Ask Alicia – Buchanan Hall

Alicia,

Just wondering if you have any history on the Buchanan house? I would find that super interesting.

Thanks,

Nancy

Buchanan Hall
Photo Attribution: Kathleen Powell 2016/5/5

 


Dear Nancy,

For those who are not aware, Buchanan Hall is the brick building located at 360 Niagara Street across from Laura Secord Secondary School.  The first records documenting the property indicate that William Price patented the lot on June 30, 1801.  The property was a 32 acre piece of land that stretched along Niagara Street from Carlton Street towards Scott Street.  Very little is known about Price, however he and his two sons served during the American Revolutionary War.  Price sold the 32 acres of land to his step-father-in-law.

Ownership of the land changed hands a number of times.  It is believed that the large homestead was built around 1860 by the Gilleland family.  Eventually the farm and the buildings on the property were sold to Mr. Thomas Buchanan. The house now known as Buchanan Hall served as a farm house for himself and his family, which included his wife and four children.

Thomas Buchanan was born between 1828-1830 in Brucefield, Fifeshire, Scotland.  The original building was a two storey, eleven room home.  The house is set on a limestone foundation and the exterior walls were constructed using monochromatic, red brick.  There was also a two storey wing that extended off the east end of the house and the north-east corner of the house had a one storey mud room.  There was at one time a bell-cast verandah with four wooden columns.  The verandah was demolished when the building was enlarged around 1939.  The original building had at least three brick chimneys.  The Buchanan’s operated their farm in that location until around 1916 when they sold it to the City of St. Catharines for $18, 000.

The Federal government purchased the property and the buildings that sat on the property around 1926.  The building underwent various alterations and in 1929 the government relocated the Dominion Plant Pathology Laboratory from its previous location on St. Paul Street to Buchanan Hall, where the it operated for 30 years.

The Dominion Plan Pathology Laboratory, established in 1912, was responsible for completing research in order to provide local growers with important information about issues related to farming in the Niagara Peninsula, mainly in regards to diseases and organisms that would ruin plants, trees and the fruit they bore. In 1968, the Dominion Plant Pathology Laboratory was moved to the Vineland Research Station. At this time the City of St. Catharines took over the property and signed a 100 year lease.

In 1972 Niagara College leased the property as well as Buchanan Hall and another house that sat on the property called “Mountain House”.  Here, Niagara College established a school of horticulture. In 1999 the program was moved from Buchanan Hall to the Niagara College’s Glendale campus.

Also in 1999 the City of St. Catharines made a recommendation to demolish Buchanan Hall as it needed a significant amount of repairs that could possibly reach a cost of over $1 million.  However, a volunteer group in St. Catharines requested the city turn the building over to them to create a Children’s Discover Centre / Museum.  The city agreed and in 2000 began leasing the building to the Children’s Museum for $1.00 per year.  In that same year, the adjacent Mountain House was set on fire by vandals. It was later demolished.  By 2003 enough repairs and alterations had been made to Buchanan Hall and the Discovery Centre opened.

By 2006 the Children’s Discover Centre fell into financial hardship.  They requested financial support from the city, which was approved.  However, by 2007 the Discovery Centre was no longer able to remain open and the YMCA took over Buchanan Hall and agreed to rent the building for $2.00 for twenty years.  In 2012 the YMCA moved out of Buchanan Hall and it has since been used as administrative space by the City of St. Catharines.

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