Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Building Fort William and Port Arthur Ontario in the 1950's...


A recent find (first 3 photos) by my friend and proof reader Al Yahn inspired me to do another local then and now. The changes over the years in our Intercity area have been tremendous.  Adding to Intercity Mall which was originally started in the 1950's as well as re-routing and widening the Neebing and McIntyre rivers to accommodate a floodway, 4 laning Fort William Road and Memorial Ave., borrowing property from the fairgrounds and building up the intercity's commercial areas have totally changed the look of the intercity area from 1955 until the present day.
The first of three photos from the mid 1950's show the intercity area and the meandering McIntyre River (today joined with the Neebing River to create the Floodway).  In order to find your bearings, the red oval is the intersection of Memorial Avenue and the CNR tracks which are in the exact same location today.  The building just above the oval is  Simpsons Sears.  Just to the right of the oval and going from Memorial Ave to Fort William Road is Isabel St. (The same name today), and on the corner of Isabel and Memorial is the Sears Allstate Service and Gas Bar.  To the left of Sears is the beginnings of the rest of the mall which will include Loblaws and Zellers.  Click twice on the large photos for screen size enlargements.
This photo faces east towards Lake Superior.

Just out of the first photo to the right on Memorial Avenue was the Welcome to Port Arthur Arch.  It is shown in the next photo squared in yellow.  In all three photos the red oval is the intersection of Memorial and the CN tracks.
The next photo also shows the progress of the Intercity Mall, and all the beautiful Laurel Leaf Willow trees that were planted along Memorial Ave. to commemorate the local lives lost in the two world wars.  None of these trees exist today.  The placement of Isabel Street changed drastically over the years and the south end of the mall used up most of the old midway area of the original CLE grounds.  Today Isabel St runs right along the floodway.
This photo faces south/west.
 The last of Al's three photos shows a much larger area and the finished original Intercity Mall.  In the distance is the old CLE race track.  The area between the track and the mall was used for the midway in the early years of the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition.  An overhead view of the CLE during the fair can be seen by scrolling further down later.  Memorial Ave is on your right.  The sharp curved road on your left is Fort William Road and the CN tracks run from the bottom left of the photo to the right.

This photo faces south.

The original Simpsons Sears opened at the Mall on April 20,
 When I worked for Shell Canada in the 1960's, we supplied Shell products and fuel to the Sears Allstate Gas bar shown above.
A terrible flood in the spring of 1971 covered  the entire Intercity Mall parking lot...hence the need for a floodway.
Thanks to my friend Brian McLean, we have this south facing aerial shot taken a few years ago before most of the Thunder Centre was built on the left.  The original route of the McIntyre River would have actually passed right through where most of the stores are now in the Thunder Centre.  The CN tracks and Memorial Ave (red square) and the old Welcome Arch would have been where the yellow square is.

I took this north facing photo of the fairgrounds and Intercity Mall two years ago this month on a Porter flight from Toronto.  Here you can see the wider floodway, formerly the McIntyre River and the Neebing River between the rows of houses along Northern and Southern Ave. ice covered of course.

Here is the overhead view of the old CLE grounds in the 1950's where is utilized the property north (left of the track) via a walking bridge across the McIntyre River to the Midway area.  That area is now used by Intercity Mall.  CLICK ON ALL THE PICTURES FOR ENLARGEMENTS...

Next we have the Memorial Avenue plaques.  The first one, (The Original One) has been lost in time, and was located north of the intersection of the CN tracks and Memorial Ave.  The second one added after complaints by city residents isn't even on Memorial Ave.  It is on High Street where High approaches Memorial Ave.  You can see the Community Auditorium on the right in the distance behind it.  I believe it is still possible to re-plant the Willow trees on the boulevards along Memorial Ave., which would definitely add to the beauty of our city.
Newer and exists today.

Below is a 1957 advertisement in the Port Arthur Centennial brochure.  Loblaws had just opened at Intercity.  Gary Spence supplied this Loblaws photo captured from a Vimeo film.  Loblaws was my very first real job when in high school.  They were a great company to work for.

Finally, an Internet find shows the CLE in recent years completely on the south side of the Floodway. The old racetrack was large enough to make a complete circle around the golf dome and would extend from the Coliseum building on the left, to Fort William Road and the river on the right.  The old grandstand would have been smack dab in the middle of the Silver City Theatre.
 Yes, there has been an incredible amount of change at Intercity in 61 years, but I still miss the "Happy Days".
Thanks once more to Allan Yahn, Brian McLean and Gary Spence for the use of the photos.