Wolf and Chuck Visit the Building of Mystery
The Welland Canal which runs from St. Catharines, Ontario to Port Colborne Ontario and spans a 43km stretch. The first canal was opened in 1830 and is still in operation as of January 2016. Since it’s construction, the canal has gone through many changes, including the building of three canal systems. The First Welland Canal was in operation from 1830 until 1854 when the Second Welland Canal was opened. The Third Welland Canal was opened 1887 until 1932. Currently the Fourth Welland Canal, opened in 1932 is still in operation.
Each year, the operational portion of the Welland Canal closes during the winter, and most of the waterways are drained. Many of the older Welland Canal systems run as tributaries to the current running Welland systems. This causes their water levels to lower as well.
Lowered water levels often expose old portions of the canals, shipwrecks, buildings, and docks. Most of these are completely submerged most of the year.
Visible from the shoreline is an old building which is actually in the waterway of the canal. This is what makes the building so unique. It’s not along the shoreline, but actually in the canal waterway itself. The building has a poured concrete base, and a Queenston Limestone block upper area. Several windows are visible from the ground level.
There is much speculation as to the original use of this building. Many internet “sources” have given theories such as sniper tower, washroom, and even office building.
One winter day in 2016, Wolf and Chuck decided to visit the building, and see what was inside. Parking the vehicle a kilometre away in Thorold, a quick walk along an asphalt path led to the bank of the Old Welland Canal, now partially drained for winter. The building was easy to access with no water around it.
There is a pathway which leads along the canal and is often frequented by hikers, cyclists, dog sledders, and other recreational users throughout the year. This pathway runs along one stretch of the old Welland Canal is now considered a “Reservoir” or off-shoot to the current canal. The area is very industrial. It’s not very pretty. Often times there is rubbish scattered around from illegal dumping. The area has some forests and trees, but a lot of scrub brush. In the summer, there are many bikini-clad young girls along its banks as the area is a local swimming hole.
The building, normally surrounded by water, had a tall, 3m wall and a window on the top. The poured concrete structure bottom was great for keeping the water out of the building, but also made it impossible to simply explore without some form of assistance. With, the canal system is drained access is significantly easier.
Laying on the ground near the shore, was a tree which had fallen over. Wolf and Chuck decided it would be an idea to break some of the limbs off the main trunk, and stand the tree up, leaning it against the building. Leaning an old tree against a building and climbing it, what could go wrong? Wolf and Chuck removed the lower branches and Wolf climbed the tree, with Chuck bracing it to ensure no one was injured.
The inside of the building was very empty and bleak. It had some graffiti. there was nothing inside it that helped to reveal what the building was used for.
After a fairly uneventful and short trip, Wolf and Chuck were still perplexed by the building. A building which would normally be located in the canal, not along the banks. The Lock 3 Museum In St. Catharines has a large resource library which often contains valuable information on Welland Canal System.
The museum loves to help explore local history, and provided us with the information they had on file.
There is only one historic photograph of the building which was located in the 1976 book The Welland Canals Historical Resource Analysis and Preservation Alternatives. The photograph looked almost identical to the building we saw, with the exception that there was still a roof on it at that time.
The book, written by Michelle Greenwald, Allan Levitt and Elaine Peebles refers to this building as “The Building Of Mystery”. A short passage in the book, and one photograph, describes building. This is astounding because there is almost no historical data listed on the use and reason for the buildings existence. The passage reads:
Building Of Mystery in The St. Catharines Reservoir. This building is located within the reservoir near Marlettes Road. It’s size, shape, and detailing is similar to lock offices built along the Third Welland Canal. However, it bears no close relationship to the Third Canal
Forgotten by time, an old tattered building in an unused canal sits in Ontario Canada, shrouded in mystery.
GPS Co-ordinates 43.109994, -79.201932
Google Map Link: [Click Here]
Complete Photo Set: [Click Here]
Lock 3 Museum, St. Catharines Ontario
GREENWALD, M., LEVITT, A., & PEEBLES, M. (1976). The Welland Canals Historical Resource Analysis and Preservation Alternatives. Ministry of Culture and Recreation.