The End of an Era

At the north-west end of  St. Catharines, Ontario is a place called Port Dalhousie. There you’ll find a public beach and a marina allowing access to Lake Ontario. The natural beauty of the area is stunning and on a clear day you can see Toronto on the north shore some fifty kilometers distant. Port Dalhousie is also home to the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. It’s a great place to go, especially during the summer.

The residences there are up-scale and the entertainment is upbeat. The nightlife there is amazing! There are several drinking establishments that, judging by the music, seem to cater to the college crowd and feature open-air live bands and DJs.  The place really rocks!

Being in my 50s, those young-crowd places are not really my scene (anymore) but there are many bars and restaurants that are more appropriate for sticks-in-the-mud like myself, some even with small stages where bands playing ’60s and ’70s music make an occasional appearance. One of my favourites is a pub (that doesn’t have a stage) called The Kilt & Clover which promises “warm beer and lousy food“, but they’ve never lived up to this threat — the food is actually pretty good and the atmosphere is great! There are also real sit-down seafood restaurants and an small Indian restaurant that I’ve just got to try. For you shopaholics, there are a bunch of fun boutiques, too.

The problem is that this will be the last season for many of the businesses there. It seems that they are slated to be torn down and a block of condos is to be put up in their place. Hey, I’m all for making a buck (but don’t have a clue how to do it) so I can understand the closures if the landlords got offered a huge chunk of change for their properties. But once the condo dwellers start moving in, I’m sure that they’ll start complaining about the noise blaring from the party establishments that did not fall victim to the wrecker’s ball and there will be pressure on them to close down as well.

I’m a relative newcomer to the area and to me Port Dalhousie’s character has always been centered on its fun and offbeat clubs, shops, and restarants in a beautiful natural setting. I fear that the beginning of the end is at hand and that this neighbourhood’s allure to locals and tourists is doomed to be gelded by gentrification.

So I offer you, dear reader, a few photos of how Port Dalhousie looks today so tomorrow you’ll remember how it once was.

My Cottage - One of the big party clubs.

The Horny Toad sign.

The Horny Toad won't be getting any next year.

Hogan's Alley - Nightlife Central.

Hogan's Alley.

My Cottage - Open air revelry.

The Port Mansion.

The Port Mansion sign.

It's all in the details.

The prettiest alley I've ever seen.

Seems like The Shore is down for the count.

Off limits forever.

On ice.

Summer shadows.

Murphy's was someone's catch of the day.

Could anyone miss this sign?

Won't be around much longer.

I'm sure these colours will be tastefully replaced with glass and steel.

The candy store closed on Labour Day weekend.

I hope some of these restaurants and boutiques will be there next year.

I don't think the developers will be tearing down this park across the street.

Hey! If they filled in the marina, they could put up more condos. Wouldn't that be great?

On a clear day (if you squint or have a honking long telephoto) you can see Toronto about 50 km away.

Port Dalhousie is a great place just to hang around and watch people. I prefer to watch people who are watching other people.

One of the rangelights before dawn.

The other rangelight, at dawn.

About HoaiPhai

I'm up late digging up the dirt. View all posts by HoaiPhai

26 responses to “The End of an Era

  • KatiesCameraBlog

    Great photos, but how sad that a place with such unique character is going to be lost to new condos. Thanks for sharing the story!

    • HoaiPhai

      Thanks. It is an absolute shame that it is not going to be the same ever again. I cannot imagine how this got zoned for condos given the area has suffered a reduction in tourism over the past few years. It had a lot of potential. I guess the people who already live nearby will enjoy the reduced noise.

  • notesfromrumbleycottage

    A party town taking away the party places? Must be run by a bunch of old fogies. However, the sky is absolutely beautiful.

    • HoaiPhai

      This party area is just a few square blocks out of the neighbourhood of Port Dalhousie in the City of St. Catharines, population ~ 130,000. Being a waterfront area, the adjacent properties are expensive and, frankly, it must get awfully noisy there. That being the case, I would never move close to the party zone but it didn’t just pop up overnight. I honestly don’t know why there was not a huge outcry from the area’s two universities’ student bodies and residents who frequent the businesses there. I guess money talks and recreation walks. Thanks for your comment!

  • The Hobbler

    You really have a good eye for taking beautiful pictures.

    • HoaiPhai

      Thank you kindly! Usually what happens, as was the case with going to Port Dalhousie to take photos to remember how it presently looks with the impending changes in mind, I’ll look over my photos and realize how I could have done things better or been more thorough. I’m going to have to make the time to go back for more pictures. The last two pictures, by the way, are photos I took seven years ago but those scenes have remained largely unchanged.

  • jennygoth

    looks a fantastic place and welcoming pity if it goes loved the welcome cottage sounds a great time out loved the pics xxjen

  • theplaceswevebeen

    It looks very beautiful there! It’s sad when money forces out history and culture.

    • HoaiPhai

      It’s too bad that neighbourhoods like this couldn’t get some kind of special status making it impossible for developers to come in and change the very nature of the place…. Nightlife reserve?

  • Martina

    what a beautiful place! 😀 I liked the line ” I prefer to watch people who are watching other people” 😀 haha 🙂

    • HoaiPhai

      Some photographers specialize in a genre called “street photography” where they take photos of strangers just going about their lives in public places. I’ve tried that but I feel like I’m imposing on them. The “I prefer to watch people who are watching other people” photo was fun because I was just setting up a shot with an extreme telephoto lens on the camera and this guy came along and was so focussed on what he was looking at he didn’t even see me (I don’t think). This shot was much better than the one I was trying to get, too!

  • rumpydog

    On the one hand I am happy the construction workers are getting some work and that there are people who can afford the condos. On the other hand I wonder how many people will lose regular work when those businesses are closed. Some things I will never understand.

    • HoaiPhai

      The area could use the construction workers to repair roads (OK, the paving guys are probably not in the same trade as the condo guys). It’s too bad the developers didn’t envision expanding vertically along the same theme that exists today, designing a bunch of establishments like a wine bar (this is wine country), some large clubs that would cater to the college crowd year round, and more boutiques to draw people in.

  • Emily Gooch

    lovely capture of future historic sites… unfortunately, change is inevitable and rarely ever for the best, especially when there is money to be made.

  • elmediat

    Thanks for the post. it has been a long time since I was there. My dad worked at GM ( he called it McKinnon’s) in St. Catherines and we would go to annual Auto Workers picnic at “Port Dalhoozie” – there were still amusement rides. We have pictures of myself as a little guy on the the merry go round and we made sure to get some of my son when he was little.

    • HoaiPhai

      The merry-go-round is still there, still costs only 5¢, and is not endangered by the development. In a time when St. Catharines is desirous of increasing tourism, why they would allow a spot so perfect for tourists to be compromised is beyond me.

  • Mike Lilly

    Thanks for the tour of Port Dalhousie. It looks like an interesting town, hate to hear that it’s future is being threatened in the name of “progress”.

    • HoaiPhai

      It’s a lovely spot. The thing I find kind of disturbing is that there wasn’t a huge public outcry (that I am aware of) and that progress wasn’t claimed as a benefit of the changes. It was more a case of “It’s our land, we’ll do with it as we please.”

  • ::Ruby::

    Such a nice place! 🙂 Awesome pictures, as always!

  • The Hook

    My earlier comments seem to have disappeared!
    At any rate, I’m glad you covered this milestone in such beautiful photo-detail.
    Nice work!

    • HoaiPhai

      I’m a tad disappointed that I didn’t get shots of absolutely everything I planned on getting. are you familiar with the Kilt and Clover? There’s a tree trunk in front that was cut to about 20 feet in height and faces sculpted into it, for example. that day I had limited time and took a lot of shots (that were not so hot) near the pier. I really have to get back there for more shooting, perhaps this weekend.

      I didn’t see your other comment, by the way. The last ones I saw were the one you made to my Weekly Photo Challenge: Fall post and also one on my post before that. I’m not censoring you!

  • What I Did on My Staycation: The Prologue « HoaiPhai

    […] them around the Niagara area with trips to The Falls, Fort Erie, Port Dalhousie (whatever’s left of it, that is),  Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Welland Canal, and a place we call Mosquito […]

  • What I Did on My Staycation: Part I « HoaiPhai

    […] did show them around the Niagara area and took trips to The Falls, Port Dalhousie (whatever’s left of it, that is), Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the Welland Canal, but we never did get around to going […]

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