Welland Mills 1846
The researcher who completed the background report on the history of the Welland Mills stated that this was the only heritage building researched in the region with such a large number of people of major significance to the history of the province and the nation. The building was plaqued by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1986 when it was recognized as one of Upper Canada’s largest flour mills, solidly built and functional in design…an excellent example of the province’s early milling technology.
The Welland Mills with its symmetrical facade is an exceptional example of an early industrial building in the neo-classical vernacular, of considerable intrinsic architectural merit and of historical significance for both local connections and the development of the provincial merchant milling industry. In form, proportion, material and design, it is an outstanding representative of the functional tradition.
The exterior is of bold coursed stonework, emphasized by tooled quoins, with stone sills and lintels to openings, and is surmounted by gable roofs of low pitch with simple cornices and sloped eaves. With three full floors, a basement and capacious roof space, the U-shaped complex still forms a dominant anchor to downtown Thorold.
The Welland Mills is a landmark; it contributes greatly to the City scene, and expresses, in its statuesque dignity, an industrial heritage tending to be forgotten, yet upon which the success of Canada so much depended. The Welland Mills is the most architectonic of industrial buildings in the Niagara Region from the first half of the 19th century, one of the most notable in Ontario and possibly of national significance. Its handsome proportions, simple bold detail, regularity and well-executed masonry represent the best of its period. The building is notable for its neo-classic design and massive functional structure; it is a dominant anchor to the downtown.
The Welland Mills was built in 1846-47 by Jacob Keefer on the second Welland Canal. The Keefer name is well known in Thorold; the Keefers were entrepreneurs and considered Thorold’s founding family. Maplehurst, one of our outstanding buildings in Thorold was built by Hugh Keefer and was the family home.
The Welland Mills was capable of manufacturing 300 barrels of flour per day and the store house was capable of containing 70,000 bushels of wheat and 5,000 barrels of flour. The cooper shop, when in full operation, employed 12 hands.
Thomas Rodman Merritt (son of Wm. Hamilton Merritt) owned a one-third interest in the Welland Mills in 1858. Names of note connected to the mill were Thomas C.Street, Oswald & Zimmerman, Richard Miller, Wm. Eccles, Hon. Sir Thomas GaIt, Hon. Wm. Cayley, Sylvester Neelon, Wm. and John L.Spink. Throughout its history the mill has had a series of prominent owners including the well-known Howland family, the Hedley Shaw Milling Co., and later the Maple Leaf Milling Company.