The story behind that huge anchor as you enter downtown St. Catharines

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Published November 4, 2021 at 10:13 am

What exactly is that giant anchor on the corner of Westchester Ave and St. Paul St as you enter downtown St. Catharines?

At a passing glance, most motorists likely don’t even know it’s an anchor since it almost resembles a huge tree stump tilted on an angle.

But, in fact, it’s part of St Catharines ship-building past. It’s called the New Brunswick Anchor simply because it’s the actual anchor for the Great-Lake-faring New Brunswick ship. In August 1858, the ship floundered off the coast of Lake Erie and loaded up with the weight of oak and black walnut timbers, it sank.

Over a century later, in 1980, the anchor was discovered and given to the St. Catharines where it remains part of the city’s Civic Art Collection.

But the plaque at the base of the anchor also pays tribute to local shipbuilder Louis Shickluna, who was born in Malta but emigrated to Welland Canal area by way of Youngstown, New York in 1835. Three years ago, he shifted up to this area to work for Russell Armington Shipyards and by 1845, he purchased the shipyard outright, renaming it Shickluna Shipyards.

It is estimated his company build over 200 schooners, barkentines, steamers and other vessels all designed for service on the Great Lakes and he was considered a pioneer of inland navigation in Canada. While his son, Joseph, took over the business as his father passed until 1892, it eventually disappeared, any remnant of the shipyard now buried beneath hundreds of yards of landfill.

So it’s not just some huge, old anchor motorists see as they enter downtown St. Catharines. It’s also an important part of the city’s shipbuilding heritage.

(Historic photo of Shickluna Shipyards from the St. Catharines Library)

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