Old Robin Hood Flour Mill
May 12, 2016
One of two flour mills in Port Colborne, the other being the Maple Leaf Mill located north of the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. Until recently, Port Colborne was the largest flour milling site in Canada.
The large steel structure to the left of the building was a guide for the 15-storey ship unloader, called the “marine tower”, which rolled back and forth on railway tracks. The elevator itself has a capacity of 2.25-million bushels of wheat.
Ever since the First Welland Canal was completed to Port Colborne in 1833, Great Lakes ship owners have attempted to lower their overhead costs by constructing larger and larger vessels. When the grain growing areas of the Canadian prairies opened up during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, new bulk carriers were launched to transport grain from Fort William and Port Arthur (present-day Thunder Bay) to ports in eastern Canada and the United States. Many of these ships were too large to pass through the Canal locks. Therefore Port Colborne developed into an important trans-shipment point for the loading and unloading of grain onto smaller canal boats or connecting railways.
The Government Grain Terminal stands closest to Sugarloaf Harbour. It was constructed in 1908 to store wheat shipped from the Canadian prairies. In 1919, an explosion blew the top off the elevators, killing 10 workers, sinking a barge, and shattering windows throughout the community. The facility reopened in 1920 and continues to function as a major Great Lakes grain terminal.
The old Maple Leaf Mills facility sits immediately adjacent to the canal. Completed in 1910, it was , at one time, the largest flour mill in the British Empire. The facility was substantially rebuilt in 1960 following an explosion and fire. Today the mill is operated by Archer Daniels Midland.
These facilities, combined with the Robin Hood Mills operation on the Welland Canal near Ramey's Bend, make Port Colborne the flour milling capital of Canada.