The Yates Street residential district was developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s along the banks of Twelve Mile Creek on land originally owned by William Hamilton Merritt.
Soon after he moved to St. Catharines, Merritt began building a mill along the shores of the creek. It was there that he discovered an artesian well with mineral water flowing from a deep cavity in the earth. This water could be boiled, leaving behind salt residue -- a valuable commodity at the time. In later years, it was discovered that drinking or bathing in the mineral water could cure a variety of ailments. This prompted the development of two spa resorts on Yates Street -- the Stephenson House and Springbank Hotel --allowing those with ailing health and vacationers from far and wide to test the healing powers of the mineral waters.
In the early to mid 1800's, many mills were constructed along Twelve Mile Creek, all of which needed a reliable source of water. As well, the Erie Canal was being designed in the United States, a waterway that would divert vessels away from local businesses in Upper Canada. Hoping to solve both of these problems, Merritt formed the Welland Canal Company in 1824.
The Company was made up of many investors, one of whom was John B. Yates, an entrepreneur from the United States. Yates Street was named in his honour. The Canal was finally finished in 1829, bringing vessels through Twelve Mile Creek on their way to the Great Lakes and beyond.
In the following years, many important businesses made their home on the banks of the Welland Canal. These included the Taylor & Bate Brewery, Shickluna Shipyards, and St. Catharines Wheel Works. Yates Street was located very close to the new businesses so many of the mill owners and managers chose to reside there. They were generally very wealthy men and therefore wanted large, elegant homes. A lot of the homes were constructed in elaborate styles such as Georgian and Tudor that are rarely seen in other parts of the city due to the large size and detailing required.
Over the years, the home owners have wisely preserved many of the grown trees on their property, creating the beautiful tree-lined streetscape we see today. Although the mills and other canalside businesses ceased operation after a new route was chosen for the canal, the elegant residences remain, creating a beautiful eclectic neighbourhood.
The origin of street names in the Yates Street Heritage District: