Historical Society of St. Catharines

Celebrating the history of St. Catharines and its vicinity

Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Venue change for June 27 meeting

Posted by dsharron on June 20, 2013

Please spread the word that the June 27 meeting will be at the St. Catharines Museum, not the Library as originally scheduled.

Thursday, June 27, 2013 – Lecture by Brian Narhi on “The Burgoyne and Glenridge Bridges”.   Doors to the Museum open at 7:00 p.m. Brief Society meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. with lecture to follow.

We will also celebrate William Hamilton Merritt’s Birthday with cake and refreshments.

We hope to see you there.

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33rd Annual Oille Fountain Potting Ceremony – May 23

Posted by dsharron on May 10, 2009

Oille Fountain - downtown St. Catharines

The 33rd annual Oille Fountain Potting Ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 23 at 11:00 a.m. at the corner of King and James Streets in St. Catharines.  This event commemorates the contribution to the well being of the citizens of St. Catharines through donation of the City’s first public drinking fountain in 1878 by Dr. Lucius Oille – the second mayor of the city and first chairman of the waterworks.  This gift marks the establishment of the city’s waterworks system in 1875-1876.  Descendants of the Oille family are invited to participate along with City representatives.

There will be a small ceremony followed by the planting of a geranium on the top of the fountain. 

All are cordially welcome to come and take part in this tradition.

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History of the Silver Spire Church

Posted by dsharron on January 6, 2009

Report by Bill Stevens:


At our October 23, 2008 Society meeting Rev. Dr. Phil Cline spoke to an audience of 40 about the Silver Spire United Church.  In January 2008, Memorial, Welland Avenue and St. Paul Street United churches voted to amalgamate at the St. Paul Street site. The amalgamation took effect on July 1, 2008 and a new church congregation with over 700 members was established. The Welland Avenue and Memorial church buildings were vacated and sold off.


The history of St. Paul Street United Church begins with the first known record dated 1816 showing people being called “Methodists” meeting at the home of Rufus Wright, at the corner of Ontario and Trafalgar streets, for the worship of God and spiritual fellowship. Brothers Rufus and Gershom Wright were staunch Methodists and they played a large role in promoting the faith in St. Catharines.


During 1822-24, when  Rev. Ezra Adams was the Pastor, the land on St. Paul Street was purchased and a frame chapel was erected. The settlement of St. Catharines continued to grow and so did the congregation and St. Catharines became an independent circuit in 1832. Egerton Ryerson, the founder of the public school system in Ontario, became the first superintendent. The St. Catharines Circuit extended many miles in every direction, including Thorold, Beaver Dams, St. Johns, etc. In 1854, St. Catharines and its immediate vicinity were made a separate circuit, and the remainder was set aside as another circuit with two preachers, a married man and a single one, being appointed. 

The continued growth of the congregation saw the chapel expanded with an addition in 1845. Eventually a new building, the present church was built between 1860-63. The building contract was given in March 1861, to Mr. Henry Burgoyne. The new building was ready for use in 1863, and its cost was approximately $12,000. Subsequently, in 1870, a spire was added at a cost of $2500.


In December 1870, a meeting of the Quarterly Official Board was called to consider building a new Wesleyan Methodist Church on Welland Avenue. A resolution to that effect was unanimously carried, and a Board of Trustees for the new church was recommended.

Early in 1871 the lot for the building was selected, and the Board of Trustees chosen. In 1875 a new Wesleyan Church on Niagara Street was also built (the predecessor of Memorial Church) and in 1876 it was united to St. Paul Street Church, the connection lasting for several years.


On January l0th, 1876, the St. Paul Street building was nearly destroyed by fire. Thanks to the efforts of the fire brigade the flames were kept inside the walls and roof, and while the damage was great, the building was not destroyed. Restoration, however, cost a large sum, ($10,000) at a time when there was a financial depression in Canada. The Welland Avenue Church became independent in that same year, and in 1879, Niagara Street, Louth and Grantham churches were made into a separate circuit.


In 1890 the present Sunday School was erected, and the old church was removed to make room for the new building. Over the next century many improvements were made to the interior of the building. In 1909 an organ was installed. The building survived yet another fire in 1962 and was once again restored. The building has received a heritage designation and a brief description reads as follows:


366 St. Paul Street: Built of red brick, favoured by the Methodist Church, the structure was built in 1861 having rounded windows, pinnacled and centre towered Italianate style. Although the church was seriously damaged by fire, the original structure was retained in the reconstruction of the building. The exterior of the original church remains as constructed in 1861 with the exception of change of the front entrance in 1956.”


More information on the Silver Spire Church can be found on the web site  http://www.silverspire.ca/


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W.B. Allan – a St. Catharines’ Architect

Posted by dsharron on May 29, 2008

William Allan - St. Catharines architectOn Thursday, May 22, Pat Menon reintroduced the Historical Society of St. Catharines to the life and work of former local architect William Bryson Allan.  Allan (1838 – 1911) was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada in the 1850s.  After bouncing around Quebec and Ontario for a few years, he settled in St. Catharines in 1861 and started a furniture business with his family while also dabbling in undertaking, sewing machine sales and photography.  But it was apparent that Allan had a talent for architectural design.

St. Catharines Collegiate designed by W.B. AllanAllan’s first known design was the Riordan Mill in 1867.  In 1870, Allan married Isabella Dougan who was the daughter of a successful local builder.  Now with contractors, furniture makers and an architect in the family, the Allan’s and Dougan’s formed a formitable business team.  From there he did not look back.  Chronologically, some of Allan’s designs include: St. Paul’s Ward School (1871), Central School on Court Street (1872), First Presbyterian Church (1872), the expansion of the family furniture factory (1875), St. James Ward School (1876),  and St. Andrew’s Ward School (1883).  Other designs included the Protestant Orphans’ Home, Grantham Academy / St. Catharines Collegiate, St. Thomas Ward School, Merritton Cotton Mill, the R.H. Smith Company (saw works), the Oddfellows Hall, and the Merritton Town Hall.  From the late 1860s to 1900, Allan was quite prolific in St. Catharines. 

Allan’s last design was Memorial Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake which opened in 1907.  Memorial Hall was the first building in Ontario designed specifically to be a historical museum.  The museum celebrated its 100th anniversary just last summer. 

While other local architects such as Tully, Latshaw, Dorr, Wiley and Badgley often receive more praise for establishing the architectural character of St. Catharines, it is important to remember the other architects like William Allan who added significant and memorable works of brick and mortar within our city.

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