The Battle of Douro

Douro Street is one of the original Canada Company street names on the 1848 Stratford map. It has since been extended and now runs from near the south end of Waterloo Street to C. H. Meier Boulevard in the east end of the city. The street is named in honor of Wellesley, Duke Arthur of Wellington, England's greatest military leader, who title (Wellington) is also on one of the city's main downtown streets. In 1808-09, Wellesley received chief command of the Peninsular Army in Portugal and drove Marshal Soult out of that country. Wellesley's brilliant success over the French at the battle of the Douro River in 1809 won for him the title, Baron Douro. 

The Canada Company was British to the core, and 40 years later (in 1848), was still paying tribute to a the British baron and his British victory. The naming of Wellington Street was further indication of his popularity with the Canada Company 

In addition to the title of Baron that came to Wellesley for his outstanding military victory at the Battle of Douro. He was also created Viscount Wellington for his heroics in Portugal. Originating in Spain, where the Spanish spelling of the name is Duero, the Douro is the highest-flow river of the Iberian Peninsula. From Spain, it meanders into the Portuguese province of Douro Litoral and flows west to the Atlantic Ocean below the city of Porto (Oporto).

Porto is the second city of Portugal and is situated on hills on the north side of the Douro Gorge. Though rapids impede navigation on the Douro, which is 480 miles long, the river is used by light vessels engaged in the wine trade. The Douro Valley is famous for its vineyards, which produce some of the world's best port wine. Half of Portugal's port is shipped from Porto (which means port), mostly to England. So, here's to Baron Douro with a glass of good port wine from the Douro Valley. With notes from Stanford Dingman Photos: Marshal Soult top, Wellington below

29 Douro St.     Photo: Fred Gonder

J. D. Barnett's desk

Dr. John Davis Barnett

There is another man closely associated with Douro Street who also deserves a toast. When Dr. John Davis Barnett died in London (Ontario) in 1926, the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) mourned the death of their first private benefactor. Though Huron received its university charter from the Ontario Legislature in 1878, it was 40 years before a private benefactor came forward. He was John Davis Barnett of Stratford and he lived at 29 Douro St. The long-awaited private benefaction, when it finally came in 1918, was not in the expected form of money. 

It was 42,000 books, filled the rooms of Barnett’s Stratford home. Known around Stratford as the man whose house was held up by books, Barnett said it was literally true. He had helped build the Grand Trunk repair shops in Stratford (1907-09) and, as a fine draftsman, was proud of the fact that he had made the drawings for the first coal-staff, burning locomotive built in Canada. By: Stanford Dingman  

When he retired, Barnett used his railway pass to travel all over North America, collecting early imprints, first editions and rare volumes which he brought back to fill his home on Douro Street. He gave his collection to the university in 1918 for one dollar (which he always said he never got paid) and his gift became the basis of the present Western University library. It was a library which originated on Douro Street and it contained one of the finest Shakespearean collections on the continent. He had 1,500 volumes and scholars from around the world came to see them. Picture: University of Western Ontario   

Note: In 1871, when the Grand Trunk Railway moved its equipment and mechanical personnel from its repair shops in Brantford to Stratford, the railway's "literary institute" came as well. Barnett was both booster and president.   

* See Flashback Article John Davis Barnett Desk 

Farquharson-Gifford Co., Ltd. 

In January 1913, two Stratfordites, Charles Farquharson and Frank M. Gifford, of the George McLagan Furniture Co., negotiated with councillors for concessions toward their own furniture factory, which they built on the northwest corner of Romeo and Douro streets. Through a bylaw, ratepayers guaranteed bonds worth $20,000 and granted free land for the establishment of the Farquharson-Gifford Co. Farquharson was the company president, Gifford the secretary-treasurer.

Initially anticipated to measure 150 feet by 60 feet, local architect James S. Russell created plans for a 100 feet by 60 feet building, but four storeys tall. The ground floor contained offices and shipping rooms. The building costs were expected to be $30,000, for a factory to produce upholstered furniture. Some of its key products included chesterfields, davenports (sofas), and den chairs.⁣

390 Douro St.

In 1914, the young Farquharson-Gifford Co. stepped up to contribute to the First World War effort, and produced shoulder, cap, and collar badges, as well as pillow cases, paillaisses (sacks to fill with straw bedding), bolsters, and bedsteads. ⁣

War or no war, Farquharson-Gifford and nine other Stratford furniture manufacturers, annually staged the Stratford Furniture Exhibition to showcase the latest and greatest lines from Stratford’s esteemed furniture manufacturers. In 1917, that show ran from Jan. 10 to Jan. 20.

Farquharson-Gifford’s contributions to the Allied effort in the Second World War are less clear. A 1939 contract, however, indicates the Department of National Defence tasked Farquharson-Gifford with the production of some arm chairs.

⁣After more than 50 years in furniture manufacturing, Gifford sold the business on March 1, 1951. The factory retained its original name. As the photo attests, the building still stands 107 years later, at 390 Duour St..   Source: Stratford History Facebook

Herbie Fink Band

The Otto Henderson Band, as it appears on the south wall of Allen's Alley on Wellington Street.

In the 1930s and '40s there was always a band playing in Stratford., if it wasn’t at the riverside Casino or at the pavilion at in Upper Queens Park, it was at the Winter Garden dance hall on Market Place (upstairs at 31 Market Pl.). The Otto Henderson Band, comprising Tommy Murdock, Herbie Fink, Walter Kalmusky, Bill Carter, Jack Purdue, Otto Henderson, Julia Brodhagen Smith and Erlyn Wilker, was just one of the many bands that regularly played live on Stratford’s CJCS radio station. 

Before the new Tom Patterson theatre was on the south bank of the Avon River just east of Waterloo Street, that address had belonged to "the Casino," a transformed curling rink that boasted one of the best dance floors in southwestern Ontario. The Henderson outfit and other local bands were regularly featured in the Casino. They were the sounds of Stratford: strings, horns, piano drifting through the night sky into the park and and across the river. What a time to be alive!

Several Stratford musicians are featured on the walls of Allen’s Alley, on Wellington Street. Information for all of them can be found on the poster within Allen’s Alley. Click Allen's Alley. The murals were painted by Tyler John, Vlada Kato and Dave McCready.  Herbie Fink lived on 47 Douro St. in the 1950s. 

Buckingham House

The house at 67 Douro St. is associated with three prominent railway workers in Stratford. The residence was built for David Agnew, a locomotive engineer for the Grand Trunk Railway in 1880. Agnew was one of the best-known railwaymen in the city and served as an engineer for 30 years.

Frank E. Baker bought the property in 1922. He was a conductor for the Canadian National Railways. The Baker family owned the property until 1938.

The new owner in 1946 was Fred J. Buckingham, a machinist with the CNR until its locomotive repair shops closed in the early 1960s. Buckingham turned the house into a duplex in the late 1950s. It now houses a bed-and-breakfast business called Buckingham House .

67 Douro St. Photo: Fred Gonder

The house, built in 1880, is Italianate in design. Its exterior features include decorative brick details, high windows, overhanging eaves and period wooden bracket trim. The house received heritage designation under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2006. Interior renovations have brought the amenities up to date while preserving some original features and the house's inherent charm. Canadian and English antique furniture and art grace the rooms, which are decorated in a Victorian palette. Source: Historic Places

Cavalier Crusader Cruiser  Photo: Vince Gratton

Chris Craft boats

The Chris Craft boat company was founded in the United States 1874. In a plant at 750 Douro St., from 1965 to 1970, it manufactured 586 of its Cavalier Crusader Cruisers before a market trend towards increasingly popular fiberglass boats slowed the sale of the plywood-based Crusaders, and forced the plant's closure. The building is now part of the Cooper Standard Automotive operation in Stratford.

The accompanying photo was taken to promote Chris Craft Industries' presence in Stratford. With the help of a crane, an entry-level 27-foot Cavalier Crusader was set in the shallow waters of the Avon River in front of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival Theatre.

Chris Craft employees pose with their made-in-Stratford boats

 In 1907, a Wagon with a load of ladders turns onto King Street. The home seen in the photo is 314 Douro., still with us today.  Photo: Stratford and District Historical Society.   

314 Douro in 1907


Those notes above are the details on the back of the Post Card but the street is not identified. Vince Gratton, local historian and Post Card collector, made the identification and what at first might have been thought of as boxes or furniture on the wagon, turned out to be something else. .

"Those are ladders. There was a plant located at the south end of College Street which manufactured ladders at the turn of the last century. This wagon is pulling on to King street. We are looking south here and the home is on the corner of Douro and King Street. Number 314 Douro. it is still there today." Vince Gratton. Source: Stratford and District Historical Society FB. .