Old Films of Canada's Niagara Region Historical Preservation Project

Click HERE to watch my youtibe  collection of these 1920s to 1980s 16mm & 8mm Films

This history project began in June 2016, seeking old films of the 4 Welland Canals and the whole Niagara Region.

As of January 7, 2018, I have 48 videos of old films of the Niagara Region in the collection from between 1921 and 1973. on youtube

I expected to find 100s, probably 1,000s, by now.


But, after months of extensive efforts to find old films via newspaper and newsletter articles, a radio show, distributing flyers, 100s of phone calls, festivals and events presentations, canvassing the regional history groups on Facebook and thousands of youtube viewers of the precious few historical films that I have found and digitized so far, I have found very few historically significant old films of Niagara Region, almost none of the Welland Canals, which, considering that all 4 Welland Canals were, and the 4th still is, globally claimed as engineering marvels, that they all could have and should have been massively filmed in great detail since 1923, it makes no sense whatsoever that so few films have been found.

I have learned that between 1960 and 1999 there were at least 6 major widelywell supported attempts to save and restore different parts of the 2nd and 3rd Welland Canals.

The biggest attempt was between 1978 and 1988, a massive effort by 1,000s, indeed 10s of 1000s, of people and Niagara Region history groups, some municipal and regional politicians,and some private developers, to achieve a Grand Welland Canals Heritage Plan, the Welland Canals Corridor Development Guide, that would have saved and restored some of the old Welland Canals, built 6 Heritage Centres, Canadian Municipal-Provincial-Federal Historic designations, AND World Heritage Designation,, and created a lot of Economic prosperity.

Even the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation expressed in the St Catharines Standard it's strong interest and support for substantially developing sections of the old canals into historical tourist destination, particularly because they were losing millions every year from lost ships and cargo transits which had plummeted 50 percent since the peaks of the 1970s.

By the summer of 1989 that plan was within a few months of happening. By the end of 1989, it had been deliberately sabotaged and died.

The UK at that same time saved their historic canals and turned them into huge tourist and history destinations that have revitalized 100s of villages their canals pass through.

Tragically, within months of the old Welland Canals Project being approved to happen,, the St Lawrence Seaway Corp and other private developers killed the project for all time. The story of that, which I've pieced together from a bunch of old newspaper articles,, can be read below.

Since 1989 what was left of the old Welland Canals at that time continued to deteriorate. I tried to re-spark support for at least saving and restoring the Mountain Locks Park, the public and government and Seaway Corp and private developers response is - it will never happen.

What is left of the old Welland Canals. will continue to crumble to dust, be bulldozed, filled in, and built on top of, in the fullness of time.


April 2017

The Heinous Demise of Preserving the Heritage of the Old Welland Canals

( See reference web links at the end )

This is the tragic story of the heinous demise of the 1988 Welland Canals Corridor Development Guide Project to preserve and partially restore the Old Welland Canals 1, 2, and 3.

I hope those who lived the story that I will try to tell, which has not yet been written about by anyone, will forgive me for any errors and inadequacies on my part.

I won't be regurgitating here the stories of the constructions and histories of those previous canals, nor that of the 4th. Those stories have been amply written repeatedly over the decades by far better research writers than I could ever hope to redundantly repeat.

Suffice to say that all four Welland Canals were globally hailed as engineering marvels, world class wonders, and deservedly so.

Each one has it's own abundant fascinating stories of every kind, from daily life of extreme hard work and tragedies, and adventures matching and surpassing those of America's “Huckleberry Finn” and other tales of sculduggery; and even include stories of Wars, Spies, and Sabotage. If you have not heard of nor read the near endless rich heritage of Welland Canals stories, I most emphatically urge you to do so.

Lewis Selznick, one of Hollywood's pioneering producers, once remarked, “If Canadian stories are worth making into films, American companies will be sent into Canada to make them.”

That same sentiment resides behind the fact that all of Canada is owned, controlled, and run by Americans for their benefit and the harm of Canada.

Read the following links regarding the Canadian Cinema-Film Industrystory.

Embattled Shadows by Peter Morris

History of the Canadian Film Industry - Canadian Encyclopedia

Grand Canadian Nationhood Blockbuster movies should have told those many Welland Canals stories, and been told by Canadian movie makers, and would have been told, except American “Hollywood” made sure they never were, and still makes sure never will be told.

The story of the demise of the abandoned Welland Canals began in 1932, with the completion of the 4th Welland Canal, still currently in use today.

In 1932, varying substantial amounts of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Welland Canals still existed, and began their decades long journey to their respective graves, which is still an ongoing process today.

During those decades the same fate was happening to old abandoned canals all over the world.

But something miraculous happened for some of them in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, thanks to the WWII generation and their children. most especially in the United Kingdom and France.

Having been allowed to rot after WWII, drained, used as local garbage dumps, and slowly being filled in and built on top of, many abandoned canals were saved and restored to full functionality, mostly thanks to 10s of 1,000s of volunteer labourers and grass roots donations.

Once restored, those now over 3,500 kilometres of canals became major domestic and global tourist destinations, and spurred the economic revitalizations of 100s of old villages and towns, even cities, they pass through.

To understand and appreciate that story, watch the 2014-2016 UK television series, “Great Canal Journeys”, hosted by husband and wife Timothy West and Prunella Scales. It showcases some of the now over 3,500 kilometers of tourist functional canals throughout the UK, France, and Ireland.

Those successes in Europe inspired doing the same thing for at least three canals in Canada. Two restorations were achieved, the Rideau Canal, and the Trent-Severn Waterway System. Today those two are immensely popular tourist destinations for 100s of 1,000s of Canadians and foreign visitors every year, and generate enormous historical, cultural, and economic benefits.

The Lachine Canal in Montreal, Quebec, had been similarly abandoned and left to rot, till the 1990s when grass roots efforts to save it and re-purpose it began. In 1996 it was designated a Canada National Historic Site, and in 2002, 14.5 km of the Lachine Canal was reopened as a pleasure boating area. The banks of the canal offer bicycling and roller blading. Parks Canada offers guided tours of the canal by foot, bicycle, and boat during the summer months. Over the last two decades, the canal has seen a large increase in residential and commercial development. In what was originally a very heavy industrial neighbourhood, Pointe-Saint-Charles and Saint-Henri have become very up and coming districts. House values have skyrocketed and many real estate developers have turned the century old industrial factories and warehouses, like that of Dominion Textiles (5524 Saint-Patrick, now Complexe Dompark) & Simmons Bedding Company (4710 St-Ambroise, now Complexe Canal Lachine) into prestigious loft buildings. Complexe Dompark recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and now houses more than 90 multimedia, fashion, publishing and service industry-based companies in custom designed lofts. The area around the Atwater Market has become one of Montreal's most desirable residential areas for condo owners.


Of course those successes also inspired doing likewise in Canada's Niagara Region for the old Welland Canals.

It really began in 1975, when members of a bunch of regional historical groups, which had all put their efforts to separate small and medium size projects, realized that together they might achieve a really big project, began collaborating and banding together to give it a go.

They dreamed big.

Heritage hiking trails and regional driving routes; preservation and restoration of original buildings and as much of the old canals that could be saved and even made functional again; 6 heritage centres; even a gondola and train sight-seeing facilities; and official municipal, provincial, and federal historical heritage designations. Even a World Heritage Site designation was in the works.

The 11+ groups collectively approached governments and businesses for approval and help. Government said they had to select representatives from each group to form just 1 umbrella group to work with, that had to be new, not one of the already existing roups or organizations

The several most politically savvy groups argued that one of them aught to be the umbrella group, but, all the groups could not agree which one.

So they all finally did put a new organization together in 1986, and thus was born the Welland Canals Society, which two years later in 1988 tabled the “Welland Canals Corridor Development Guide”, predicted to be worth as much as $ 300 million economic benefits to the whole Niagara Region.

But the creation of WCS so “late in the day”, sowed the seeds of discontent amongst the various groups, particularly the Welland Canals Foundation born in 1980, and the Welland Canals Preservation Association born in 1978, and the Canadian Canal Society born in 1982, but also eventually with all the smaller, much older historical groups.

However, at the time, the WCS was the group the governments and private sector had agreed to work with, so, all the groups knuckled down to achieve their common cause. For the next 3 years anyways.

But, by the summer of 1989, a dichotomy reared it's ugly demonic head, apparently originating within the Niagara Regional Council, by the Councilor for the Municipality of Welland. - WELLAND  !  Go figure, eh. Somebody's idea of a sick ironic joke.

On the one hand, the WCS and it's grand plan appeared to be progressing rapidly towards success. Projects that could be done were being pursued by the various groups with the help of 1,000s of volunteers, Heritage designations for the canals' big plans were claimed very close to being issued; Startup funding and first shovel in the ground all but guaranteed within weeks or months at most.

On the other hand, criticisms of the WCS began to appear in the local newspapers, all apparently originating at a grass roots level, quickly spreading through-out the grass roots level because their voices and participation in the process were being suppressed and stomped on. Their eventual very real discontent with the WCS more rapidly increased to a roaring crescendo by the end of 1989.

By the end of 1989 the whole project, the grand plan, was dead – forever – never to be ressurrected.

How could this tragic travesty have happened ?

My conversations with some of the people involved in those days, is that the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and certain powerful private developers killed it.

I am 67. I've been involved in the rise and inevitable demise of a few grand 'Canada Causes' from time to time, and followed the course and eventual inevitable demise of many others,

The opposition's strategy is always the same.

The most successfully effective strategy used by opposition to any grand plan is for the opposition to pretend to be the leading supporter and champion of a grand plan, and defeat and destroy the grand plan from the inside.

Based on my past experiences, I dare to propose what I think happened to kill the Welland Canals Corridor Development Project.

The St Lawrence Seaway is allegedly equally co-managed by both Canada and the United States.

In reality, the U.S. side calls all the shots, as per usual of all things within Canada, as they have since shortly after the end of the War of 1812.

Today there are over 3 Million dual-citizenship Americans who own, control, and run everything in Canada for their, and the U.S.'s, benefit, and the harm of Canada. They employ, or manipulate, many more, in pursuit of their profiteering sculldugery.

The four Welland Canals are the only part of the St Lawrence Seaway System that were / are entirely within Canada. Built by Canadians. Maintained by Canadians. Paid for by Canadians.

But not under the control of Canadians.

The U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation did not want the Canadian Welland Canals Corridor Development Project to succeed. Not back in 1989 – not ever.

They realized they could not be discovered and identified as the perpetrators of it's demise.

Thus was born their idea of the creation of the Welland Canals Society as the only representative umbrella organization that the Canadian governments would work with.

Ostensibly it was made up from the various interested parties, the history and preservation groups, governments, private corporations and developers, and, the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation of Canada.

The purpose of the WCS was precisely to sow the seeds of discontent amongst all the involved groups, to make that discontent appear to be of local all-Canadian Niagara Regional grass roots origins.

The WCS was expertly manipulated to piss off all parties, set them at each other's throats, and inevitably self-destruct, and thereby kill for all time any attempts to realize any let alone all of the plans of historical preservation of the Welland Canals Corridor

It fullfilled and succeeded at it's intended purpose perfectly.

It was the sort of usual typical diabolical American strategy that Americans employ so successfully around the world to get what they want.

The WCS was "forced" to surrender it's charter in 1991 and ceased to exist.

Nobody of those days has ever tried anything so grand again.

In 2008, an archaelogy team led by local archaeologist and historian Jon Jupien, excavated the remains of the 1st Lock of the 1st Welland Canal in the northwest corner of Lakeside Park, and spear-headed an serious attempt to get it's functional restoration funded, as well as heritage designation, information centre and various exhibits of the whole Welland Canals history.

Alas, just as it seemed it might happen, two private properties affecting the project were suddenly sold, and the new owner refused to co-operate. The project died.

Private developers intend to eventually re-develop all of 'downtown' Port Dalhousie with a bunch of hi-rise condominiums, and eradicate all the history, with the exception of a few information plaques.

Back to 1989, killing the grand plan at that time was not what all the real grass-roots local history groups and supporters for the grand plan wanted. They believed they had legitimate complaints about the WCS, which was very true, indeed they did. They wanted those issues listened to, attended to, for the sake of the success of the grand plan.

When the grand plan was suddenly and quickly killed, they were all devastated. believing it had been all their fault.

Which is why none of them wants to remember those days, why they refuse to talk about it to this very day.

If any of them have ever realized that they were deliberately setup, expertly manipulated and used by the Americans to attack the WCS so it and the grand plan could be killed, that awareness would only serve to make those people feel even more ashamed of themselves than the others who have never realized what had happened.

The grand plan and all that it entailed, was stored away in five boxes in the Brock University Archives soon after, and forgotten about.

Personally I am very surprised that all the WCS documents were saved by somebody and stored in the Brock U Archives. The Americans slipped up there.

Personally, I think Americans can also be deservedly blamed for why I have failed to find any but a couple, let alone a treasure trove of many old historically significant films of Canada's 4 Welland Canals, nor of the rest of Canada's Niagara Region.

There can be no doubt that both professional and home movie films of the Welland Canals and the Niagara Region were recorded. How else to explain why only a very few still exist.

Albeit, most Americans are just as decent folk as any anywhere. And every nation has it's share of scumbags.

Tragically, the United States has far more than the average national share of scumbags. And those American scumbags have since pre-1776, and continue to this day, ruin the United States just as much if not more than they ruin the rest of the world.

So, there you have it.

What and who and how that I theorize happened to kill the Welland Canals Corridor Development Project.

If somebody can prove me wrong – I'll eat my Canadian Tilley hat.


Welland Library newspaper clippings about the Welland Canals Society


Welland Canals Society Fonds in Brock University Archives




21 of 100 pages of Welland Canals Corridor Development Guide

Steve Hartwell steve@homemovies.ca www.homemovies.ca 647-470-1684 voice or text