Friday, September 10, 2021

Daytrippin' - Port Stanley ON Day 1

September 2021 - St. Thomas / Port Stanley ON

We took an overnight trip on Monday, Labour Day. I recapped our trials and tribulations in my weekly recap.
Round trip was 434 km according to Google but that doesn't account for our extra trip into St. Thomas and a couple of other stops.

Brantford is known as the "Telephone City" as the city's famous resident, Alexander Graham Bell, invented the first telephone at his father's homestead, Melville House, now the Bell Homestead, located on Tutela Heights south of the city. Brantford is also known as the hometown of Wayne Gretzky.

We have yet to visit it. It also served as a location for Schitt's Creek.

We stopped in St. Thomas (we had been here last month when it was brutally hot) for lunch. 

Port Stanley is located on the north shore of Lake Erie at the mouth of Kettle Creek. In 2016, it had a population of 2,148. 
The site of Port Stanley was part of an important early route from Lake Erie to other inland waterways for a succession of explorers and travellers of the 17th and 18th centuries.
A settlement named Kettle Creek was founded here in 1812 by Lieutenant-Colonel John Bostwick. Around 1824, it was re-named Port Stanley after Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, who had visited nearby Port Talbot. Lord Stanley later became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the father of Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, Governor General of Canada, ice hockey enthusiast and donor of the first Stanley Cup in 1893.

It is well known for its summer theatre, sadly, not opened during the pandemic.
We stayed at Inn on the Harbour.

The biggest replica of a perch in Canada can be see at Glover Park, located on Bridge St, on the east side of the King George VI Lift Bridge. The perch is mounted on top of the Port Stanley Harbour sign in Glover Park.

This intersection was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1923, and was marked with a cairn.

There is a great walkway to the beach.

In the early 1900’s, Port Stanley was the main tourist attraction on the lake and was called “The Coney Island of the Great Lakes”. The large sandy beach housed a cafeteria, an incline railway to Picnic Hill (which overlooked the harbor), a casino, The Stork Club (with a public pool), an outdoor theatre, a Ferris wheel and a rollercoaster. Mackies (a well-known eatery and famous for its orangeade and fries) has been on the beach since it was built in 1911. People came by boat, car, or Terminal Rail (a tourist train that ran between London, St. Thomas and Port Stanley) to hear the big band sounds of Guy Lombardo and others.

In 1926, Port Stanley opened what was then called the L&PS Pavilion, but was renamed the Stork Club in the early 1950’s. With the largest dance floor in London-Port Stanley area measuring 13,000-square-feet (1,200 m2), the club was famous for swing dance and attracted some of the biggest bands in North America. It briefly closed between 1973 and 1974, but was reopened after massive renovations to bring the building up to code. The last event was a performance by Day Break on New Year’s Eve 1978/79. After that, a dumpster fire damaged the building too heavily to save it.

Port Stanley's Main Beach is a long beach with one of the finest stretches of sandy beach on Lake Erie's north shore. Port Stanley's Main Beach is one of only 27 in Canada to have earned official Blue Flag status for it's commitment to strict water quality and safety criteria. Port Stanley also features mats to make the beach more accessible to people using wheelchairs or strollers.

Port Stanley Terminal Rail is an operating tourist railway.
The trains of THE PORT STANLEY TERMINAL RAIL Inc. travel over the tracks and roadbed of one of Ontario’s oldest railways, The London and Port Stanley Railway, which was designed to alleviate congestion on a plank road that had been built to connect Port Stanley and London. Entirely constructed by hand labour, the railway project was begun in 1853 shortly after the Great Western Railway reached London. Both railways were constructed to the broad gauge of 5 feet. A few years later this was changed to the standard gauge of 4 feet-8 1/2 inches. The first train to reach Port Stanley was a passenger train on July 5th 1856.

Located in the centre of town, on Bridge Street over the Kettle Creek, is the historic King George VI Lift Bridge, the oldest lift bridge in Ontario. Watching the boats pass under this bridge is a favourite attraction for both tourists and residents. During the boating season it opens every half hour to let through sail boats, fishing boats, and large motor yachts. Built in 1939, it is named for the ruling British Monarch of the day.

The building of the present bridge was not without tragedy. A coffer dam had been built to allow the construction of the cement pillars which would support the bridge. On the evening of December 19, 1937 13 men were working inside the coffer dam, 29 feet below the surface of Kettle Creek. According to a contemporary newspaper account they were all new on the job, having been hired in the previous three or four days to speed up construction. It was just after 9 p.m. on a Sunday, and the first indication that something might be wrong was, to quote the St. Thomas Times Journal account, “a thunderous roar that sounded like nothing more than the crashing of a hundred trees at once. It was an awful sound, full of ominous import and it took no time to realize that something had happened”. The coffer dam had collapsed, and the 13 construction workers found themselves surrounded by swirling water, chunks of ice and broken wood. Five of them were eventually rescued, but eight lost their lives, making this the worst Port Stanley disaster since the sinking of the Bessemer 18 years before.
If you are interested here is a video (50 minutes) recounting the history of the Bessemer. Or skip to the end 43:40 and hear the interesting story about the only passenger on board with  $32.000 locked in the safe and the ship's safe also held $50,000. None of it was found.

Other tragedies in the area:
The Olga, June 4, 1944. Seventeen men, women and children drowned when a tour boat capsized off Port Stanley.
The Great Wreck of 1887, July 15, 1887. Fourteen people including a city firefighter were killed when a passenger train from Port Stanley ran into a freight train at a crossing in St. Thomas.
Swan Boat Disaster, July 6, 1925. A woman and seven children were drowned on Pinafore Lake, St. Thomas when a paddleboat swamped.

We were walking across when the bell went and the cars stopped as it was about to be lifted. The harbourmaster just called out to us to cross the street.

 You can watch John's video here.

Commercial fishing has always been a large part of the Port Stanley’s history. This mural celebrates the men and tugs of the early 1900’s that were an integral part of the commercial fishing industry.

Edith Louisa Cavell (4 December 1865 – 12 October 1915) was a British nurse. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without discrimination and for helping some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, for which she was arrested. She was accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad. Her execution received worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage.

Dinner on Lake Erie.

Walking back to the inn. It is the dark building more on the right.

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