Description of Historic Place
The Davella Mills Carillon, prominently situated on Queenston Street in the Victoria Lawn Cemetery, is a 30-foot tall ashlar stone tower containing a set of 86 electronic “carillonic bells” sounded by hammers. The tower is detailed, with a Gothic style plinth and entablature, below the bell opening.
The property has been designated by the City of St. Catharines under By-law 94-260.
Erected in 1949, the Davella Mills Carillon was constructed to commemorate David Bloss Mills, and his wife, Ella C. Mills. David Bloss Mills was a native of St. Catharines who later emigrated to the United States to work for the Fellows Medical Manufacturing Company. Mills later developed a spark plug, which was put into all Buick automobiles, and his investments in the company eventually made him a multimillionaire. Mills founded the Rajah Company in 1905, which manufactured spark plugs. After Ella's death in 1931, Mills decided to donate much of the money he had accumulated to benefit needy organizations and causes and, in 1935, the Davella (David and Ella) Mills Foundation was established. Mills died in 1944, after donating funds to hospitals, churches, schools, YMCAs and YWCAs, along with several other organizations and individuals. Before its liquidation, in 1955, the Foundation had donated $10,500,000 to charitable causes, in 24 American states and twelve foreign countries. In addition to the Carillon, the St. Catharines General Hospital received over $390,000 and a wing of the hospital was named in memory of David Mills.
The Davella Mills Carillon stands proudly at a height of 30 feet, designed with spectacular Gothic detail. Thomas W. Wiley, a prominent local architect, designed the tower, which was built by the Newman Brothers, at a cost of $75, 931.88. The tower consists of a carillon, a set of bells tuned to the chromatic scale, sounded by hammers controlled by a keyboard. The ashlar stone tower is constructed of smooth dressed stone near the base with the natural surface featured throughout the remainder of the structure. Exquisite Gothic detailing is evident in the plinth and entablature near the top of the base and below the bell opening at the top. Cut stone buttresses and two narrow spires at each corner of the top of the tower provide further decoration. The fine stained glass windows are narrow, vertical slits, lighting the stairway to the top. Four Gothic arches at the top of the tower enclose the sound system and contribute to the architectural value of this local landmark.
The Davella Mills Carillon stands in the Victorian Lawn Cemetery, amongst several other monuments, that encourage a more enjoyable and comforting experience in the cemetery.
Sources: City of St. Catharines By-law 94-260: Reasons for Designation; “Davella Mills Carillon”, St. Catharines Heritage Committee, February 1994.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Davella Mills Carillon include its:
- location in the cemetery amongst other monuments
- set of chromatically-tuned electronic bells providing a unique audio and visual landmark within the cemetery
- 30-foot ashlar tower with a smooth dressed base and natural surface above the base
- Gothic style plinth and entablature near the top of the base and below the bell opening at the top
- cut stone buttresses and two narrow spires at the top at each corner
- narrow windows of fine stained glass lighting the stairway to the top
- major structural openings provided by four Gothic arches at the top of the tower enclosing the sound system, framed with ornate stone work and stone tracery