The rapidly rushing waters of Welland Vale have attracted industry for centuries, starting with the early 19th century grist mills of William Hamilton Merritt, George Adams, and John L. Ranney, and continuing to the present day. Manufacturing industries in Welland Vale have included Tuttle, Date and Rodden (edge tools), Welland Vale Manufacturing Company (edge tools), Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd, or CCM (bicycles), and True Temper (tools and implements).There is also a proposal to establish a hydroelectric power station in the area.
In 1869, the firm of Tuttle, Date and Rodden built an agricultural and edge tool factory on the artificial island just south of Lock 2, more or less where the current buildings are located on the site. The firm's specialty was the manufacture of wagon wheels and a wide variety of edge tools, including axes, hoes, forks, rakes and saws. By 1871, they had about 120 employees and their annual output had established their company amongst the top one per cent of manufacturing concerns in the nation. Three years later, in 1874, the plant was purchased by William J. Chaplin, who soon renamed the facility the Welland Vale Manufacturing Company. The company experienced the first of three disastrous fires in 1877, but rebuilt each time and managed to resume business.
In the late 1890s, Canada saw a phenomenal increase in the number of manufacturers and riders of bicycles. From 1896 to 1900, much of the factory was devoted to producing bicycles. In 1899, Welland Vale Manufacturing amalgamated with three other major Canadian bicycle manufacturers to form the iconic Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd, or CCM. The company weathered the worldwide collapse of the bicycle market in 1900, but production of bikes at Welland Vale ended when the entire works burned down in 1900. The facility was soon rebuilt and continued with the manufacture of edge tools. It was devastated again by fire in 1936, but recovered yet again. The St. Catharines location continued to manufacture garden and hand tools for another 29 years. It was later bought out by True Temper of Ohio, but was closed by the American parent company in 1965 because of a strike - the first in the company's 96 year history. Ninety-four workers lost their jobs as a result.
In February 1966, the buildings on the site were purchased by the Lincoln County Board of Education as a supplies warehouse, maintenance centre and annex, and in 1967 they were transformed into the St. Catharines campus of the newly-established Niagara College. Niagara College moved the St. Catharines campus to Glendale Avenue in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1998. Since then the buildings have been occupied by a series of small industries.
Welland Vale Manufacturing Company and its successor industries evolved into Canadian General-Tower Limited ("CGT"), now based in Cambridge, Ontario. The company invested in natural rubber processing technology and was soon manufacturing rubber coated fabric and protective rainwear, or "slickers". During World War II it began experimenting with vinyl and today is the leading manufacturer of vinyl coated fabrics and films in North America. Its current product line also includes leather-like soft interior trim for the automotive industry, printed in-ground pool liners, single-ply roofing membranes, environmental containment liners and loose-leaf binder films.
Since 1998 the property has been occupied by Biolyse Pharma Corporation, Canada's only manufacturer of oncology drugs. Over the years, Biolyse has invested a great deal in restoring the existing structures and surrounding property. The buildings have benefitted from many extensive renovations and the property now houses a state of the art clean room parenteral facility used for the fabrication of injectible drugs (parenteral = drugs administered by injection through the skin or mucous membrane). The surrounding grounds now accentuate the lush natural setting since much of the pavement has been replaced with indigenous trees and flowers. In addition to manufacturing, many of the facilities on site are dedicated to the research of anti-cancer drugs.
Almost two hundred years after John Merritt established his first mill in Welland Vale, the rushing waters of the Twelve Mile Creek still attract attention. Kayaking enthusiasts have promoted the development of a competitive whitewater course in the creek. The site has repeatedly been proposed as a possible competitive slalom course, most recently for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
There are also serious schemes to harness the power of the rapids for energy. St. Catharines Hydro is promoting a project to develop the new Shickluna Power Station in the area, a five megawatt hydroelectric generating station. The proposed plant would take advantage of the 2.5 metre drop in elevation in the creek bed which is responsible for the rapid current.
Biolyse Pharma Corporation - http://www.biolyse.ca/
Cahill, Gloria P. Canadian General-Tower Limited. Complex Plastics. Industry Today, Volume 6, Issue 2. Article preview available online athttp://www.usitoday.com/article_printview.asp?Articleid=124.
Torontoist. Vintage Toronto Ads: Don't Condemn a Bicycle You Haven't Test-Driven.torontoist.com/2008/06/vintage_toronto_69.php
See also the Welland Vale: Lock 2, Second Welland Canal page on this website.
St. Catharines, Ontario