Paul Chapman gave a highly informative presentation on “St. Catharines, Past, Present And Future 1783 to 2050”. He used a hand-drawn map outlining the 15-mile creek to the west, the 12-mile creek as the centre, and the 10-mile creek to the east, coupled with the native Indian trails along what is now Niagara Street, Pelham Road and the top of the escarpment (now Barbican Heights).
- About 1783, following the American Civil War, Shipman’s Corners, be-came home to about 200 people. Paul said there were more bars per capita than downtown today (about six). These places served as inns for accommodations and refreshments for locals and travellers.
- 1829 saw the opening of the first Welland Canal, which created great impetus for growth and led to the canal’s expansion south.
- 1853 saw the first rail line built into the region, followed by the St Catharines station one year later. This brought the 2-3 day foot/horse travel to Hamilton down to about 2-3 hours. !859 saw rail expansion to Port Colborne via Merritton.
- Around 1900 we saw tremendous industrial and commercial growth as, for example, the Sir Adam Beck generating station; further transportation canals. By 1915, the area had the highest number of patents registered. Employment also grew at a rapid rate.
- 1939 saw the construction of the QEW from Toronto to Niagara Falls and Decew Road.
- 1960 saw the merger of St. Catharines, Grantham Township and Merritton.
- 1970 period saw Free Trade, a booming economy with firms like GM and TRW employing tens of hundreds. The late 70’s also saw decline, on both sides of the border, as old industries died or contracted with little or no vision regarding alternative technologies and ways of doing things. Consequently employment continues to shrink.
- 2014 is a cross-roads, as brownfield lands are being assembled for future business and residential development
Looking into the future, Paul said that upcoming people will have different expectations and attitudes. They will want to live in smaller homes and highrises. GM, now down to 3,000 people, may not last, as transportation changes. Brock will see growth as a centre for excellence. The new hospital will attract the brightest talent. The new arena and performing arts centre will attract more culture and other activities. A new condo development has been built on Wellington Street. Downtown is being fixed up. GO transit will likely be here in five years.
- 2050 will see 20,000 more people working and living downtown. Young people will be making different choices about how and where they want to live/work. Multi-housing versus single family large homes will become the new norm.
Paul Chapman introducing himself as a new Probus Member
Probus woodworking group exhibit