmark used by sailors from around the world to guide them toward the entrance of the canal.
32. Jacob North Brewery 1 LAKE STREET Now an office for Allied Marine, this fine Georgian-style house was built in 1852 by Jacques “Jacob” North, a second-generation brewmaster who emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine. It has changed little since it was home to the North family, retaining most of its balanced and symmetrical facade, six-over-six windows, and central Georgian doorway (formerly surrounded by a transom and side windows). The brewery itself, built at the same time, was located just behind the existing structure. In 1875 Jacob sold the brewery to Henry Cronmiller and Thomas White, whose famous Indian Head lager was shipped to all parts of the province. In about 1898 the company began producing ginger ale and “whipped cream,” a white cream soda. Each week an excursion boat from Buffalo docked on the canal at Erie Park, a treed space with a dance pavilion, located just west of here. This was to allow the passengers to cap their trip with refreshments from the brewery. Prohibition forced the business to close in 1919.
33. Doan Cemetery 2146 SECOND CONCESSION ROAD This United Empire Loyalist cemetery was named after Aaron Doan, who was buried here in 1844. Aaron was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1756. He and his five brothers refused to support the colonists in the American Revolution and formed the ‘Doan Outlaws’, spying for the British. Branded a traitor, Aaron Doan was captured in 1783 and sentenced to hang but was freed by a decree from Benjamin Franklin in 1787. He fled to Canada and joined his brother Joseph Jr. who had settled in Humberstone Township, now Port Colborne. As a United Empire Loyalist, Aaron Doan was awarded 500 acres of land along Second Concession, east of Miller Road. In 1802, a quarter acre of land was set aside for a cemetery for two infants Doan children. There are some 200 graves in the cemetery, which received heritage designation in 2010.
34. Century House 155 MAIN STREET WEST The early-20th century commercial building was constructed in a vernacular version of the Classical Revival style popular in rural Ontario. Characteristics include its flat facade with asymmetrical window arrangement and gable-end orientation. Its style descends directly from the characteristic small town store construction of the mid-19th century Ontario combining the first-floor shop with residence above while incorporating the innovations of later-19th century commercial buildings such as larger panes of glass in its shop windows and the recessed store entrance.
35. William Brown House (Chew House) 1001 FIRELANE NO. 1 The property was first granted by the Crown in 1802 to the Kinsley family, as Lot 19 Concession One in the former Township of Humberstone. The lot was the site of the Lorraine Summer resort which was one of the earliest high-class summer colonies along the Lake Erie shoreline. Established in 1898 by Frank Fulton Brown and the Dann brothers, the resort was comprised of almost one kilometre of the finest sandy beach in the area, and named for Frank Brown’s daughter. The land the house stands on as the site where Mr. Brown erected the first summer home. A pair of stone arches supported the gates that led to the private road into the park; these stone pillars still exist today in the same location. The structure possesses unusual architectural characteristics: it is of a timber frame construction with large, almost pillar-like stone protrusions on the front and rear of the dwelling. The cut limestone used is the same as that which was used to construct the entrance gate pillars on Lorraine Road. Details such as the peaked gable ends and the arches above the windows indicate the work of a master stonemason. The overall building has had two additions in the early to mid 20th century and the architecture is reminiscent of the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. It is the only example of this style of architecture in Port Colborne.
The City of Port Colborne Economic Development Department, Heritage Port Colborne, Tourism Port Colborne, and the Port Colborne Historical & Marine Museum and Heritage Village for their assistance with this information.
Looking for more history?
Port Colborne Historical & Marine Museum and Heritage Village
Port Colborne Public Library
L.R. Wilson Heritage Research Archives
Tourism Port Colborne