Niagara's Repurposed Heritage Mills

Owen Hughes

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes


Photo credit: www.merritton.com

In the early 19th century, the Niagara Region was home to several large and successful mills, in fact it was the success of these mills that allowed the City of St. Catharines to flourish as Niagara's main industrial centre. While the industrial  lanscape of St. Catharines and Thorold has moved far away from milling, many of these old historical milling sites and their buildings remain. Many of the buildings have maintained their original look but have  been converted for commercial and residential uses.  

Merritton Cotton Mills














Located at 344 Glendale Avenue, Merritton Cotton Mills is located in the south end of St. Catharines in the community of Merritton.

  • Lot Size: ±4.653 acres
  • Zoning: CR - Commercial/Residential
  • The Old Merritton Mill was a part of the 19th century boom of technology, industry, and mills.  Strongly influencing trends in transportation and communication, the Welland Canal provided sufficient connections to water power generation for the industries in the town of Merritton. 
  • In the 1850s investors saw the natural advantages to the area of Merritton. This awareness led the development of many mills, a cement plant and also textile mills.  The Beaver Cotton Mill, built in 1857, was the site of a large cotton plant, which produced yarn, batting and wadding. It finally became known as the Merritton Cotton Mills. 
  • In 1881 there was a fire and the mill had to be rebuilt and reopened in the year of 1885. 
  • The building went unused through the Great Depression and only in 2001 was it renovated and reopened as The Keg restaurant.


Lybster Mill



Located at 271 Merritt Street, Lybster Mill is located in the south end of St. Catharines in the community of Merritton.

  • Lot size: ±2.464 acres
  • Building size: ±60,000 sf
  • Zoning: CR - Commercial/Residential
  • The Lybster Mill is located across the street from the Old Merritton Cotton Mill and was also a cotton manufacturer.  The Lybster Mill was built in 1860 and was one of the pioneering cotton mills in the dominion of Canada.  The vacant lot in front was previously occupied by industrial buildings, and the Lybster Mill stands representative of the architectural style and how it may have played into how the mill was run. 
  • On the east of the building, there are remnants of the Second Canal including a number of locks, weirs and sluices.  These weirs were developed to control the flow beside a mill.  They used sluices to increase the flow of water to their waterwheels by either opening or shutting them.  The pond connected a flume to two water wheels which provided power to the cotton mills.  
  • The Mill changed ownership many times housing both Lincoln Paper Mills and Howards Smith Paper Mills. In 1961, Domtar Paper Mills finally bought the mill and it became the site of their Glendale Plant until its closing in 2002.
  • The property was bought by a local developer, Nino Donatelli, in April 2004 and redeveloped to include a Johhny Rocco’s restaurant, Salon at Stone Mill, New Stone Mill Spa, and the Stone Mill Inn, with 35 rooms & suites. Donatelli estimates the entire Lybster Mill retrofit cost $6-million, more than half of which is attributable to the inn, and spanned approximately eight years. 


Welland Mills



Located at 20 Pine Stree North, Welland Mills is located in the north end of Thorold in the western fringe of the downtown core.

  • Lot Size: ±0.920 acres
  • Zoning: CC-10 – Central Commercial
  • 3.5 storey commercial/residential building including a full basement.  The Welland Mills was originally built in 1846-47 as a flour mill 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.  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 example of the province's early milling technology.
  • Current owner completed a redevelopment of the subject building in November 2007, which preserved the building’s historical significance.  The building had been vacant for a long period before the current owner acquired the property.
  • Stone walls with wood post & beam, resting on a stone foundation.  Interior ceiling heights on the first, second and third floors are approximately 14 feet.  
  • Total commercial area is ±5,855 sf, which is divided into three main floor commercial units (±2,175, ±459 & ±2,025 sf) and lower level commercial unit (±1,196 sf).  The building also features a lower level unfinished storage/mechanical space and 20-1 bedroom residential apartment units spread over the second, third and fourth floors.  The apartment units range from ±500 to ±875 sf, with the average unit size being ±678 sf.


Stokes Community Village (Former Stokes Seeds Property)



Located at 36-40 Page Street, the Former Stokes Seeds Property now known as the Stokes Community Village, is located on the eastern fringe of the downtown core in St. Catharines.

  • Lot size: ±1.461 acres
  • Building size: ±48,437 sf
  • Zoning: R5-H – Residential Fifth Density
  • Former industrial facility reportedly built in 1895. 
  • In January 2005, Goodwill Industries Niagara purchased the property for $425,000 and the adjacent parking lot to the north for $100,000, for a combined purchase of $525,000 ($11/sf).
  • $810,000 in funding from the federal & provincial governments assisted the redevelopment for 33 new affordable apartments for seniors. 
  • The facility is now known as Stokes Community Village, and includes several commercial tenants, such as Autism Ontario and Canadian Mental Health Association - Niagara Branch. 

 Industrial Market of the Niagara Region