News

Yesterday and today: Five Points intersection

By Dennis Gannon, special to the Standard


Left: This photo, taken in November 1925, documents a re-working of the “Five Points” intersection where Geneva, St. Paul, Queenston and Niagara streets all meet. — Special Collections Room, St. Catharines Public Library Right: The city plans to re-configure the “five points” intersection, show in this photo from Wednesday, by re-routing Niagara Street away from intersecting with the other three streets. — Julie Jocsak/Standard Staff

Left: This photo, taken in November 1925, documents a re-working of the “Five Points” intersection where Geneva, St. Paul, Queenston and Niagara streets all meet. — Special Collections Room, St. Catharines Public Library Right: The city plans to re-configure the “five points” intersection, show in this photo from Wednesday, by re-routing Niagara Street away from intersecting with the other three streets. — Julie Jocsak/Standard Staff

The Standard recently reported that in 2018 the city plans to re-configure the “five points” intersection where Geneva, St. Paul, Queenston and Niagara streets all meet. The plan includes re-routing Niagara Street away from intersecting with the other three streets.

Before reaching St. Paul/Queenston and Geneva streets, Niagara Street will be diverted to the west and will thenceforth intersect Geneva a few hundred feet north of the St. Paul/Queenston/Geneva intersection, lining up with Centre Street on the west side of Geneva.

This week’s old photo, taken in November 1925, documents an earlier re-working that that intersection experienced. The photographer was standing at the east end of St. Paul Street shooting across Geneva toward Niagara Street on the left and Queenston Street on the right. This photo captures one stage in a project to rehabilitate the NS&T (Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto) street railway system, replacing old rails there and laying a second, parallel set of rails along St. Paul Street from James to Geneva.

The Canadian Northern Railway, which had owned the N.S.&T. since 1904, was nationalized by the government during World War I, becoming the Canadian National Railway Company (CNR). In November 1924 the CNR opened the NS&T’s new Geneva Street terminal, and in 1925-1926 it carried out a $2.5 million project to modernize the N.S.&T system. Twenty miles of new track were laid, modern rail cars were purchased, and track rehabilitation was carried out, replacing old rails and, especially, their foundations. That began in downtown St. Catharines in August 1925 and continued throughout the city centre well into 1926.

In the background of the photo we can see a couple of long-term landmark buildings at that intersection. On the right we see the Collier Block, built in 1856 and home to a series of businesses until the Canadian Imperial Bank bought the building in 1911. It had its East End branch there from 1912 to 1965. The building was also known for Collier’s Hall, an important local meeting place on the top floor. The building was torn down in 1966. Its former site is now the parking lot in front of Hakim Optical store at that corner.

To its left, across Niagara Street, is a wedge-shaped building between Niagara and Geneva that likewise had stood there since the late 19th century. When the photo was taken it was probably occupied by the Paget tire dealership. The building stood until the late 1940s, when it and the planing mill that had stood behind it were demolished, the mill being replaced by the Central Fire Hall, opened in 1950.

Our “today” photo, taken yesterday, shows what that same area looks like now, less than a year before the re-configuring of that intersection is scheduled to begin.

Dennis Gannon is a member of the Historical Society of St. Catharines. He may be reached at gannond2002@yahoo.com



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