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In the heart of the Niagara region is Dain City, a small community in the southernmost part of Welland with a storied past. Located at the junction of two significant rail lines with the Welland Canal running through its west, the area is now home to one of Empire’s newest communities, Empire Canals. Here, residents can live inspired by the water and come home to a community that allows them to navigate life their way.


But what was Welland of decades past? As the area grows and evolves, we take a look back at the rich layers of celebrated history that have shaped the people and places that call it home.

Then: The Battle of Cook’s Mills

During the War of 1812, a skirmish between British and American forces unfolded at Cook’s Mills, a small settlement in Welland. During this battle, the British were able to prevent American forces from entering the Niagara Peninsula, ending the Americans’ plans to recapture the Niagara frontier in 1814. In 1921, the grounds where this monumental battle took place became a National Historic Site. A cairn and plaque were added to the southwest corner of the land to commemorate fallen soldiers and this historic event.

Now: The Home of International Sporting Events

Welland is close to the shores of Lake Erie and the U.S. border, but what makes this specific area of Niagara so unique in this modern age is that it’s home to the Welland International Flatwater Centre, a competitive watersports facility offering both recreational and social activities year-round. From international rowing regattas to annual dragon-boat races, local sports enthusiasts are proud to call Welland home.

Plus, the Empire Sportsplex — the community’s new sport and recreation centre — is situated just behind, featuring six pickleball courts; three tennis courts; five beach volleyball courts; a full-size basketball court; and two half-size basketball courts for 3-on-3 play.

Then: What’s in a Name? A Reminder of Historical Roots

The Welland Canal is one of the region’s most prominent landmarks. The First Welland Canal, constructed from 1824 to 1829, was built to provide ships with a safe detour around Niagara Falls. Later, from 1831 to 1833, it was extended to link Lake Ontario with Lake Erie. Prior to the name Welland which we now know, the surrounding region was called Merrittsville, named after William Hamilton Merritt who led the building of the canal.

The area was given its present name, Welland, when it was incorporated in 1858 — an homage to the Welland River in the Golden Horseshoe. Years later, in the mid-1950s, Dain City, formally known as the Welland Junction, inherited its name. The suburb was named after the Marshall Dain Manufacturing Company — now known as John Deere — which developed the area to provide housing for its employees and was the region’s main employer for nearly 100 years. In September 2008, John Deere announced it would close its plant with a loss of 800 jobs and relocate to Wisconsin and Mexico by the end of 2009, triggering a huge change from what was perceived as the status quo for so long.

Now: A Launch Pad For Adventure

Welland has prevailed in the face of challenges — businesses have prospered, developments have been born, the population has risen, and long-time residents have thrived. Today, Welland offers a whole lot more than just thrilling sporting events. It’s filled with scenic hiking trails, heritage buildings, farm-to-table restaurants, boutique shops, fishing docks, golf courses, and concerts on the canal.

In other words, it’s a launch pad for adventure, appealing to the masses with its long list of recreational opportunities waiting to be explored.


Interested in moving to Welland, Ontario? Check out our new homes for sale at Empire Canals, the city’s newest master-planned community.


Next, discover some of the region’s top schools and learn 5 reasons why you’ll love living at Empire Canals.


Images courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons (Battle of Cook’s Mills); Welland Tribune (Welland Opera House).


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Nicole and Karla

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Nicole and Karla

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