St. Catharines Gateway (The Rockpile)

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General Information

At the junction of St. Paul Street West and Westchester Crescent in downtown St. Catharines stands the Gateway, an artistic placement of natural stones, polished granite obelisks, and trees. Erected in 1987 at a cost of approximately $200,000 the monument is meant to portray the unique interaction between city, man and nature. Niagara architect Peter J. Smith designed the piled boulders in the work to evoke the rocky contours of the Niagara Escarpment. The two red granite obelisks - one seven metres tall, the other two metres - symbolize the city and city dweller. The cherry and maple trees are meant to symbolize nature.

When constructed, the monument caused quite a stir. Formally entitled the Gateway, it has been nicknamed 'the Rockpile' by local residents. Some use the term affectionately, others derisively. Some residents and councillors questioned the appropriateness of the rock formation, given that St. Catharines is traditionally known as "The Garden City". Others objected to the structure on aesthetic or financial grounds.

The monument was meant not only as a gateway to the downtown, but also as an entry to an expected hotel or condominium complex that never materialized. For at least two decades following its inception, it remained the gateway to a dusty parking lot. In 2006, work was initiated at the request of the city's green committee to soften the rocky site with flower planters and new shrubs. This move evoked mixed feelings in its creator, who lamented the tendency of lay people and city councillors to want to add planters and flowers "somewhat inappropriately" to public monuments.

The Gateway Continued to cause controversy more than twenty years later, when in January 2008 a St. Catharines city councillor proposed a formal motion to modify one of the truncated granite obelisks in the original design. He felt the shorter of the two obelisks looked "unfinished", and suggested that they add a new top - his preference was for a model lighthouse. City council, to their credit, ignored the proposal.

Regardless of one's personal reactions to the Gateway monument, it has become a true St. Catharines landmark. And as its creator, Peter J. Smith, stated in a 2006 newspaper interview, "If people are still talking about it, I guess it means we were successful in making a real statement."

Further Information

Herod, Doug. 2008. Stand back and let the apologizing begin at city council. The Standard, St. Catharines. .

Standard, St. Catharines. 2008. A waste of money and an insult to art.


Southwest corner of St. Paul Street West and Westchester Crescent, downtown
St. Catharines, Ontario

GPS Co-ordinates

Latitude: 43.15499174126135
Longitude: -79.24570977687835