On a recent hot and sunny weekday Steve and I decided to do a mini day trip to St. Catharines’ old downtown strip. To be truthful I had not been in St. Catharines since I was a little kid and the only thing I remembered about the city were its 1970′s suburbs and that huge bridge that crosses over the Welland Canal that makes you feel like you’re driving right up to the sky. I’d never been to the old downtown St. Catharines and I was pretty excited to take a looksy.
St. Catharines’ downtown is capital O-L-D (for a Souther Ontario city). According to Wikipedia:
The area was originally known as a storehouse for goods at the crossing of an Iroquois trail over Twelve Mile Creek. Curving Indian trails formed the foundation of the downtown streets as they appear today. Among them remains the largest and most historically-significant of the city, St. Paul Street.
Unlike many planned North American cities whose downtown streets run in a straight grid-like line St. Paul Street curves and meanders along a little ridge mimicking the winding rivery creek that used to run behind it. There’s no creek back there now, but there is a highway. This is just my guess as the only indications that there was an old running river was from some old writing I noted on the side of current artsy occupants of Bang On hair salon‘s building that says that it used to be an old flour mill -presumably powered by the current of the river that used to flow behind St. Paul Street?
In any case, our first stop on our mini trip was the Niagara Artists Centre, which I had been wanting to visit for a quite a while. It is not by any means a monstrosity of a gallery but similar to the 1-2 room gallery space of Hamilton Artist Inc.
Artist Jared Charzewski‘s exhibit Salvage Swell was installed in the back gallery. It was awesome! His sculpture was made up of piles and piles of used clothes.
*Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St.Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.641.0331
A few doors down was vintage clothing store Out of the Past -I know, I know Hamilton has one too but this one is the numero-uno original and I loved it! The prices were so right, and there was such a great collection of items for both men and women.
*Out of the Past, 340 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.288.6007
The next place we happened upon was a real treat.
The Write Book Shop is one of those bookstores that you can get lost in for hours and hours and still have a stock pile of rainy days banked to come back for further exploration. They had two floors plus several back rooms of books ranging form rare antiques to classics, children’s books, books on Ontario, history, crafting, cooking and sewing. You name it they have it.
*The Write Bookshop, 285 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.684.8426
For lunch we stopped in at a vegan restaurant/bakery/café called Rise Above. I first heard about this place via the folks at Mjolk and it looked so good that we decided to check it out for ourselves. The lunch was great and so was the Bill Murray painting exhibit (Still Murray by Grant Redman) but my favourite part of this stop were the vegan donuts. Yeah, it IS possible -vegan donuts! AND they were good.
You can read more about the creator of these vegan donuts -Kyle Paton here.
I would love for both Kyle (owner of Rise Above) and Bruce Worden (chef or Rise Above) to open up a fresh and contemporary place like this in downtown Hamilton. Can’t you just picture it in one of the storefronts of Treble Hall?
*Rise Above, 120 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 289.362.2636
I was reading that similar to Hamilton downtown St. Catharines was rampant with one-way streets. In effort to rejuvenate the core they converted their one-ways to two-ways and low and behold look at the new businesses opening up. I’ve even heard rumours of the rerouting of the Niagara Wine Route so that it will eventually pass through St. Catharines’ downtown. Gotta love good city planning and investment in the downtown core!
Overall it was a great little day trip to St. Catharines. I think that it has something going on, and besides I’m always up for a new place to explore.