St Catharines, Ont, incorporated as a city in 1876, population 131 400 (2011c), 131 989 (2006c). The City of St Catharines is the principal city of the Niagara Region.
St Catharines, Ont, incorporated as a city in 1876, population 131 400 (2011c), 131 989 (2006c). The City of St Catharines is the principal city of the Niagara Region. It lies south of Toronto across LAKE ONTARIO (111 km by the QUEEN ELIZABETH WAY), 19 km inland from the international boundary with the United States along the NIAGARA RIVER.
The city is multi-nodal, developing from a rural service centre located where a major pioneer route and former native trail inland from the Queenston-Lewiston crossing of the Niagara River (now Highway 81) crossed Twelve Mile Creek. This area - the current downtown and the originating community in 1829 for the Welland Canal - expanded across the rural extent of Grantham Township to include Port Dalhousie, the port on Lake Ontario for the first, second and third WELLAND CANALS, and Merritton, an inland industrial town where the canal crossed the NIAGARA ESCARPMENT.
The city boundaries are Lake Ontario to the north; to beyond the crest of the Niagara Escarpment in the south, where St Catharines conjoins with the city of THOROLD; along the Welland Canal to the east, with industrial areas beyond; and west to Fifteen Mile Creek to include a section of the Niagara Fruit Belt within the urban structure of the city.
The city is named after Catharine Hamilton, wife of Robert HAMILTON, an influential merchant of Queenston and a landowner with mills on Twelve Mile Creek; the incipient community, then known as The Twelve or Shipman's Corners, was renamed in her honour after her death in 1796.
The area was first settled by LOYALISTS in the early 1780s. About 60% of the land of Grantham Township was granted to disbanded members of Butler's Rangers, and the rest to either refugee settlers who moved out from the US after American independence or to immigrants from Great Britain.
Land surveys undertaken during this period led to a complex pattern of roads and lots that shaped the city and its building patterns and was dominated by the pioneer survey grid of Grantham Township, which featured the standard front and rear system but with the "east-west" roads running parallel to the shoreline of Lake Ontario. As the previous native trails have survived to become the city's major arterial streets, the downtown area combines a radial pattern of roads within the regular pattern of the survey grid.
By contrast, Port Dalhousie offered a regular grid oriented northeast-southwest along the spur of land that separates Lake Ontario from the mouth of Twelve Mile Creek. Merritton had a small rectangular grid with a traditional north-south orientation.
At St Catharines, the core community, the Welland Canal (1829) and an associated mill raceway from the canal at Merritton introduced mills, shipyards, and metal and machinery manufacture. Mineral springs with medicinal properties added resort hotels, and the town became a popular inland summer resort. The arrival of the Great Western and Welland railways (1853 and 1859 respectively), followed by the St Catharines and Niagara Central Railway (1887), then hydroelectric power from the locks, the raceway, DeCew Falls, and later the Niagara River, led to manufacturing, including automobile production and its accessories, paper, metal and machinery manufactures, wineries and canning factories, and the textile and clothing industries.
Leading entrepreneurs have included William Hamilton MERRITT of canal fame; Dr Chase of the mineral springs; William B. Burgoyne, founder of the St Catharines Standard; Louis Schickluna, for his shipyards; Dr Theophilus Mack, a prime mover in achieving the General and Marine Hospital and Canada's first school of NURSING (1874); and Lachlan McKinnon for founding the industry that became GENERAL MOTORS OF CANADA LTD.
A continuous strip of industrial and associated housing developments arose along the canal valley between St Catharines and Merritton, where the canal was crossed by the GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY and served across the peninsula by the Welland Railway. Paper and chemical industries developed and Port Dalhousie, served by the Welland Railway, added flour mills, the manufacture of rubber boots and shoes, and shipyards.
St Catharines, a prosperous urban-industrial community by the late 19th century, expanded greatly during World Wars I and II. Commercially, this growth was associated with business expansion along the city's curving main street with its continuous facade of 2- to 3-storey 19th-century buildings.
Manufacturing was located first along the canal and its raceway, then close to the railway stations and the lines of track in and around the central area. Because of the depth and steepness of the canal valley, residential areas of the city inevitably expanded to the north and northeast, with expansion to the west and south following the construction of the Burgoyne and Glenridge bridges (1914).
Although the downtown has attracted several high-rise office complexes, starting with Corbloc (1975) and, most recently, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (1997), its retail capability became secondary to the Pen Centre (1957), Fairview Mall (1961), numerous other plazas and neighbourhood shopping centres, strip malls along arterial streets, large discount specialty stores and more recently, a profusion of even larger big-box stores. With a growing university student population, downtown's newfound role is entertainment, especially bars and restaurants.
Parks and recreational open space include routes along the escarpment (eg, the BRUCE TRAIL), lake beaches, river valleys, the Ontario lakeshore, and the old canals (Merritt Trail). A pedestrian-cycling trail has been added along the modern canal, and a Welland Canals Parkway system of automobile routes and associated walking, bicycle and equestrian trails along the canal between Lakes Ontario and Erie is being developed. These will be part of the larger Greater Niagara Circle Route that will connect with the Niagara River Parkway and the Lakeshore Road along Lake Ontario and follow an abandoned rail line along Lake Erie.
The city contains over 30% of the population in the Regional Municipality of Niagara. The ethnic mix is primarily British by background, but includes people of German, Italian, French, Dutch, Ukrainian and Polish descent. Smaller groups have arrived from the Balkans and Hungary, and there are also Jews, Czechs and Slovaks, Chinese, Armenians and native peoples. Other recent immigrants have come from South America, the Pacific Islands, Greece, Finland and Russia. Most immigration had already occurred by 1961. A Folk Arts Festival, initiated in 1969 to recognize the city's expanding ethnic and cultural diversity, has expanded from a one-day event to over 2 weeks of food, drink, song, dance, bands and parades.
There are some 40 religious denominations in the area; the main religious buildings include a Roman Catholic cathedral, a mosque and 2 synagogues.
Economy and Labour Force
Service activities have risen considerably, resulting in a remarkably changed economic structure in the city, from primarily manufacturing with some service activities to service industries (education, health services, city administration and policing) with some accompanying manufacturing. Although the manufacturing sector has been in decline since the early 1980s, its few large companies (General Motors and Thompson Products, now TRW Canada) and many smaller concerns remain basic to St Catharines' economy.
As a district transportation centre on the main routes through southwestern Ontario, St Catharines features main-line passenger and freight railway services by Via Rail and Canadian National; the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highway 406; and an inter-urban and intra-urban bus terminal. The Niagara District Airport caters to general aviation traffic, including cargo, corporate and private flying services, and limousine services to Toronto (Pearson International) and Buffalo, NY. The Welland Canal section of the ST LAWRENCE SEAWAY carries freight traffic through the city; wharfage is also available.
One of 12 municipalities in the Regional Municipality of Niagara, St Catharines is governed by a mayor elected at large and 12 councillors, 2 from each of the 6 wards. The mayor and 6 councillors elected at large serve on the 29-member Regional Niagara Council. Parks and libraries, the fire department, a historical museum, recreation and community services, a transit commission, municipal planning, and engineering services for local roads, sewers and water mains are city responsibilities. Public and separate school board trustees for the Niagara Region are elected according to combinations of city wards.
While the lines of responsibility are clear between local municipalities and the regional government, there is the perception among the public of overlap and duplication. Too much government, therefore, has been part of the cry for local government reform in Niagara. However, any substantial, locally promoted reform has so far been impossible; the Ontario government, which greatly reduced the number of municipalities from 1996, has retreated from forcing any more changes in large population centres.
St. Catharines has a rich and expanding cultural base. The Carousel Players and Garden City Productions provide live theatre and the Niagara Symphony Orchestra is now the orchestra-in-residence at Brock University. Chorus Niagara, formerly part of the symphony, has since 1963 provided a varied classical choral repertoire. Rodman Hall Arts Centre has a vast collection of local and international works. In order to protect the facility and its collection, the board voted to dissolve and be taken over by Brock University in 2003. The St Catharines Craft Guild is a focal point for local artists, and a new Arts Council is attempting to coordinate and promote the arts in the city. The Niagara Grape and Wine Festival celebrates the harvest of Niagara grapes, although in order to promote world-class wines and distance itself from a less salubrious past, the Grape part has been dropped from the title and there are more year-round events.
There is a daily newspaper, The Standard, radio stations and cable TV, but no Niagara-based TV station. A full range of indoor and outdoor sports is highlighted by the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, which has been held at Port Dalhousie since 1903.
Educational institutions include BROCK UNIVERSITY with its Centre for the Arts, 2 theatres used for ballet, concerts, films, lectures and plays, an athletic centre with an Olympic-size swimming pool, and an indoor rowing centre; and the affiliated Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary. State-of-the-art research facilities, many new graduate programs and excellence in teaching have raised the profile of the university at the national and international levels.
John N. Jackson, St Catharines, Ontario (1976); John N. Jackson and Sheila M. Wilson, St Catharines: Canada's Canal City (1992); Robert Shipley, St Catharines - Garden on the Canal: An Illustrated History (1987); and The Standard and the St Catharines Historical Museum, Glimpses Into Our Past Vols 1-3 (1984-86).