Welcome to the first Port Robinson Proud column!
Port Robinson is the southernmost community in Thorold, a tiny hamlet tucked against the Welland River and the Welland Canal and was once one of the most populous and bustling little communities in Niagara during the shipbuilding heyday of the early 1800s.
Port Robinson boasted a thriving retail, commercial, industrial and ship building industry; many hotels, inns, shops, and businesses existed here. The ship building industry and the development of the Second Welland Canal created lucrative opportunities for residents and businesses to bloom and prosper. This was the economic hub of Niagara.
Port Robinson was even the place to be seen for social events and cotillions were held here that drew visitors and guests from as far away as Buffalo, Brantford, Dunnville, and many other places--no small feat in the days when stagecoaches and trains were the only transportation. Anyone who was anyone wanted to be seen in Port Robinson.
Several important war heroes, doctors and politicians called Port Robinson home and the community was slated to be the county seat, but lost its bid to Welland in a sly political move.
Port Robinson remained a busy community but as ship building moved out of Port Robinson and as the development of the Canal continued further south; the community began to change. It got quieter and retained a charming feel; a quaint hometown to many families for generations.
August 25, 1974 brought even more change to Port Robinson, when the Steelton freighter hit the Port Robinson bridge, ripping the steel girders and shredding the bridge into pieces-- forever fracturing the tiny community. The main artery connecting the east and west sides of Port Robinson was gone, replaced a few years later by a small pontoon ferry boat, now affectionately known as Bridge-It; which shuttles residents, cyclists, hikers and visitors across the Welland Canal six months out the year. The ferry (in some form) has been in operation since 1976.
The community once again underwent changes after the loss of the bridge, but it still preserved its peaceful appeal; an undaunting community spirit and a kind of rural peacefulness that residents still cherish.
Frequently, we are asked why we don’t fight to get the bridge replaced. We're asked if we find it inconvenient to have to drive through Allanburg or Welland to get to the other side of Port Robinson, if the community is splintered without the bridge.
The answer is no, because this community is strong. But what is really amazing about Port Robinson, is the residents. People choose to live in a tranquil place knowing full well that there will be some driving challenges to get anywhere. And here is the thing; we actually don’t want the nature of the community to change (which would happen if the bridge were rebuilt).
Port Robinson would become busy and clogged with traffic and most agree that is exactly why they love this community--- its serene and unassuming charm.
Traffic and noise are rare, and we're more likely to be stuck waiting on a train to pass or see a golf cart or two passing by. We even get to see horseback riders trotting through town, on their way to pick up the mail at our post office.
Cyclist visitors love the shady park and the pretty gazebo. It’s not unusual to see couples holding hands watching the sun set across the Canal from the shady bench on top of the old Welland Canal lock. Children laughing and playing in the splash pad and friends greeting each other on leisurely walks are common in Port Robinson.
We are the Mayberry of Thorold and we love it!
Port Robinson West is undergoing some changes now with the development of two large housing expansions west of Egerter Road. There are some definite growing pains as old, rural and calm appeal meets modern, dusty and noisy progress.
Much has changed since the energetic days of the early 1800s and the glory days of Port Robinson’s history. But what has not changed has been the indomitable spirit of the folks that call Port Robinson home.
We have different problems here; maybe no Brock student issues to contend with or downtown parking woes, but Port Robinson is a community that supports and helps each other. We look out for one another and have developed a different kind of self-reliance that comes from being so geographically separated from the main part of Thorold. It’s an interesting and often fun place to live, that’s for sure.
Port Robinson Proud is a volunteer community activist group; we have been in existence for almost six years and through our group’s Facebook page and community newsletter “ THE BRIDGE,” we keep the community informed, connected and united. We share upcoming events at our community centre, for local businesses like Bridge 12 Pub and Eatery, Club C Event Centre, NTEC, Thorold Fire Station 3 and much more. We are a positive and pro-active voice for the community and we are unwavering fans of Port Robinson. You can find out more by following www.facebook.com/PortRobinsonProud
In upcoming columns, we will share more of the vibrant and interesting history of this community, some of the quirky and historically significant figures from Port Robinson and upcoming events in the community.
Please consider taking the 10-minute drive from downtown Thorold to come visit Port Robinson, take a ride on our beloved ferry Bridge-It, come for a quiet picnic at our shady gazebo and watch the ships pass by; bring the kids to the splash pad and stay for a cold beverage or an ice cream cone at the local pub. Ride your bike along the beautiful west side bike trail or just let your senses relax as you throw your fishing line into the Welland River.
Our motto is "10 Minutes From Everywhere In The Middle of Nowhere."
Please stop by for a visit to Thorold’s southern shore!