Hugh and James McSloy established the Canada Hair Cloth Company in 1884. In 1888 they bought a parcel of land behind St. Paul Street from the Dolphin Paint Company and built a 3 storey brick building. The site was ideal because it was next to a mill-race where water wheels provided the power to run the machines. Within a few years they bought an electrical generator which used the mill wheel as its turbine making it the first company in St. Catharines to use electricity. The Canada Hair Cloth business stayed in the family until sold in 1996.
The Welland Canal was the first Canadian canal built for both transportation and waterpower (1824 & 1833). St. Catharines was one of the main water-powered industrial centers along the canal. Remains of the raceways can still be seen behind the Canada Hair Cloth building and the name Race Street reminds us of the city’s hydraulic heritage.