Port Colborne

Port Colborne
Port Colborne
—  City  —
Former bank building on West Street in Port Colborne[1]
Location of Port Colborne in the Niagara Region
Port Colborne is located in Ontario
Port Colborne
Location in Ontario
Coordinates: 42°53′N 79°15′W / 42.883°N 79.25°W / 42.883; -79.25Coordinates: 42°53′N 79°15′W / 42.883°N 79.25°W / 42.883; -79.25
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
Region Niagara
 – Mayor Vance Badawey
 – Governing body
 – MP Malcolm Allen (NDP)
 – MPP Peter Kormos (NDP)
 – Land 121.97 km2 (47.1 sq mi)
Population (2006)[2]
 – Total 18,599
 – Density 152.5/km2 (395/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 – Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal code span
Area code(s) 905, 289, 365
Website city.portcolborne.on.ca

Port Colborne (2006 population 18,599) is a city on Lake Erie, at the southern end of the Welland Canal, in the Niagara Region of southern Ontario, Canada. The original settlement, known as Gravelly Bay, dates from 1832 [3] and was re-named after Sir John Colborne, a British war hero and the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada at the time of the opening of the southern terminus of the First Welland Canal in 1833.



In pre-colonial times, the Neutral Indians lived in the area, due in part to the ready availability of flint and chert from outcroppings on the Onondaga Escarpment.[4] This advantage was diminished by the introduction of firearms by European traders, and they were driven out by the Iroquois around 1650 as part of the Beaver Wars.

Originally called Gravelly Bay, after the shallow, bedrock-floored bay upon which it sits, the modern City of Port Colborne traces its roots back to the United Empire Loyalist settlements that grew up in the area following the American Revolution. Growth became focussed around the southern terminus of the Welland Canal after it was extended to reach Lake Erie in 1833. As the population rose, Port Colborne was incorporated as a village in 1870, became a town in 1918, merged with neighbouring Humberstone in 1952, and was re-incorporated as a city in 1966.[5][6]

From supplying goods to the camps for the labourers who worked on the first canal, maritime commerce, including ship repair and the provisioning trade, has been an important part of Port Colborne's economy to the present day. Like other cities in the region, Port Colborne was a heavily industrial city throughout most of the early 20th century. A grain elevator, two modern flour mills,[7][8] an INCO nickel refinery,[9] a cement plant operated by Port Colborne Canada Cement, and a blast furnace operated by Algoma Steel were all major employers. However, several of these operations have closed over the past thirty years, while those companies that remain now employ significantly fewer residents due to modernization and cutbacks.

In more recent years, Port Colborne has been successful in attracting new industry, significantly the agro-business operations of Casco Inc.[10] and Jungbunzlauer,[11] which process corn into products such as sweeteners and citric acid. However, the economy has gradually shifted towards tourism and recreation, taking advantage of the scenic beauty of the lakeshore.


The International Nickel Company (now Vale) has long been one of the city's main employers, since the opening of a refinery in 1918. Taking advantage of inexpensive hydroelectricity from generating stations at nearby Niagara Falls, the refinery produced electro-refined nickel for the war effort, and grew to employ over 2,000 workers by the 1950s. Cutbacks in operations and increasing factory automation have reduced the workforce to its present day total of 190.[12]

Environmental concerns

Emissions from Inco's base metal refinery, closed in 1984, resulted in soils contaminated with concentrations of nickel, copper and cobalt above the Ontario Ministry of the Environment's "soil remediation criteria."[13] However, two studies, one in 1997 and another in 1999 found "[no] adverse health effects which may have resulted from environmental exposures."[13] After a series of public meetings between the City, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and Inco, it was decided to perform a Community-Based Risk Assessment, a process designed to determine whether the contamination poses a threat to the current, past, or future residents of Port Colborne, and what Inco must do to clean up the contaminated areas.[14] As of 2008, this process is only now concluding, although a few properties deemed to be at high risk have already been remediated.[citation needed]

Some residents launched a Class-Action Lawsuit against Inco in 2001[15][16] seeking $750 million in damages to health, property value, and quality-of-life. Although this suit failed to be certified in 2002,[17] it was subsequently modified to limit the class, and focus solely on devaluation of property and was certified on appeal on November 18, 2005.[18]

On July 6, 2010, the Ontario Supreme Court sided with the residents and awarded more than 7,000 households in Port Colborne a total of $36 million. Households in the Rodney Street area, in the shadow of the nickel refinery, were each awarded $23,000 while those living on the east and west sides of Port Colborne were each awarded $9,000 and $2,500 respectively.[19] Vale has since appealed the decision.[19]


Communities within the city include Bethel, Cedar Bay, Echo Beach, Gasline, Humberstone, Nickel Beach, Pine Crest Point, Pleasant Beach, Sherkston, Sherkston Beaches, Shisler Point and Silver Bay.


Port Colborne hosts the annual Canal Days festival in recognition of the important role played by the Welland Canal in the history of the city. Originating as a small fair held at the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum, it has grown to feature live music, an antique car show, fireworks, tall ships, a kite festival, and food from around the globe. The festival also highlights the presence of Lock 8, which at 1,380 ft (420 m), is one of the world's longest canal locks.[citation needed] The lock is intended as a guard to keep the water level on the Welland Canal constant independent of weather on the lake. Hence the ships are only raised or lowered one to four feet depending on the current water level in Lake Erie. Much of the festival centres around West St., which runs along the side of the canal, and has an excellent view of the Clarence St. Bridge, one of very few remaining lift bridges on the canal.

The Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum, located near the centre of town, is a resource for local history and archival research. In addition to a collection of historic buildings and artifacts, it opened up the "Marie Semley Research Wing" to foster research into local history, named to commemorate the long-standing efforts of a local resident who devoted hours to the museum.

The community features theatre venues with the professional Showboat Festival Theatre and the amateur Port Colborne Operatic Society.[20] The company has been presenting annual productions since its inception in 1945.

Kinnear House is a local heritage property associated with the jurist Helen Alice Kinnear, the first woman in Canada to be appointed judge by the federal government, or to appear as counsel before the Supreme Court.

A curiosity in town is the "incredible shrinking mill" which is an optical illusion produced when viewing the federal grain elevator. When travelling east on Lakeshore road, the mill appears to move farther away as one drives closer.[21]


There are two high schools in Port Colborne, Port Colborne High School (commonly called Port High) and the Lakeshore Catholic High School (formerly a public high school called Lockview Park Secondary School). Lockview closed in 1987.


Census Population
1871 1,500
1901 1,253
1911 1,624
1921 3,415
1931 6,503
1941 6,928
1951 8,275
1961 14,886
1971 21,420
1981 19,225
1991 18,766
2001 18,450
2006 18,599
N/A = Data Not available

Notable people


External links

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