Ask Alicia – 321 St. Paul Street

Dear Alicia,

The building at 321 St. Paul Street is so beautiful and unique. It really stands out but I know nothing about it. Can you give me a little history about the building? Do you know if it is a designated heritage site?

Thank you,


321 St Paul Street 2016-3-21
Photo Attribution: Google Street View 2016/3/21


Dear L.,

The building that you have inquired about is certainly eye catching.  This Victorian era commercial building is a beautiful example of Second Empire style architecture. It was built by a man named Harper Wilson.

Harper Wilson was born in Ireland on May 29th, 1842 and by the mid to late 1850’s Wilson was working as a grocer in St. Catharines.  Wilson left St. Catharines when he enlisted in the Union Army to serve in the American Civil War where he eventually became the Captain of the 36th N.Y. and 23rd   U.S. Colored.  Despite suffering three wounds while in action, including a shell wound to the right side of his face, Wilson survived the war and returned to St. Catharines where he began the construction of a building at the corner of St. Paul and Academy Streets to house his grocery store. Construction was completed and the store was opened in 1874.

Photo Attribution: St. Catharines Museum N2487

The main floor of the building became home to Wilson’s “Broadway Grocer and Italian Ware House”.  Wilson leased other ground floor spaces to local merchants and rented out the second and third floor apartments. Originally a flag flew atop the tower with a flag that read “Broadway”.  Because of this, the location was commonly called the “Broadway Corner”.


The structure still sits upon its original limestone block foundation.  The first and second floor walls were built using locally manufactured red brick.  The third storey is a frame construction.  The mansard roof is accented with polychrome slate roofing tiles arranged in a geometric diamond pattern.  The building also features a corner tower which is surmounted by an ornamental wrought iron casting.

By 1882 Wilson moved to Winnipeg where he remained until he died of stomach cancer in 1913. The building has changed hands over the years but is currently known for being the

Photo Attribution: St. Catharines Museum, John Burtniak, 2006.77.1011

location of the “Pony Mart”.


Although the exterior of the building, in particular the slate roof, appears to be in slight disrepair, it was designated a heritage site in 2014 and is still one of the most noteworthy building facades in the city.

One comment

  1. Dear Alicia, My great grandfather Harper Wilson of whom you speak was the “Broadway Grocer”. His parents (William Wilson and Hannah Dougan) came by steamer to New York and then St. Catharines with 10 kids in 1852 where Hannah’s brother was a carpenter. I have done very extensive research on the family on If anyone would like to connect into it, I’d be pleased to be of help. Blake Willson

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