Cobourg Street was one of the original streets laid out by the Canada Company and first appears on the 1848 map. Cobourg and Albert streets were named as a pair, in honour of Albert of Saxe-Cobourge Gotha (1819 -1861) who married Queen Victoria in 1840. By Stanford Dingman

50 Cobourg St.

The Orr home: heritage site

The Orr building at 55 Cobourg St., on the northwest corner of Cobourg and Waterloo St. was in 1873 by Thomas Orr, a prominent local lumber merchant and house builder. It was his family residence and has remained in the Orr family. Orr's son, R. Thomas Orr, was an architect who worked with James Russell (see Shrewsbury Street) and founded Orr Insurance in 1895. It remains the family business, now in its fourth generation.

The Orr building is a Gothic-style residence. Typical of that style is the large gable facing Cobourg Street with a main entrance to one side. The original door is surrounded by leaded, beveled glass sidelights. The segmented arched two-over-two windows are typical of this style of house. Of note are detailed wooden shutters, and the bargeboard with a shallow scallop pattern featuring quatrefoils and leaves. The original exterior was wood siding, but the house has been covered in stucco for many years. The two chimneys have double flues with the present stacks set diagonally in the Elizabethan mode, with ornate tops. Renovations to the residence took place in 1956, and restoration in 1976. Sources: Canada's Historic Places: and Orr, Robert Thomas| Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 

Thomas Orr Sr. 

Thomas Orr was born in County Tyrone, Ireland on Dec. 26, 1833. When he was 13, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Philadelphia. He began contract work when he was about 20. On June 12, 1855, he married 21-year-old Frances (Fanny) Noble in Philadelphia. After visited by a resident of Stratford, Ont., he moved to a farm in this area, where he and Fanny settled into a two-storey frame house to accommodate their growing family, that included children Martha, John, Thomas Jr. (died young), Joseph, William, Sarah Elizabeth, Robert Thomas and Henry Noble.

In the 1861 census, Thomas is listed as a carpenter. During the next decade he transitioned from carpenter to house builder. In that role he constructed some of the finer houses and buildings in Stratford. In 1871, he established a planing mill and lumber yard on the south shore of the Avon River, about where the bandshell is today on Veterans Way. Three years later, he relocated his family from the farm to the house he built at 50 Cobourg St., the present-day offices of Orr Insurance.

Fanny Orr on Sept. 3, 1911, Thomas Orr on June 23, 1914. Both are buried with other members of the family in Avondale Cemetery.  Source: Historical Plaque Properties For additional information (see Waterloo Street)

155 Cobourg St.

Charles Farquharson, furniture manufacturer

Charles Farquharson was born in Stratford in 1877. On his marriage document, his parents are listed as John Farquharson, a shoemaker, and Catherine Cameron. He was to become one of Stratford’s leading citizens.


After leaving school, Charles Farquharson spent his life in the furniture manufacturing business. He began as a bookkeeper with the Porteus-McLagan company, where he rose to the position of secretary-treasurer. In about 1913, he joined Frank Gifford, a furniture finisher from McLagan's, but also a friend and neighbour. They formed Farquharson-Gifford Furniture Manufacturing Co. (see Douro Street).


Charles Farquharson

Charles Farquharson was a leading sports figure with local lacrosse and hockey teams. He was with the city's 1901 intermediate championship lacrosse team. In 1904, he was manager of the Stratford Indians when they won the senior Ontario Hockey Association title.


In later years, he was frequently on the managing committee for Stratford’s teams and was involved in securing a franchise for Stratford in the Canadian Professional Hockey League when it was organized in 1926. He served as vice-president of the OHA in 1910-1912 and president in 1913-1915.


In 1904, Charles married Edith May Barton, daughter of William Barton and Jemima Wilson of Stratford. A year later, Charles built the Edwardian house on Cobourg Street,where the young couple raised their family, Charles Harold and Dorothy May. Charles Farquharson died in April 1931. The house is now a bed and breakfast destination called  The Caversham House. Source: Historical Plaque Properties

Interior of James Pequegnat's store in Stratford, in about 1910

Arthur and James Pequegnat, clockmakers

The Arthur Pequegnat Clock Co. is notable as the longest-lasting Canadian-based clock manufacturer. It was the first and only company in Canada to successfully mass produce and sell clocks.

Arthur Ulysses Pequegnat was born in Switzerland. He and his family of 18 emigrated in 1874, and initially started a business importing watches for the local market in Berlin (renamed Kitchener, Ont.). Soon, he and his seven brothers owned a chain of jewellery stores throughout southwestern Ontario, operating as a kind of family conglomerate.

In 1897, Arthur  started a successful bike company in Kitchener, but in about 1900 he began to foresee the decline of the bicycle industry. He elected to retool his factory and experiment with clockmaking. In 1904, Pequegnat was ready to scale up production, and he distributed his first product catalogue to jewellers across Canada. The early clocks sold well, and customers included school boards and railway companies, both of which depended on reliable wall clocks for their day-to-day operations. The names of most of the Pequegnat reflected the names of Canadian cities. According to the Canadian Clock Museum in Deep River, Ont., "approximately 65 cataloged models of (Pequegnat) mantel clocks are known, as well as 16 models of wall clocks (with variations) and seven models of grandfather (hall) clocks."

The advent of electricity and the Second World War made the clocks unsellable, and the company closed 1943. Source: Miller and Miller Auctions

James Pequegnat 

James and Joseph Pequegnat were brothers of Arthur Pequegnat. In 1886, James and Joseph established a business at 2 Market Sq. (now Festival Square) in Stratford, where they sold and repaired watches, clocks, jewellery, fine china and elegant fixtures. James bought out his brother in 1892 and expanded the business, calling it James Pequegnat and Sons. They specialized in diamonds and optical goods.

The house at 109 Cobourg St. was built for James, and it remained in the family until 1981. It is a fine example of a Gothic Revival-style Ontario cottage. Typical of this style is the symmetrical façade with a central entrance and an arched window under the front gable.  Source: Historic Places

Arthur Pequegnat

Arthur Pequegnat Clock, The Maple Leaf

109 Cobourg St.  Photo Fred Gonder

Capt. Albert James Pequegnat 

James Pequegnat's son, Albert James Pequegnat, was a captain in the 1st Canadian Field Ambulance Corp during the First World War. When he died in 1959, his obituary reported thatafter 1917 . . . he became an ambassador of goodwill to American troops in the U.S. and Honolulu.” His brothers, George and Nelson, also served in that war and returned home safely. 

* For a treasured letter by Albert, held by the Stratford-Perth Archives, see A treasured letter home .  

Kist Canada 1924, 11 Cobourg St.  Vince Gratton . . . FB

Kist Canada

The Citrus Products Co. was founded in 1919 in Chicago, Ill. Kist and Chocolate Soldier were two of the company's brands.

Kist was bottled in a wide range of flavors, such as orange, ginger ale, lemon and grape, and became  popular. The company also offered a complete range of bottle sizes: seven ounce, 10 ounce, 12 ounce and two family sizes. Orange Kist was introduced to Canada in 1920. Kist Canada Ltd. (Stratford) was incorporated in 1933 and located at 11 Cobourg St. Eventually, the factory was for the construction of an apartment building.

In the company's early days, Harry Showalter worked for the Kist company as a chemist.

He had earned a doctorate in chemistry during the Great Depression. In 1952, at 40 years of age, he was named president of Kist Canada. He was a family man, an organist, and deeply committed to Ontario Street Baptist Church (230 Ontario St.). He was an astute businessman, active in the Rotary Club of Stratford, the Children’s Aid Society, and the chamber of commerce. 

In 1952, he headed the steering committee for the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. See the story of his part in founding the Festival on Queen Street.   Source: Gord Conroy

William Henry Hine, tavern keeper

In the early 1840s, newlyweds William Henry Hine and his wife Elizabeth left Devonshire, England, and came to Stratford, Ont. An advertisement by William in a March 24, 1848, Stratford newspaper announced the opening of his new store, offering a general assortment of dry goods and groceries which he was selling at low cost for cash or in exchange for produce. 

The business appears to have prospered because by the time of the 1851 census William was about 31 years old and the family was living in a two-storey brick house, which was remarkable because most dwellings of the period were frame or log construction.

132 Cobourg St., house built by William Hine

As Stratford grew, so too did its visitors and its number of inns and hotels. It was a development that stirred the interest of William Hine. The John Sharman family hotel, The Farmer’s Inn, (see Huron Street) at the intersection of Huron and Mornington streets had a succession of innkeepers but the one as having “the jolliest laugh that was ever heard” was William Hine, who ran the Farmer's Inn for six years, beginning in 1955. When the Grand Trunk Railway established regular service from Toronto to Stratford in October 1856, a trainload of dignitaries arrived in Stratford at about noon on Oct. 8 for ceremonies to mark the occasion. After, they attended a dinner at the Farmer’s Inn hosted by Mr. Hine, and many remained for a ball in the evening.

In 1862, he re-located to the Palmerston House on Ontario Street. There he announced his new position with an effusive newspaper ad that assured the travelling public they would find the Palmerston to be the best hotel west of Toronto. It would offer, he pledged, only the choicest food delicacies, finest wines and liquours, clean, well-aired beds and good stabling. A few years later, he was the tavern keeper at John C. W. Daly’s (see Daly Avenue) establishment on the west side of Erie Street, just south of Ontario Street.

William Hine owned various properties in Stratford. At 132 Cobourg St. in 1857 he erected a small building which housed various tenants until Donald McDonald, a labourer bought the property in 1872 and enlarged the structure. 

Records show that William Hine served as Perth County auditor from 1859 to 1862 and was a member of the Perth County Militia. Source Historic Plaque Properties

Karen Haslam, Mayor and MPP 

Karen Haslam didn't grow up in Stratford, but she made a mark here. She was mayor in 2000-2003, succeeding Dave Hunt and preceding Dan Mathieson. That was after she had been a New Democrat Party cabinet minister in Bob Rae's Ontario government from 1900-1995 . And before that, beginning in 1987, she had been a public school board trustee in Stratford. Haslam was a teacher and librarian before entering public life.

In Rae's  government she was deputy speaker, the minister of culture and communications (1991-93), and associate to the minister of health.

In 1993, Bob Rae imposed a wage freeze and mandatory unpaid days of leave for civil servants. He created what came to be known as Rae days and they were hugely unpopular. Haslam was the only minister to resign on principle. She voted against the legislation and was demoted in 1993 to associate minister of health.

Her stand won her the respect of many dissidents within the party, but the NDP were roundly defeated in the 1995 provincial election, and Haslam lost her Perth County seat to Progressive Conservative Bert Johnson. But she managed a credible second-place finish in a riding where the NDP had little historical support.

In 1999, Haslam supported Canadian Union of Public Employees workers in Stratford during a protracted strike in the city. The following year, she scored an upset victory over incumbent Dave Hunt for mayor of the city, winning with 6,305 votes (to 4,228). She was defeated in 2003 in her bid for re-election by Dan Mathieson, who then served as mayor from 2003 to 2022 when he decided not to run again. 

In October 2005, Haslam became povincial secretary of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party and later served on the Provincial Conservation Review Board. Source: Karen Haslam - Wikipedia 

99 Cobourg St.

The Athenia, 1939

First log house 

This house at 99 Cobourg St. is thought to be one of the first houses in Stratford, one of the so-called called log cabins, built of wood slats.

The owner, Catherine Paskall, said she and her husband Frank bought it when they were married in 1911. It had been the home of a Black couple who had been slaves in the United States and had escaped across the border. 

Everything inside and outside the building was grey when the Paskalls bought it. The boards were weathered and paintless. They remodelled and  made so many alterations the original house virtually disappeared. 

The exterior is now brick. On the front is a solarium with several casement windows, reminiscent of the wheelhouse on an ocean-going ship. Actually, it was patterned upon a similar room in the Buckinghamshire town where Mrs. Paskall grew up.  

Their grandson, Brian Reis, who lived at 132 Cobourg St. recounted that his grandfather was chief clerk at the Canadian National Railways freight office at Front and Shakespeare streets until his retirement. 

In September 1939, on returning home from one of their visits back to England, aboard the Donaldson Steamship Line Athenia, the ship was torpedoed  and sunk on the day Britain declared war on Germany. The Paskalls survived, but Frank's grandmother was injured. Of the 1,418 aboard, 98 passengers and 19 crew members were killed

The Athenia was the first United Kingdom ship to be sunk by Germany during the Second World War, and the incident accounted for the Donaldson Line's greatest single loss of life at sea, The sinking was condemned as a war crime.

* When the Stratford District Historical Society bought a Perth County history book, a short column of interest fell from its pages. Records thus far have not revealed the name of the original owner. Called Log Cabin Transformed, it was written by Margaret Rodger and appeared in the Stratford Beacon Herald . Additional Source: Brian Wendy Reis FB

Architecturally speaking, a self-guided tour

A self-guided walk along one of Stratford's original streets from Waterloo Street to Parkview Drive. Walking east on Cobourg Street, you will see by the dates on the plaque properties the growth of the community from the last half of the 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century. 

The majority of the houses can be classified as Edwardian brick, mostly two storey and unembellished. The houses built in the 1800s display varying Victorian styles and decorative details. Source: Architectural Conservancy Ontario 

 * Download self guided tour here 

Rundles restaurant

Tower House and the former Rundles restaurant, 

7 and 9 Cobourg St.

James Morris moved to Stratford from London, England, in 1970 to pursue an acting career. But after noting the dearth of dining options for theatregoers, he decided to open Rundles Restaurant at 9 Cobourg St., which he did in 1977. 

In the same year, he co-established with Eleanor Kane, the Stratford Chefs School to operate at Rundles and elsewhere during the off-season months. The roster of fine chefs and food purveyors that learned and taught at the school gained Stratford a reputation for fine dining.

In the late 1990s, Morris commissioned Shim-Sutcliffe Architects to redesign his restaurant and a new townhouse, called Tower House at 7 Cobourg  in the late 1990s

Tower House was refurbished in 2021 as the seven&nine inn  and the Rundles restaurant was transformed into two rental suites.