History of St. Paul Street

DYK that St. Paul Street is a part of the Iroquois Trail that has been here for 10,000 years? 

Today is National Indigenous Day and this year we would like to take the chance to educate about a major part of Downtown St. Catharines history. 

Indigenous communities may have been attracted to this area due to the presence of deer and moose, abundant fruits and nuts, and plentiful fishing resources. These communities in St. Catharines developed an elaborate trail system along waterways linking Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and extending further into the Great Lakes region known as the “Iroquois Trail”. St. Paul Street was a part of this intricate Indigenous network of heavily travelled paths.

This route stands as one of the longest continuously inhabited sites in North America. Communities have thrived for thousands of years thanks to the waters of Twelve Mile Creek. 

The Downtown streets we see today were shaped by the intersecting trails. These trails, originally created through forests and open spaces, eventually evolved into the first streets in the area. This historical influence is apparent in the unique layout of our present-day street system. For example, the curve of St. Paul Street reflects the layout of the Iroquois Trail, which followed the natural terrain rather than the standard north-south grid common in many other Ontario towns at that time.

St. Paul Street was referred to as Queenston Street until 1862. The original name prior to that change remains unknown at present.

The colonizers in the area initially established a storehouse as a hub for supplies and trade, located approximately where the Burgoyne Bridge stands today. This was followed by the introduction of mills, then a church, a tavern, a school, and later on, shops and stores. By the early 1800s, the intersection of Ontario and St. Paul Streets, overlooking the creek, had evolved into a bustling centre for activity, trade, and commerce in St. Catharines. The creek played a pivotal role in transforming the location into a prominent industrial hub. It was not only valuable for its waterpower but also for its accessibility for transportation.

Even Laura Secord used this significant trail. Following the trail, she traced Queenston Street to St. Paul Street. She crossed the Twelve Mile Creek, and proceeded south along the western bank of the Twelve on another well-known Indigenous path.

Currently, the SCDA offers guided walks and tours down this historic path.

The City of St. Catharines has thrived for many years thanks to the ingenuity of the Indigenous people & Twelve Mile Creek. 

Check out the photos below to see a highlighted Iroquois Trail and St. Paul Street in 1953.