“The weekly publisher has a monopoly of interest in his own community that no city competitor can possibly take away from him. There are few areas where there is direct competition of another weekly or semi-weekly, and the local paper, therefore, has an exclusive franchise, unwritten and unofficial, to serve the home folks.” –Louis Blake Duff, (via The News & Eastern Townships Advocate)
Louis Blake Duff was the owner of the Welland Telegraph and the People’s Press from 1907-1920; in 1920 he purchased the Welland Tribune & merged all three papers into one. He was a writer, publisher, bibliophile and has been referred to as “Canada’s Dr. Johnson.”
Saracino, P. (2004). Louis Blake Duff: a neglected icon in Canada’s print history. DA, A Journal Of The Printing Arts, (54, Spring/Summer 2004), pp. 29-38.
When Duff wrote those words in the early 20th century, the world was obviously a very different place. There is no longer an “exclusive franchise…to serve the home folks” and most people would agree this is a good thing. Although today’s cacophony of voices & opinion can be distracting, there are some big ideas out there once one separates the reasoned discussion from the bluster. It is long past time we put the old fatalistic attitudes about Welland to rest. Like the men who built the canal responsible for this city’s existence, it is time to get to work.
Welland Canal Memorial Monument, Merritt Park (King St.) Photo: http://www.basdegroot.net/sculptures.html
Welland has changed an awful lot since the days of Louis Blake Duff. In the 55 years (this August) since his death, this city has suburbanized, de-industrialized, and had its core torn out. As we retreated into our comfortable TV rooms, away from the pesky problems & needs of our communities, we abandoned our once-thriving city centre.
Suburbanization has happened & we have to live with it, for all its good & bad attributes. It can be made better though.
We will never see the level of industrialization this city once knew. The downtowns of the future will not look like the downtowns of the past. And that’s OK.
Our core, however, is something that can be changed. In fact, the once-abandoned city centre has been showing some signs of life lately. And an intrepid group of entrepreneurs have started laying the groundwork for a revival by doing some very interesting things along Main St, King St, and Niagara St. It is in this core that the citizens of Welland are going to have to decide the direction they want their city to take. In the last few weeks, I have talked to a few people who have some pretty big plans.
This blog will be an experiment in the celebration of all that is good about the city of Welland & a nudge in the direction of potential solutions to what ails us. It is an expansion of the conversations that have been occurring on Twitter at @Wellandarium. I hope to hear from you about your thoughts for change. We might not always agree – in fact I might not always agree with some of the ideas I post here, myself – but if our hearts are in the right place, we can revitalize this town.