Old Town Walking Tour
First settled by United Empire Loyalists in the 1780s, The Old Town has a wealth of architecture from different periods and in different styles. Our older buildings reflect St. Catharines history as an industrial and agricultural centre on the Welland Canal. Your tour starts at the corner of King and James Streets with:
- 1. The Old Courthouse:*
- Constructed in 1849 as the Town Hall by well-known architect Kivas Tully. Construction of a new wing coincided with it becoming the Lincoln County Courthouse in 1862. Note the stained glass transom and uniquely curving balustrades; the steer's head and wheat sheaf on the James St. side, symbolizing the nearby market; the wrought iron fence; and the water fountain (1878), gift of Mayor Lucius Oille.
- 2. The New City Hall:*
- Built in 1937 by local architect Robert Macbeth. Notable is the handsome entrance with Art Deco pilasters, brassformed doors, symbols of electricity and justice, and the city arms (above the main door). Across from City Hall on Church St.:
- 3. Knox Presbyterian Church:
- Erected 1859 to serve Scottish immigrants, some of whom worked on the Second Welland Canal. Beautiful lamps at the entrance. Small pinnacles, but no spire. Northeast on Church St. is:
- 4. St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral:
- Constructed in 1845 for and partly by Irish Catholic immigrants, many of whom were canal workers. Example of English neo-Gothic. Nave lies parallel to the street, in contrast to other nearby churches.
- 5. St. George's Anglican Church:
- Monument to the Loyalists who founded St. Catharines. Built 1840; the tower, 1844. At the rear, traces of many additions over the years, and pioneer tombstones. Next door is:
- 6. Grantham Academy:*
- Built 1829, first high school in the Niagara Peninsula and Upper Canada's second non-denominational high school, a reminder of our ancestors' concern for education.
- 7. First United Church:*
- A fourth and different style of church (Romanesque), 1878. Elaborate brickwork, stained glass, iron finials and chimneys. Follow Church St. northeast:
- 8. 104 Church Street:
- Home of Rev. John Baynes, built in 1840 in the vernacular Loyalist tradition - red brick walls, plainly trimmed roof, main door set to one side. The beautifully ornate portico is likely a later addition. On the corner:
- 9. 38-42 Court Street:*
- Epworth Terrace, c. 1875, early apartment building with mansard roof, interesting brickwork, decorative shingles, then popular vertical lines. Follow Church St. to:
- 10. 134 Church Street:*
- c.1850,similar to 104 Church St.(#8), the wedding gift of farmer Stephen Parnell to his daughter and son-in-law, James Wood who became a prosperous local merchant. Turn onto King St.:
- 11. 209 King Street:
- 1855, industrialist Thomas Towers built this solid house on land owned by the Marauds, a pioneer Loyalist and entrepreneurial family. A typical upper middle class home. Brick, quoins (at the corners) of stone. Continue along King St. to:
- 12. 183 King Street:
- Built c.1869, this was the later and more elegant home of druggist James Mills, with Italianate towers and large verandas that were becoming fashionable at the time. Mills oldest son, David, was a local entrepreneur who left much of his fortune to charities. Unique windows are set below the delicate frieze at roof line. Not far away is:
- 13. 173-175 King Street:
- Built in the 1860s, typical middle class row houses. Solid red brick, with the popular frieze and brackets at roof line. Stained glass transoms, and a wrought iron fence to keep horses and transients out of the garden! Across the street:
- 14. Winchester-Larkin House, 22 Academy Street:*
- c.1845 by Lucius Winchester. Mariner and prominent businessman Captain Patrick Larkin made later embellishments. Note detailing, tower, bay windows and stained glass.
- 15. 164 King Street:
- Captain Sylvester Neelon, a ship owner, built this Italianate villa in 1862. Handsome chimneys, Palladian windows in the tower, another iron fence. Follow Academy St. east:
- 16. Broadway Grocer and Italian Warehouse, 321 St. Paul Street:
- A prosperous establishment of the early 1870's, with an elegant Mansard roof, small tower and iron grillwork. Sign of the growth associated with the construction of the Third Welland Canal (1871-1882). Its neighbour, 325 St. Paul St., is a well maintained example of the same period. Proceed north on St. Paul St.:
- 17. St. Paul Street United Church:*
- Constructed in 1863, spire added in 1875. Sensibly recycled after a 1962 fire, with concrete block walls inside the older brick ones.
- 18. 224-226 St. Paul Street:
- This slightly bulging facade of the 1870's resembles a palace on the Grand Canal in Venice; contrasting window shapes on each floor and expanses of glass large by 19th century standards.
- 19. (former) Canada Hair Cloth Company:
- c.1888, reminder that many mills once stood in the valleys of Dick's Creek and 12 Mile Creek (canalized 1824-1829), deriving power from water flowing in raceways, one of which was under the concrete path in front of the factory. Back on St. Paul St.:
- 20. 117 St. Paul Street:
- Typical 19th century business premises of red brick, with Italianate windows, beautifully restored.
- 21. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce:
- At the corner of Queen St., built 1912-1913, in grandiose Roman Renaissance style, reflecting St. Catharines' prosperity. Sensibly recycled as shops, a restaurant and a residence. Turn onto Queen St:
- 22. 7-9 Queen Street:
- Built between 1852-54; notable entrance with engaged columns, entablature, cornice and the windows around the door. "Downtown" used to end about here! Back onto St. Paul St. and look across to:
- 23. 88 St. Paul Street:
- Another vestige of 19th century prosperity, c.1869; ornate decoration of the windows and roof line. Note the cast iron markers on most of the facade. The adaptive re-use of the building has sensitively combined the integrity of the building with more modern and colourful design elements at street level.
- 24. 55 St. Paul Street:
- c.1931; colourful Art Deco brickwork on its second storey, the latest in modern design (for the '30s). Turn right on William St. to:
- 25. The Mansion House:
- c.1850; originally owned by Wm.H.Merritt, home to early canal office, parlour, and residence, it has been used as a tavern and called the Mansion House since 1868. Back onto St. Paul St. and look across to:
- 26. 28 St. Paul Street:
- c.1850, formerly bricks painted white, it is now yellow stucco surrounded by wooden trim; one of the few buildings on the street to survive several disastrous fires. Turn onto Ontario St. to:
- 27. 37-39 Ontario Street:
- Former Masonic Temple Building, 1873, with cast iron columns and window frames, signs of the new construction materials replacing brick and stone at the time. Note the decorative rosettes marking the end of the tie bars, used to stabilize the structure. Next door at:
- 28. 41-47 Ontario Street:
- Behind parking lot is former cultural centre the Grand Opera House, built 1877; The 1200 seat auditorium, built of Grimsby sandstone, with elegant round windows (now bricked in), housed a 55 foot wide stage. Walk around it for a closer view.
- At this point you can continue the tour through the residential area or you can walk to the corner of Ontario St. and King St. and pick up the last part of the tour at #46. (Total Distance to this point is 3 km, 1 hour). Return back to St. Paul St., cross over to the south west corner and continue along to McGuire.
- 29. Statue of William Hamilton Merritt:
- Designed by Alfred Howell, it overlooks 12 Mile Creek to the south and the course of the First Welland Canal to the east. Born in 1793, Merritt became the leading businessman of the first half of the 19th century and conceived the idea of a water channel from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, which evolved into the Welland Canal. Crossing to Yates St., you are entering the Yates Street Heritage District:
- 30. 12 Yates Street (0ak Hill):*
- Built in 1860 by Merritt. Originally brick, it has been stuccoed. A well-preserved coach house is at the rear. Across the street overlooking the valley there is a historical marker recognizing the contribution of the Shickluna Shipyards. Continue along Yates St.:
- 31. 24 Yates Street:*
- c.1858; home of John Woodward, a miller. Recently restored, its fine lines are evident in the elegant window sills and lintels, in the plain frieze at the roof line and in the dramatic doorway.
- 32. 31 and 33 Yates Street:*
- The Beeton and Burrowman houses, built in 1840 and 1860, respectively, are good examples of elegant mid-19th century homes. A great contrast to 35 Yates, the home of Arthur Bate, local brewer, in Italianate style.
- 33. 38 Yates Street:*
- 1870's home of Calvin Brown, first Mayor of St. Catharines. The veranda to the side suggests the 19th century equivalent of air conditioning and patios.
- 34. 59 Yates Street:*
- c.1928, inspired by the Neo-Tudor rage, many original touches; the chimney built into the facade, stained glass, cast-iron door hinges. Turn right onto Norris Place:
- 35. 9 Norris Place:*
- An elaborate home built in 1834 by Godfrey Waud, purchased later by Capt. James Norris. Attractive porch and veranda; notice on the boulevard in front of the house the old Norris coach step, useful for access to high carriages before streets were paved.
- 36. 7 Norris Place:*
- c.1854, Josiah Holmes, a carriagemaker built this home with its wide gallery and iron fence. The doorway, with its sidelights and transom is typical of this period. Across the street is:
- 37. 6-8 Norris Place:*
- A brick semi-detached house of the 1850's built by Capt. James Norris. The entrances and windows have a timeless simplicity.
- 38. Turn back to Yates St. and continue, notice the shingling on 62-66 Yates St. Before turning right on College St., look down the hill; near #75 Yates St. stood Springbank Hotel an internationally known spa with mineral cures. Follow College to Ontario St., turn left to Midland and right to Queen St.
- 39. Queen Street Heritage Conservation District:*
- Queen Street has many examples of architecture of the mid to late 1800's. Stroll along Queen St. to Welland Ave. and then to:
- 40. Montebello Park Pavilion and Bandstand:*
- Built in 1888 on foundations of a home planned by W.H. Merritt's son; nearby, the bandstand, 1905; these are social centres in St. Catharines' summers. The Park was designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Frederick L. Olmsted.
- 41. 105-111 Ontario Street:*
- Charming, row houses of the 1860's, simple but impressive; built for Josiah Holmes and his partner W.W. Greenwood.
- 42. St. Thomas' Anglican Church:*
- c.1877, designed by M.C. Beebe; example of "Richardson Romanesque"; dignified arches, brickwork, shingles, finials.
- 43. 46 Ontario Street:
- Built by Daniel Phelps Haynes, coal and wood merchant, c.1850, with an elegant Doric-columned porch.
- 44. Former Lincoln County Registry Office:
- 1923, by Arthur Nicholson and Robert Macbeth, excellent example of Neo-Tudor style. Notice the "Imp" figure at the roof line, a reference to a similar one in Lincoln Cathedral, England. Across the street:
- 45. 83 Ontario Street:
- Alexandra Hall, 1852, home of J.F. Mittleberger, another prosperous businessman. Notice the faces at the door.
- 46. 77 Ontario Street:
- 1874 home of banker Daniel Curtis Haynes, son of the aforementioned merchant. Handsome portico and frieze (below the roof line), with curving parapet on the side walls. Across the street is:
- 47. The Welland House Hotel:
- Constructed in the 1850's to utilize mineral springs, the last trace of St. Catharines' role as a health spa. Last used as a student residence. Destroyed by fire in July of 2021. Walk north on King St. 2 blocks to Queen St, turn left:
- 48. Queen Street Baptist Church:
- Sober and militant in appearance, its stone walls lack a spire or tower, yet exude a sense of permanence and trust.
- 49. 64 Queen Street:
- c.1851, home of Chauncey Yale, American manufacturer. Familiar style of home and fence.
We hope that you enjoyed your tour of the "Old Town" (total distance is about 6.4 km over approximately 2 hrs). Take some time to visit the many specialty stores and restaurants that abound along St. Paul St. and the side streets of downtown.
Structures with an "*" are designated as important heritage buildings under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Printed pamphlets can be obtained from:
St. Catharines Heritage Committee
c/o Planning and Development Department
City Hall, P.O. Box 3012
Phone: 905-688-5600 ext. 1719