Description of Historic Place
The Port Dalhousie Heritage Conservation District comprises the original canal village of Port Dalhousie, which was incorporated by the City of St. Catharines in 1961. It is situated on a narrow peninsula bordered on the north by Lake Ontario, on the south by Martindale Pond and Twelve Mile Creek, and on the east by the Port Dalhousie Harbour.
The Conservation District includes the original commercial core of the port village with its mid-to-late-19th century commercial buildings, an eclectic residential area which includes many public and institutional buildings, an 1820s cemetery, historic Lakeside Park and the beach area which link the commercial core and residential area, remnants of an important canal-era shipyard, and the entry locks of the original three Welland Canals (1826, 1848, and 1885).
The Heritage Conservation District has been recognized for its heritage value by the City of St. Catharines By-law No. 2003-63. Several buildings within the district are designated and plaqued by the province.
The heritage value of the Port Dalhousie Heritage Conservation District lies in its representation of the history and development of the village of Port Dalhousie, from its inception as an important canal terminus and service location for the first three Welland Canals, to a period of recreational and light industrial use in the early 20th century. Port Dalhousie is among the best preserved 19th-century canal villages in Canada, displaying cohesiveness in its streetscapes, road patterns and orientation to the shoreline.
Beginning in 1826 as the northern entry of the First Welland Canal, the village of Port Dalhousie developed and prospered as the Lake Ontario terminus and service provider for the Second and Third Welland Canals until 1932. From the 1830s to the 1960s, shipbuilding, servicing and repairs were important industrial components, recognized throughout the Great Lakes region by the shipping industry.
Port Dalhousie has also been a popular tourist destination for over a century. Lakeside Park was established in 1902, and visitors were brought there by ferries, most notably for Emancipation Day picnics held in the park for the Canadian and American black communities. The village is also associated with the historic Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, which has been held annually since 1903.
The District preserves the historic street plan with its orientation to the canal and harbour, the shipyard and the lakeshore. The principal east-west streets (Main Street, Dalhousie Avenue and Bayview Avenue) are primarily residential. The commercial core, the canal and harbour area, Lakeside Park and the beach, and the Royal Henley Regatta course have all been maintained as important heritage components.
Sources: City of St. Catharines By-law 99-380; Port Dalhousie Heritage Resource Inventory, St. Catharines Heritage Committee, 1998
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Port Dalhousie Heritage District include the:
- historic street plan bordering the canals, harbour and lakeshore
- structures directly related to the canal's era of Port Dalhousie 1820's to the present, such as the entry locks of the first three Welland Canals, two historic lighthouses, Jail, Customs House building, Lockkeeper's shanty, harbour and piers
- remnants of the first Welland Canal
- surviving entry Locks from the 2nd and 3rd Welland Canals.
- shipyard building (Dalhousie House) c. 1865
- canal side industrial building (presently Lincoln Fabrics) c. 1900
- historic connections between the residential and commercial enclaves within the district
- pedestrian scale of the streetscape in the commercial area
- historic park space and beach area at Lakeside Park, with vintage 1890's merry-go-round
- 1903 historic recreational area of the Royal Canadian Regatta and grandstand
- historic lanes that provided common access to beach from Dalhousie Avenue
- surviving early 20th century summer cottage enclave
- mature tree plantings on boulevards from late 19th and early 20th century beautification programmes.
- canal village streetscapes in the commercial core, comprised of mid-to-late 19th century, one, two and three storey vernacular buildings, some with Italianate influences; these include, among others; the Jail (1845); Customs House (1845); Port Mansion -formerly Union-McGrath Hotels (1860);Lion Hotel -formerly Wellington House (1877); Murphys Restaurant (1885) and Lakeside Hotel -formerly Austin House Hotel (1896)
- variety of architectural styles of the residential buildings from the canals era of the village (1820's to present) ranging from modest, frame cottage style c. 1820's to c. 1930's Tudor revival style to the present
- public and institutional buildings from vernacular Gothic revival, vernacular Greek Revival, Italianate to Bungalow style
- historic cemetery dating from the 1830's
- orientation to the canal and harbour
- location on the peninsula between Lake Ontario to the north and Martindale Pond to the south
- low-rise buildings on a relatively high table of land overlooking Lake Ontario