Yates Street Walking Tour
The Yates Street residential district was developed in the late 1800's and early 1900's along the banks of the Twelve Mile Creek on land originally owned by the Hon. William Hamilton Merritt. Soon after he moved to St. Catharines, Merritt began building a mill along the shores of the creek. It was there that he discovered an artesian well, mineral water flowing from a deep cavity in the earth. This water could be boiled leaving behind salt residue, a valuable commodity at the time. In later years, it was discovered that drinking or bathing in the mineral water could cure a variety of ailments. This prompted the development of two spa resorts on Yates Street, the Stephenson House and Springbank Hotel, allowing those with ailing health and vacationers from far and wide to test the healing powers of the mineral waters.
In the early to mid 1800's, many mills were constructed along Twelve Mile Creek, all of which needed a reliable source of water. As well, the Erie Canal was being designed in the United States, a waterway that would divert vessels away from local businesses in Upper Canada. Hoping to solve both of these problems, Merritt formed the Welland Canal Company in 1824. The Company was made up of many investors, one of whom was John B. Yates, and entrepreneur from the United States. Yates Street was named in his honour. The Canal was finally finished in 1829, bringing vessels through Twelve Mile Creek on their way to the Great Lakes and beyond.
In the following years, many important businesses made their home on the banks of the Welland Canal. These included the Taylor & Bate Brewery, Shickluna Shipyards, and St. Catharines Wheel Works. Yates Street was located very close to the new businesses so many of the mill owners and managers chose to reside there. They were generally very wealthy men and therefore wanted large, elegant homes. A lot of the homes were constructed in elaborate styles such as Georgian and Tudor that are rarely seen in other parts of the city due to the large size and detailing required. Over the years the home owners have wisely preserved many of the grown trees on their property, creating the beautiful tree lined streetscape we see today. Although the mills and other business ceased operation after a new route was chosen for the canal, the elegant residences remain creating a beautiful eclectic neighbourhood.
Our tour starts in Memorial Park, a relatively newly created park on land that once contained same very prestigious buildings. For the following locations, please refer to the map at the bottom of this page.
- Memorial Park was created after the construction of the Burgoyne Bridge. It is a small park focused around the large cenotaph commemorating soldiers who died in World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The annual plantings and perimeter landscaping are highlights.
- Burgoyne Bridge was constructed in 1914 to improve transportation links in the city. The dashed lines on your map indicate the appropriate location of the streets before the bridge was built. Unfortunately, the location chosen for the bridge resulted in the demolition of several important buildings. One of these was the residence of Dr. Theophilus Mack, who founded the Springbank Hotel (currently 62-66 Yates Street), as well as the General and Marine Hospital on Cherry Street and a training school for nurses. Known as "Sunnyside", the Mack residence contained twenty-two rooms. The bridge was named for William Bartlett Burgoyne, owner of the St. Catharines Standard and mayor of St. Catharines in 1903, 1916 and 1917. Many civic improvements were introduced while he was mayor including better streetlights, an extended sewer system and concrete sidewalks.
- 12 Yates Street was constructed in 1860 for the Hon. William Hamilton Merritt. In addition to his milling operations and involvement in the Welland Canal, Merritt was the driving force behind the construction of the Welland Railway and the suspension bridge over the Niagara River. He also served St. Catharines in both the legislature of Upper Canada and the cabinet of the United Canadas. After Merritt's death in 1862, his son, Jebediah P. Merritt, lived here. J.P. Merritt held the position of postmaster in St. Catharines for almost twenty years. Like his father, he owned extensive property, this time in Lincoln and Welland Counties. The younger Mr. Merritt had a great interest in history and wrote a biography of his father. Known as "Oak Hill", Merritt's house was built in the Italianate style as shown by its hipped roof, stucco finish, bracketed eaves line and round headed windows. The first floor windows are partially covered by wrought iron railings. Classical details were added in small pediments over the first floor windows and the large entrance portico, also with a pediment. The original gateposts along Yates Street and the brick coach house to the rear of the building can still be found. In 1938 Silver Spire Broadcasting Co. purchased the building for use as a radio station. It now houses CKTB (610), Easy Rock (105.7) and HTZ FM (97.7), and is owned by Astral Media.
- Oakhill Park was originally the extensive terraced gardens of the Merritt residence, "Oak Hill". The Merritt family donated the land to the city for use as a park in 1923. Over the years the park has fallen into disrepair. However, the original stone fence and terrace walls are still in existence. From the garden, the Merritts could look down the hill to the Welland Canal and the many mills and other businesses that were located there. At the base of the hill was the large Taylor & Bate Brewery along with several smaller mills. On the other side of the Canal was the famous Shickluna Shipyards, the largest shipbuilding operation in Canada during the mid-1800s. Local lore has it that there is a long abandoned passageway under the park leading from "Oak Hill" to the valley.
- 20 Yates Street was built in 1904 in the Georgian style. Georgian features include the long façade with setback wings, hipped roof, end chimneys and entrance portico.
- 23 Yates Street is a Neo-Tudor style home built in 1923. Common features of this style used on this house include several types of exterior finishes in shades of brown (this home has shingling, stucco and half-timbering); multiple paned windows with heavy sills and lintels; exposed beams and shaped shingles covering the high-pitched gable roof. You will now turn right onto Trafalgar Street. The name of this street commemorates the British Naval Victory over French and Spanish fleets in 1805 at Cape Trafalgar, near Gibraltar.
- 15 Trafalgar Street has been owned by several important men over the years. It was originally constructed in 1870 for Calvin Brown, who would later become the first mayor of St. Catharines. Four years later, Brown sold the house to James Taylor of the Taylor & Bate Brewery. Taylor sold the house to William Bartlett Burgoyne in 1890. The architecture of this house was influenced mainly by the Classic Revival style as seen in the elaborate mouldings around the door (called an entablature), rectangular windows with thick frames and shutters and gabled entrance projection.
- 14 Trafalgar Street looks to be a very old house at first glance but was actually constructed in 1990. The owners chose a historical design to reflect the nature of their new neighbourhood, particularly 24 Yates Street. It has a Classical Revival design with a gabled roof, prominent entablature, and rectangular windows with heavy sills in a regular arrangement. Low walls along the roofline, called parapets, top the gable ends.
- 24 Yates Street has many of the same architectural features as 14 Trafalgar but was built almost 150 years earlier. The owner at the time of its construction, Dr. William Chace, was the proprietor of the Stephenson Hotel, a popular spa resort located further down Yates Street. The Chace family, however, only lived here for a few years before selling to John Woodward in 1947.
- 27 Yates Street was originally owned by Henry N. Bate of the Taylor & Bate Brewery. The house remained in the Bate family from the time of its construction in 1912 until 1954. The architectural forms used on the house suggest that the architect was influenced by Georgian architecture. Features of this style include the hipped roof with inset chimneys, dormer windows and projecting front entrance porch.
- 26 Yates Street was built in 1937 for Mr. Peter Grammer, owner of a popular café on St. Paul Street called Diana Sweets. It was built in the Neo-Classical style as shown by the symmetrical façade, plain eaves and entrance portico.
- 29 Yates Street was constructed in 1854 for Thomas B. Bate, also of the Taylor & Bate Brewery. The Bate family owned it until 1935 when Henry T. Taylor, a descendant of Bate's partner James Taylor, purchased it. The house has contained several apartments since that time. It was built in the Classic Revival style as shown by its detailed eaves line and rectangular windows with shutters. The entrance portico, however, is distinctly Italianate, projecting from the façade of the building. It has been enclosed recently with curved doors matching the arched opening.
- 28 Yates Street was constructed in 1938 with many interesting architectural features. The roofline is very complicated consisting of a central cross-gabled section with several dormers and a hipped roof on the attached tower. The projecting entrance portico displays a unique bellcast roof. The most interesting feature is the covered driveway on the side of the building under two additional stories of the house.
- 29 ½ Yates Street has had many owners over the years including members of the Bate family. The architect created a unique interpretation of the Queen Anne Revival style in this house. Queen Anne characteristics include the steep, irregular hipped roof, numerous bay windows and rounded tower at the northeast corner. The porch is a newer addition and is covered in modern stone.
- 30 Yates Street was once the home of Henry J. Taylor, also of the Taylor & Bate Brewery. Built in 1910, the house is a good example of a Georgian style home with its wide façade, hipped roof with dormers, classically detailed entrance portico, and rectangular windows with operating shutters.
- 31 Yates Street is the oldest building in the area, built around 1810. It was constructed in a smaller version of the Georgian style with a hipped roof and four chimneys, rectangular windows with shutters and classic entablature.
- 33 Yates Street was originally part of a four-unit row house that extended along Yates to the west (now 35 Yates). Constructed around 1870, this remaining unit is a good example of Classic Revival architecture with its prominent entablature, rectangular windows in a regular arrangement and gabled roof with brackets and frieze.
- 34 Yates Street was originally owned by Rev. Rufus Wright who presented the house as a gift to his daughter, Martha. Constructed in 1850, this house was built in the Regency style. Common features of this style include the single story structure, low hip roof, rectangular windows with mullions and shutters, and an entrance portico. The old hitching post can still be found near the curb on Yates Street.
- 35 Yates Street was built in 1928 for Arthur Bate by prominent local architects Arthur Nicholson and Robert Macbeth. It remained in the Bate family until 1954 when it was sold to the present owners. It is a very distinct house displaying Spanish Colonial influences. These include its clay tiled roof and very irregular window placement.
- 37 Yates Street was originally owned by Amos McComb, proprietor of Peninsula Press and remained in the McComb name until 1971. Built is 1906, the house has a unique gambrel roof, a large projecting dormer and inset porch. The two different roof pitches have been defined by contrasting asphalt shingles.
- 38 Yates Street was built in 1870 for James Cairns of Cairns, Morse, Hart & Co. Contractors. Calvin Brown, the first mayor of St. Catharines, lived here from 1875 until 1890 when the house was purchased by Alex McLaren, vice president of McLaren and Co. Department Stores. The house was built in the Italianate style as shown by its hipped roof, elaborate eave decoration and round-headed windows with mullions and voussoirs (the fan like brick decoration above the curved frame). A very rare Japanese cedar tree can still be found in the rear yard.
- Former site of the Stephenson House Hotel - The Stephenson house was one of two spa hotels in the Yates Street area. Dr. William Chace, who originally discovered the healing powers of mineral waters, founded it. Chace, however, was unable to build a hotel resort so he sold his land to E.W. Stephenson. The Stephenson House Hotel finally opened in 1865, attracting the ailing and vacationers alike from all over eastern North America who believed that the mineral waters could cure a variety of ailments. In the mid-1890's, fewer and fewer visitors were coming to the spas, and the hotel closed. DeMill Ladies College, Ridley College and Puccini Macaroni occupied the building successively until it was demolished in 1933. You will now turn right onto Norris Place. Originally called Ann Street, Norris Place was named for Captain James Norris, who resided at no. 9.
- 18 Norris Place was constructed in 1860 for James Taylor, founder of the Taylor & Bate Brewery. Since the time of initial construction, an addition has been added creating two architecturally distinct sections. The main section has a gable roof with two gabled projections while a mansard roof tops the addition. The second story windows on the main section have triangular tops, mimicking the gable edge.
- 9 Norris Place was home to Captain James Norris; a sea captain, businessman former mayor of St. Catharines, and Member of Parliament. Norris also donated extensively to the local hospital. The house remained in the Norris family for over one hundred years, until 1977. Built sometime before 1852, the house was designed in the Classical Revival style as shown by its elaborately trimmed eaves, rectangular windows with heavy sills, lintels and gabled roof. Queen Anne details have been added including the rounded veranda that wraps around the west side of the house and elaborately trimmed bay window to the east. The Norris coach step can still be found on the front of the building near the street.
- 10 Norris Place was purchased two years after its 1876 construction by Captain James Norris for his daughter, Annie. She was married to Henry A. King, manager of the Norris Flour Mills and mayor of St. Catharines from 1885-1886. The house is a good example of an Italianate style residence with a hipped roof, round-headed windows and verandas on both stories.
- 7 Norris Place was constructed in 1854 for W. Greenwood, proprietor of a carriage making business. The house remained in the Greenwood family until 1904 when it was sold to the Evans family. The house has a unique design dominated by a wide veranda wrapping around the side of the house. The veranda has been painted in a contrasting colour, distinguishing it from the rest of the house. The "parapet" walls lining the ends of the gable roof are also unique features as is the wrought iron fence with concrete posts.
- 105-111 Ontario Street is a set of row houses constructed separately sometime before 1875. They were built in the Neo-Classical style with a gabled roof and plain eaves, regularly placed rectangular windows with shutters and central entrances.
- 103 Ontario Street is the St. Thomas Church Rectory. Built on land donated by Col. Leonard, the building was designed by Robert Macbeth in the Neo-Tudor style.
- 99 Ontario Street is St. Thomas Anglican Church. The church was designed by architect M.C. Beebe of Buffalo in the Richardson Romanesque style and built between 1877 and 1879. This style was typified by arched openings, rough stone exterior, trim in contrasting stone and heavy horizontal structure.
- 113-115 Ontario Street is a double house constructed in 1865 in the Italianate style. Italianate features include the hipped roof, rectangular plan and front verandas. Notice the differences between the two separate units.
- 125 Ontario Street was built and owned by Newman Brothers Contractors, a prestigious firm that built many of the homes in the Yates Street area. Constructed in 1905, this house is a good example of the Queen Anne Revival style. Queen Anne characteristics include the irregular plan and roofline, the wide curved porch wrapping around the side of the building and several types of exterior finishes. Before this house was built, Elias Smith Adams, mayor of St. Catharines from 1852 until 1859 and brother-in-law of W.H. Merritt, owned the property.
- 127 & 129 Ontario Street is an interesting double house constructed in 1874. The architect chose elements from all of the most popular architectural styles to create a unique design. The entrance mouldings are distinctly Classical with projecting cornice, frieze and columns. Additional classical features include the dormer windows, parapet along the roofline and gabled projections. The gingerbread moulding along the gable edges, however, has been taken from Gothic Revival architecture. The roof style, called mansard, is a common feature of the French Regime Style. The windows have curved tops, typical of the Italianate style. You will now turn left onto College Street. This street was named for Ridley College, a prestigious private high school, which occupied several different buildings in the Yates Street area before moving to its present location on the opposite side of the Twelve Mile Creek.
- 2a College Street is a good example of an Italianate home. Features of this style include the hipped roof, wide front veranda, dormer windows and symmetrical façade. Unfortunately, large trees obscure many of the architectural features.
- 4 College Street was owned by the Gilmore family of Gilmore & Company, automobiles, baby carriages, bicycles, phonographs and sporting goods at the time of its construction in 1910. It was built in the Classical Revival style as shown by its front gable plan, rectangular windows with heavy lintels and sills and classically detailed porch. A second story addition was added at a later date.
- 7-9 College Street is a unique semi-detached house built in 1911. The two units look like separate houses but are attached by a connecting section from the building facades.
- 10 College Street was built in 1900 on lands once owned by Ridley College. The design shows many characteristics of the Shingle style, an American interpretation of the Queen Anne Revival style. Common features of this style include the numerous projecting window sections, wood shingle exterior and simplified ornamental trim.
- 75 Yates Street was built in 1941 on land that was once home to Col. Reuben Leonard. The Colonel was a very prosperous engineer involved in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He chaired the National Transcontinental Railway Commission, founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs and served on many boards including those for local hospitals and the Art Gallery of Ontario. The stone walls and gate entrance enclosing the Leonard Residence are still visible at the end of College Street. The existing house was built for William H. Gale, president of Stokes Seeds, a downtown business that still operates today. Like many houses in the Yates Street area, this house was designed in the Neo-Tudor style.
- 68 Yates Street is an interesting Queen Anne Revival style home built in 1912. Queen Anne characteristics on this home include the irregular plan and roofline, and textured stucco finish. Bay windows span both stories, creating a tower-like effect.
- 62-66 Yates Street was once part of the Springbank Hotel, reputedly the laundry. Like the Stephenson House, the Springbank Hotel was an elegant spa resort taking advantage of the mineral springs on the banks of Twelve Mile Creek. Founded by Dr. Theophilus Mack, the hotel opened in 1865 and immediately attracted tourists and invalids from across the continent. In addition to the spa facilities, the Springback had fine dining, elegant rooms and entertainment for the prestigious guests. Guests came from far and wide, usually during the months of May to November. Many became regular customers, returning year after year. During the off-season, from December to April, the spa facilities were available to local residents. By the late 1800's, spa resorts were no longer fashionable vacation destinations as improved railroad transportation links made other options possible. When the Springbank closed in 1889, the building became the first home of Ridley College. The structure you see today is the only part of the building remaining after a fire destroyed the old hotel in 1903. It was extensively renovated in 1980 and it bears little resemblance to the original structure. For many years, it was owned by the Newman Bros. General Contractors and members of the Newman family.
- 60 Yates Street was originally owned by James Taylor, who probably rented it out to workers at the brewery. Built in 1875, the house was designed in the Classic Revival style as shown by its regularly placed rectangular windows and gabled roof with thick cornice and returned eaves.
- 59 Yates Street was once owned by William Burgoyne, son of William B. Burgoyne, owner of the St. Catharines Standard and former mayor of St. Catharines. It is a Neo-Tudor style home dominated by an interesting projection with a very steep gable roof and stone chimney.
- 53 Yates Street was constructed in 1906 in the Classic Revival style. Classical features include the elegant cornice with a wide frieze, rectangular windows, offset entrance and classically detailed entrance portico. The roof, however, is distinctly Queen Anne with a central gabled section and projecting gable.
The Yates Street area was once home to many of the wealthiest and most important citizens in St. Catharines. Their homes have stood the test of time and now form an important historical district. For a different historical experience, visit the downtown commercial area in and around St. Paul Street where specialty shops and restaurants abound. In addition, the St. Catharines Heritage Committee has prepared walking tours of the "Old Town St. Catharines", the Queen Street and Welland Avenue area, and Old Port Dalhousie. From your present location you can follow Norris Place to Ontario Street and arrive in Montebello Park. From this location many opportunities await you. You may wish to explore the park or head down Ontario Street to St. Paul. Either way you will be confronted with opportunities to experience more of St. Catharines' heritage.
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