Tom Douglas, Earl of Selkirk 


Douglas Street is one of the original streets laid out on the Canada Company plan dated 1834. The first part of the street, between Huron and St. Vincent streets, was known as Mill Street in the early days of Stratford. This was because of the planing mill that was then located along that part of the street, on the north bank of the Avon.

It was the Scrimgeour brothers' (see Norman Street) sawmill and planing mill. They did fine carpentry and cabinet work , and built many of Stratford's early houses and buildings, including churches. They also worked on the concert hall that was in the first town hall, and they did the millwork for the present Perth County courthouse. It was George Porteous who began the company's manufacture of furniture. In 1886, George McLagan, who had learned his skill as a cabinetmaker in Grand Rapids,  Mich., joined the firm and grew the furniture making in a big way.

When the first mill was destroyed by fire in 1900, the city guaranteed $35,000 in bonds for George McLagan's four-storey furniture factory on Trinity Street. It was the beginning of the boom in Stratford's furniture industry.

Mill Street (upper right, now Douglas Street) was named for Scrimgeour Bros. Planing Mill

But it was also the end of Mill Street, which then became part of Douglas Street. It was soon lined with houses along the river. No record of the origin of the street name Douglas has surfaced, but there is no doubt it was a Canada Company street. There is also little doubt that the Canada Company founder John Galt and Tiger Dunlop were well acquainted with the work of their fellow Scot, Thomas Douglas, who became the fifth Earl of Selkirk in 1799. Lord Selkirk (1771-1820) was a philanthropist on a grand scale, and his land settlement schemes in Canada must have been great inspiration for Galt and Dunlop.

Douglas was educated at Edinburgh University, where he was a member of a club for discussion of social and political issues. Sir Walter Scott was also a member on that club. Douglas embarked upon a plan to relieve the distress of the evicted "crofters" caught by the economic revolution in the Scottish Highlands. He settled his first colony of highlanders on Prince Edward Island in 1803. His chief project, however, was the establishment of a settlement in the Red River Valley, in what is now Manitoba. With a view to the founding of that colony, Selkirk acquired financial control of the Hudson's Bay Co., and in 1811 secured from the company the property rights to 45 million acres in the Red River Valley. His colonies of settlers were established near the site of the present city of Winnipeg — the first body of colonists in the northwest. By Stanford Dingman

*   For a map of the location of sawmills see  Saw Mills

151 Douglas St.  Photo Fred Gonder

The directors

A three-gabled house well back from the road at 151 Douglas St. was the short-term dwelling for a  succession of artistic directors with the Stratford Festival. Floyd  Chalmers, head of McLean-Hunter Publishing, used it when he was president of the Festival's board of governors in the 1960s. Chalmers was a philanthropist and and later gave the house to the festival. Artistic directors who stayed while working in Stratford included: Jean Gascon, Robin Philips, and John Hirsch. Actor Harold Robbins also stayed there. 

Jean Gascon  Toronto Public Library

Jean Gascon (1968-74)

Jean Gascon abandoned his penchant for a career in medicine in favour of the stage, after considerable work with amateur groups in Montreal. A scholarship in 1946 from the Government of France enabled him to study dramatic art in Paris.

Back in Canada in 1951, he co-founded Montreal's Theatre du Nouveau Monde and became its first artistic director. In 1956 he started a long association with the newly established Stratford Festival, playing the Constable of France in Henry V and directing three farces by Moliere. He returned to Stratford to direct Le Malade imaginaire in 1958 and Othello in 1959.

Between 1960 and 1963, he was the founding administrative director of the National Theatre School of Canada and was awarded the Canadian Drama Award, the Prix Victor Dore.

In 1963 he returned to Stratford to direct The Comedy of Errors, and in 1964 Le Bourgeois gentilhomme and The Marriage of Figaro. He was awarded the Molson Prize for outstanding achievement in the arts, humanities and social sciences, in 1967. From 1968 through 1974 he was artistic director of Stratford Festival. In 1977, he became theatre director of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Gascon's career in the Canadian theatre as a bilingual actor and director achieved an impressive reputation. He gained honorary degrees from McGill and Bishop's universities. He was also awarded the Order of Canada (1975), the Prix du Québec and the Royal Bank Award.  He died in 1988. Source: Wikipedia

Robin Philips (1975-80) 

Actor/director Robin Philips was born in Haslemere, England, in 1940 into a rural, working-class family. He died on July 25, 2015, in Stratford, Ont.


Phillips left school as early as the law allowed and went to work, at 15, with a costume house in London, England. He studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic and acted across the United Kingdom on television and in film. His first artistic directorship was at the Company Theatre (Greenwich, 1973-75). He moved to Canada to become the artistic director for the Stratford Festival (1975-80).

Though his appointment in Stratford was attacked as more of the Festival board's colonial attitude, Phillips soon proved to be an astute manager of both the company and of egos. His time at Stratford was marked by the championing of Canadian stars such as Martha Henry , and non-Canadians as well, among them Maggie Smith. 

Philips founded the Young Company, which became a high-profile training ground for actors and directors. He directed an eclectic selection of plays and chose seasons that would seduce other directors back into the fold, such as John Hirsch with an acclaimed production of Three Sisters in 1976, starring Marti Maraden, (see Trow Avenue), Martha Henry and Maggie Smith. He directed 40 plays for the Festival.


His work is noted for its imaginative scope and ambition, and its attention to truth and honesty of interpretation. For his contribution to Canadian theatre, Robin Phillips was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Western Ontario in 1983, the Order of Canada in 2005, and a Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010. He died July 25, 2015 in Stratford. Text and Picture: Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia

Robin Philips

John Hirsch (1981-85)

John Hirsch emigrated from Hungary in 1947 and landed in Winnipeg. After graduating from the University of Manitoba, he established the Muddiwater Puppets and an acting troupe for children. In 1957, he and Tom Hendry co-founded Theatre 77, which they combined with the Winnipeg Little Theatre in 1958 to form the Manitoba Centre (with Hirsch as artistic director). It was destined to be the model for a chain of regional stock companies across Canada.

From 1967 to 1969 he was co-director of the Stratford Festival and from 1974 to 1978 head of television drama for the CBC. From 1981 to 1985 he was sole artistic director at Stratford, sustaining the theatre in a period when its existence was threatened. Between appointments, he has guided productions for Ottawa's National Art Centre, Toronto Arts Productions, Young People's Theatre and the Shaw Festival.

When he died in 1989, his life was celebrated in star-studded public tributes in Stratford, Winnipeg and Toronto. Awards in his name have been established for young directors in Ontario and playwrights in Manitoba. In 1967, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contribution to the performing arts: Source: Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia

In 2010, Stratford honoured Hirsch with a Bronze Star, placed on George Street beside the Avon Theatre.

Stratford's noble Moor, Howard Rollins 

In 1987, Howard Rollins played Othello at the Stratford Festival  (See Cast). 

He was an American stage, film, and television actor best known for his role as Andrew Young in 1978's King; George Haley in the 1979 miniseries Roots: The Next Generations; Coalhouse Walker Jr. in the 1981 film Ragtime; Captain Davenport in the 1984 film A Soldier's Story; and as Virgil Tibbs on the TV crime drama In the Heat of the Night.  Source: Wikipedia

Howard Rollins as Othello and Colm Feore as Iago in Othello, 1987. Photo by Michael Cooper . . . FB

Mowat's castle

One of the largest houses ever built in Stratford, and the only one came to be known as a castle, was built on the south side of the Douglas Street  street, on a large corner lot east of Avondale Avenue.

William Mowat bought two lots there in 1856, and soon became publisher of the Beacon, which had been founded by Peter Eby in 1854. Before long, Mowat was a prominent businessman, who built a private bank at the corner of Downie and Wellington streets. A handsome building, it was demolished in 1979 by the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

It's not known exactly when  Mowat built his castle, but it was there in 1872 in all its glory. The glory was cut short when the bank failed and the house left empty. Mowat could not afford to live in his castle in the style for which it was were built. He moved into a small brick cottage at the corner of Caledonia and Mornington streets and leased the big house to tenants until he lost everything. In 1899, the house went up for auction. Mowat castle was demolished in 1919.

By Stanford Dingman

Mowat's bank

Rideau Hall Rebels. Early Pioneer Hockey Team. 1894. 

In the photo below, c1890, team captain, Judge Barron, is seated center right with the sticks around his head.  James Creighton is seated third from left. The sons of Lord Stanley were involved with the Rideau Hall Rebels who display their Mic-Mac hockey sticks. Source:  Rideau Hall Rebels - Ice Hockey Stick Fun - 1889 | HockeyGods 

Fun with Hockey Sticks. c.1889. Rideau Hall Rebels. 

John Augustus Barron...Hockey Pioneer and Judge - 159 Douglas

John Augustus Barron (1850-1936) was a politician, lawyer, author and judge who lived much of his later life in Stratford and served as Member of Parliament and Judge in Perth County. He served as judge from 1897 until his retirement in 1925.  He died in 1930.

Barron was also one of the early pioneers of the game of hockey. He captained the famous Rideau Hall Rebels (See Rideau Hall Rebels - Wikipedia)  who promoted the game by touring and playing exhibition games. 

Barron also lived for some time at 159 Douglas Street. See below for a Then and Now feature. 

Barron Street is named in his honour. (see Barron Street). Added  details of Barron's legal and political life life as well as her work as an author are available there. This entry will highlight his role in the early days of hockey. 

The Rideau Hall Rebels or, by its full name, the Vice-Regal and Parliamentary Hockey Club was one of the first ice hockey teams in Canada. The team was based out of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and named after Rideau Hall, our Canadian governmental building, the residence of the Governor General. This team introduced ice hockey to then Canadian Governor General Lord Stanley, who would later donate the Stanley Cup championship trophy.

Organized by James Creighton in 1884, and captained by John Augustus Barron, the team consisted of young Canadian parliamentarians and government 'aides-de camp' including Mr. Creighton and Edward and Arthur Stanley, sons of Lord Stanley. This group of players would travel to matches around Ontario in the Governor-General's private rail-car. 

Between 1890 and 1891, during the first two years of the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), Barron acted as a vice-president of the league. When the OHA was founded on November 27, 1890, at the Queen's Hotel in Toronto, Barron was chairman of the meeting.

Early Hockey and Fighting. Those who know about hockey wonder if fighting was always part of the game. Here is an excerpt from an article from Hockey News about the early days of the Rideau Hall Rebels and fighting.

"It’s fair to say that, for as long as the sport has existed, there’s been a connection between hockey and fighting. Indeed, the first indoor hockey game ever played – March 13, 1875, in Montreal – was followed by fisticuffs between players and spectators and others who wanted to use the arena for skating. 

"And although there’s been no shortage of critics who decried it right from the start, fighting has, for better or worse, helped shape the destiny of the game from its earliest days. 

Photo: to the left. Judge John Augustus Barron is shown seated, wearing a  striped tie, fourth from the right, in this team photo of the Rideau Hall Rebels. Photo c. 1890.

The First Fight Between Team Players on Record. 1890. "The first evidence hockey historians have of a fight in a game is from one of the first contests that took place in 1890 in Ontario. On Feb. 8, as part of a barnstorming tour of the province, the Rideau Hall Rebels (who played out of Ottawa) were taking on the Granite Hockey Club in Toronto when a major melee broke out. That fight was a prominent factor, if not the driving one, in the organization of hockey in Ontario.

"The next season, Arthur Stanley – the son of Stanley Cup founder Lord Stanley Preston, and a member of that Rideau team – convened with other prominent figures from Ottawa to form the Ontario Hockey Association. In that league-founding meeting, they made no bones about one of the reasons they required an organizing body. “Part of that meeting was to prevent the activities that happened in Toronto from happening again,” said Kevin Slater of the Society for International Hockey Research. “Specifically, they didn’t like getting their asses kicked.” 

Source: From deaths to monsters, a history of fighting in hockey - The Hockey News.

A Capsule History of Barron's Life beyond Hockey. Barron was elected to the House of Commons of Canada in 1887 as Member of the Liberal Party in the riding of Victoria North. He was re-elected in 1891 but unseated by petition and lost in the riding by-election on February 11, 1892. Prior to his federal experience, he was reeve of Lindsay, Ontario for eight years. He also participated in the Fenian Raids between 1866 and 1871 and authored numerous books.

In 1897, Barron was appointed judge of Perth County and served as county judge until his retirement in 1925. Barron died in Stratford in 1930 and is buried in Avondale Cemetery. 

Honours. The Township of Barron in Nipissing District was named after him, which in turn gave its name to the Barron Canyon and the Barron River... Other sources: Stratford and District Historical Society FB; Rideau Hall Rebels - The Vice Regal & Parliamentary Hockey Club | HockeyGods;  Judge John Augustus Barron (1850-1936) - Find a Grave Memorial; John Augustus Barron - Wikipedia 

159 Douglas Street  1902.

159 Douglas Street.  2023. 

The house at 159 Douglas Street is on the City of Stratford Municipal Heritage Register Non-Designated Properties list. It is described as built in the Queen Anne style. It is a two storey red brick house with segmentally and semicircular arched windows with brick voussoirs and stone sills. The house features a front porch with horseshoe shaped arches reminiscent of the original porch. It also features decorative wooden brackets supporting the eaves; and a front facing gable with vergeboard and a small square window below its peak. Source: Final-City-of-Stratfords-non-designated-properties

154 Douglas Street. Built 1911 by Moses Schlotzhauer. 

252 Ontario Street, below. This home was owned by Moses and Mable Schlotzhauer after the sale of Douglas Street until Mrs. Schlotzhauer sold it to T. G. Whiteside and his wife Leila in 1951. 

Moses Schlotzhauer - Builder & Contractor

In 1911, Moses Schlotzhauer (1882-1937) built the house on the property that is 154 Douglas Street. In 1903, and already a merchant in Stratford, he had married Mabel Hattie Brown (1881-1982) from Arthur Township in Wellington County.  In 1908, Moses and Mabel were the parents of a son, Kenneth Basil (1908-1975). He grew up in Stratford, graduated from Central Collegiate, studied medicine at the University of Toronto and  returned to Stratford in 1935 to set up practise as a family physician. 

Moses' father Henry, as a 17 year old, had left Hamburg Germany in 1856 onboard the sailing ship Julie Heyn, and, after landing in Quebec made his way to Ellice Township (Perth East) where he set up a saw mill operation and acquired farming lands. It is perhaps not surprising that two of his three sons, Moses and Edward, established themselves as builders in Stratford.

Many of Stratford and Perth County’s early settlers came from the British Isles but immigrants from Germany were also a very significant presence eventually comprising about one third of the population of the county. They came to this area either from earlier migrations to eastern American states or directly from Germany, and established well known and prosperous businesses. 

The Brandenberger Block on Wellington Street is named for William Brandenberger, an early resident whose son Albert built Theatre Albert, now the Avon Theatre. (see Downie Street). Brothers John and George Kalbfleisch came here from Germany in the 1830s. (see Erie Street). William Rischmiller, (see Market Place), who was also a native of Germany, owned and established a sawmill in the 1840s on the site where the original Town Hall and Market Building stood before fire destroyed it in 1897. (see Market Square and Wellington Street). The present City Hall was built on the original plot of land. occupied by that first Town Hall and Market Building.  

Although Moses Schlotzhauer built 154 Douglas, he and his wife Mable moved to a white brick cottage at 252 Ontario Street from which he conducted his business as a builder. His brother Edward was located nearby. Their sisters, Sarah, Mary and Amanda married, respectively, Oliver Peter, a cheese maker, Adam Manz, an Ellice Township farmer and Harry Diehl, a bricklayer, later a postman. The youngest family member, and the third son, Samuel, emigrated to the United States, settling in Glendale, California where he pursued a career as a salesman. US/Canada Cross Border records show that his brother Edward made the cross-continent trip to visit him and his family.   


In 1937, Moses died at age 57.  Mabel lived on in the house on Ontario Street, until she sold it in 1951 to Thomas George Whiteside, who owned and operated the Stratford Paper Box Factory for more than 50 years. (see St. Patrick Street). Mrs Schlotzhauer then moved to George St. and passed away in 1982 at 99 years of age. All are buried in Avondale Cemetery. Source: Stratford-Perth County Branch ACO (Architectural Conservancy of Ontario) | Historical Plaque Properties; Moses Schlotzhauer (1882-1937) - Find a Grave Memorial;  Thomas George Whiteside (1883-1967) - Find a Grave Memorial