Why do we let our downtown buildings fall into decay? Because it’s cheap and easy. How we treat our buildings says a lot about who we are as a city and who we want to be. The Dexter Arms Hotel on East Main St, a three-storey brick Italianate structure, was built in the 1870s. Today, wood boarding and brick vaneer cover what was at one time a row of beautiful large low-silled windows and stained glass. It is said the first floor once served as a place where “comfortably seated regulars” would “read their papers and monitor Main Street.”
The building is further described in “Historical and Architectural Reflections of the Founding Peoples of Welland,” published in 1992 by the LCAC of Welland (now Heritage Welland):
Both the second and third floors are similar in window style and arrangement. Typical of the Italianate style are the building’s semi-circular windows. Crowned by brick voussoirs and keystones and underscored by stone lug sills, these double-hung, double-sashed openings are positioned in an irregular spacing. Visible symmetrically placed metal tie rods stabilize the front wall. A corbelled entablature of decorative brickwork adds a second horizontal element to the main elevations.
The pictures below illustrate some of the changes the Dexter has gone through over the years.
For over 100 years, the Dexter was a popular meeting place. In 1990, when the building was renovated, the first floor was said to house “commercial uses.” There doesn’t seem to be any commercial activity going on there today. The building now stands as another symbol of neglect on an important piece of East Main Street. What can be done? Ripping out the dreary lifeless facade and re-opening the front of the building to street-level commerce would be a good start. Late last summer, there was word that the building’s owners had plans to turn it into “something Welland residents can take pride in.” Welland would certainly take pride in a building that contributes to an active Main Street.