Welland Canal Memorial Monument
Description of Property
The Welland Canal Memorial Monument is located in Merritt Park on the west side of King Street. The footprint of the monument extends from a walkway leading into Merritt Park from King Street up to, around and including a fountain with a central motif of piled rocks and five life sized figural statues located around the fountain and on the walkway; a bench for seating next to one of the sculptural figures and three upright stone tablets with brass donor’s plaques on the north side of the walkway.
Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest
The Welland Canal Memorial Monument was built to commemorate the people of Canada and around the world who came to the Niagara Peninsula to build the Welland Canal. It was unveiled on September 27, 2001 and is a familiar landmark in the City. The monument was conceived as a project to help celebrate the millennial (the year 2000) by the Welland Heritage and Multicultural Centre, a local organization that assists newcomers to integrate into Canadian life and fosters cultural awareness and understanding among all citizens. It was funded by a federal grant from the Millenium Bureau of Canada along with donations from local businesses, organizations and citizens who “purchased” bricks in the walkway leading to and around the monument on which names of their families were etched.
The Welland Canal was central to the inception and growth of the City of Welland. The community came into existence when the aqueduct of the first Welland Canal was built to carry shipping traffic over the Welland River between 1831 and 1833 and a settlement grew up around the site. As the canal was expanded along with its importance as a transportation link, the community grew from village to town to city and became a centre of industry. This monument recognizes the workers who did the actual canal construction: “…the people whose sweat and blood built the canal…”
The monument is the work of well known local artist Bas Degroot, and bronze caster William Jurgenson with many local contractors and City employees assisting in its construction. Degroot created many monumental artworks in the Netherlands and North America, including two large murals in Welland - “New World” and “Canal Construction” - and the bronze figures of beavers at the Welland Bus Terminal.
Description of Heritage Attributes
Key attributes of this structure that reflects its cultural heritage value to the City of Welland include:
- The location of the monument in Merritt Park adjacent to a section of the fourth Welland Canal, now a recreational waterway
- The fountain with a central motif of piled rocks, a rock and cement wall surrounding the fountain and five life sized sitting and standing bronze figural statues surrounding and interacting with the fountain and rocks
- A bench for seating next to one of the sculptural figures at the edge of the fountain
- A walkway leading through Merritt Park from King Street up to and around the fountain made up of small pavers each inscribed with the donor’s family name(s)
- Three upright stone tablets on the north side of the walkway, each bearing a bronze tablet facing the fountain inscribed with the names of financial supporters. The central stone tablet has a pointed arch top and a brass tablet with a curved top profile that features a motif of clasped hands circling a globe above the name of the monument and list of “gold” donors .