Downie Street

Robert Downie

The Appin Way

Downie Street takes its name from Robert Downie, an English member of parliament, and one of the 18 members of the first court of directors of the Canada Company. Robert Downie Esq. was elected at a meeting of the court held in the London (EngLand) Tavern on Friday, July 30, 1824. Though many of the townships in this area are named for members of the Canada Company directors, Downie is the only director for whom a Stratford street is named. In that Stratford owes its existence to the Canada Company, Downie's name is an important link with the past. On an 1829 survey map of this area, the future town site of Stratford is shown with the name "Appin," and it is probable that Canada Company founder John Galt chose this name in honour of his friend, "Mr.Downie of Appin." But the name "Appin" soon disappeared. Downie is one of the oldest streets in Stratford and was first named Downie Road on the 1839 Canada Company map on an 1834 survey by John McDonald (see 1834 Map).   

In the early years, Downie Street was just a mud road leading to the townships. It was later paved with logs laid crosswise to form what was known as a corduroy road. The coming of the railway to Stratford in 1856 gave Downie Street its start as an important commercial and residential street. Prior to that, the main development in the town had taken place along Ontario and Huron streets. The early railway stations serving Stratford all were in the vicinity of the present CNR station. During the period of transition from stagecoach travel to rail travel, Downie became increasingly important as the main route to and from the various railway stations. It became the main access to the centre of town, not only for the travelling public, but also for the shipment of raw materials, manufactured goods, livestock and produce. Almost overnight, the focus of commercial development in Stratford swung from Ontario, Huron and Erie streets to Downie and Wellington streets and the area surrounding the present city hall.

The Stratford town hall was completed in 1857 on the same site as the present building. It was considered to be one of the finest town halls in Ontario and quickly became the centre of business and social activity. Its location greatly enhanced Downie Street. The site had previously been occupied by a sawmill and potash works on the stream that still flows in the "Romeo arch" that runs under the Avon Theatre, crosses under Downie Street and Market Place, and eventually empties into the Avon River. In the early days of the Theatre Albert (now the Avon Theatre) it was said that members of the orchestra, playing in the pit, sometimes had to wear rubber boots to keep from getting wet feet. They even did a little "pit fishing" through holes in the "Romeo arch," especially during Shakespearean productions. The new town hall also served as a market building and concert hall. The building's increased activity added greatly to the importance of Downie Street.

The first block of Downie, from Ontario to Albert and Wellington, soon became known as Market Street because it led to the new market. The name stuck until about 1908, when it again became part of Downie Street because of confusion with Market Place. That first block became the focal point of Stratford's red-brick Victorian architectural style. Handsome three-storey business blocks, an arcade and shops lined both sides of Downie Street. The Victorian streetscape was further enhanced by the building of the present city hall in 1898, after fire destroyed its predecessor. Market Street provided the vital link between Ontario Street and Downie and Wellington streets. It was a high traffic area, particularly for pedestrians. For many years, the T. Eaton Co. had a department store on the west side of the block. The old Eaton's store and the Gordon Block were saved from threatened demolition to house new shops in what came to be called Festival Square. Other buildings on the block did not fare so well. Three of the banks destroyed their buildings, all in this block. In their mad dash to enter the computer age, the banks obliterated much of Canada's downtown Victorian architecture. Fortunately, our big red tomato (the city hall), was saved from the same fate and refurbished. Now it even has a garden to welcome you to the front steps.

Stratford is not so easily destroyed. Robert Downie would be proud of the progress his street has made, running as it does, from the centre of the city, through the downtown, to the railway, and into the residential, industrial and park areas of the city's south end, and then into the townships, and even to Tavistock if one is to turn left at Harmony. With notes from Stanford Dingman

Dr. Edward Henry Eidt, grandfather of the city's park system

Dr. Eidt's dental office at the turn of the century (early 1900s) was at 3 Market Sq.,in what is now referred to as Festival Square. The north end of Downie Street was called Market Square at that time. From the Market Street location of his office, Eidt could view on an almost daily basis the degradation of the Avon River. That kickstarted his interest in rehabilitating both the river and its shoreline park system.

Born in Wilmot Township in 1864, Henry Eidt came to Stratford in 1889, after completing his dental training. Eight years later, he began a 10-year run as a city alderman. A nature lover by heart, he became a crusader out of what he deemed necessity, if Stratford were to revitalize its sadly decaying river and parklands.

He pushed hard for the creation of a board of park management. And when he prevailed in that struggle, he was given the job of creating the first board, which he did by enlisting John Read, Daniel Dempsey, Alfred Roberts, H. M. Johnston, George Hess and R. Thomas Orr.

Eidt was 72 when he died on Aug. 16, 1937. At the time, he was in his sixth year as secretary-treasurer of the city's board of education. He had also been active with Stratford's agricultural and horticultural societies. But it was his dedication to the park system that set him apart. Upon his death, an editorial in the Beacon Herald highlighted that dedication: "As far back as 1903, Dr. Eidt was an alderman with a vision of what nature, aided by man's handiwork, could do for his city. His cultural tastes found inspiration in the natural beauty of the Avon Valley. His forward-looking mind envisioned a matchless park system that would make the Classic City a community of health and happiness."


The four men most responsible for developing the park system were Thomas J. Dolan (see Dolan Drive), a newspaper man and member of the parks board; George McLagan (see Mclagan Drive), a furniture manufacturer who donated money and land for the cause; R. Thomas Orr (see Veterans Drive), a prominent businessman and charter secretary of the parks board; and Dr. E. Henry Eidt whose civic accomplishments are highlighted by his push for and creation of that board. In recognition of these men, there is the T. J. Dolan Drive (see Dolan Drive) and T. J. Dolan Natural Area; McLagan Drive; and the R.Thomas Orr Dam. The city has yet to honour Henry Eidt in such fashion.

Thanks to Dean Robinson for the history of Dr. Eidt, taken from his book Not The Last Waltz and other Stratford stories.

Theatres: Albert, Majestic, Avon

Among the musical families of Stratford were the Brandenbergers who ran a sausage business and hotel on Wellington Street (the Blowes building). Albert Brandenberger, a Stratford citizen and reputedly a theatre man of some considerable experience, had long wanted to establish a proper theatre in his hometown. His ambition was ignited by the fire in 1897 that destroyed the original city hall, and with it the only performance hall in Stratford worthy of the name. In due course, Brandenberger acquired a building site at the corner of Downie and St. George streets, which hie bought from Mary Patterson, grandmother of the  Tom Patterson, who half a century later would found the Stratford Festival.

According to the Beacon Herald of July 7, 1967, the architect of Theatre Albert may have been Harry J. Powell of Stratford. In any event, construction of the building began in 1900. Brandenberger named the building, designed to seat 1,250, Theatre Albert after himself and, some said, also after Queen Victoria's consort. The new theatre, though not completed, opened on Jan. 1, 1901, with The Female Drummer, the first stage show in the city's first legitimate theatre.

Albert Theatre

Majestic Theatre

Avon Theatre

By 1910, Brandenberger had enlarged and improved the building, giving most of his attention to the interiors as well as adding on a stagehouse of wall-bearing brick, the timber framed ceiling of which hung 46 feet above the stage. Stage dimensions were a respectable 32 feet back wall-to-proscenium-line, by 54 feet wall-to-wall on the wings. The proscenium arch measured 32 feet wide and 21 feet high. There was an orchestra pit of modest size, part of it taken up by a storm water culvert that conducted Romeo Creek diagonally under the building, as it does today .Once again, the travelling shows, operas and local musical productions could be put on in proper style.

 Audience seating for about 1,100 was arranged in aisle-access fashion on two levels, much as it is now, except for the introduction of cross-aisles in the late 1960s. From a centre point, five feet upstage of the proscenium line, the furthermost seats in this house were, and have remained, about 90 feet away, acceptable for lyric stage productions but not so cozy for drama.

The auditorium decor, as it emerged from the 1910 refurbishings, was vaguely akin to Edwardian style, with bas relief touches reminiscent of the brothers Adam. The exterior façade of the building's commercial block, fronting on Downie Street, mercifully replaced by a modern edifice in 1967, was of little architectural merit. In 1910, Brandenberger declares his theatre "The house of polite vaudeville and motion pictures," and changed its name to the Griffin Theatre. He sold his interest in the place in 1924, and it was renamed the Majestic Theatre. Under yet other ownership in the 1940s, the theatre was given the name it now has - the Avon Theatre. In 1956, 30 years after Albert Brandenberger had died, his building once more became the venue for legitimate theatre, opening in the summer of that year with Le Theatre du Nouveau Monde in Three Farces by Moliere, directed by Jean Gascon. With the founding of the Stratford Festival, the renaissance of Theatre Albert had begun. Source: Canada West Library UToronto  Pictures: Stratford-Perth Archives 

Justin Bieber

It can be said that Justin Bieber got his start on the steps of the Avon Theatre.

The Stratford Perth Museum had an exhibit called: Justin Bieber: Steps to Stardom, which opened in 2018. It was an overwhelming hit for the small museum. Prior to the Bieber exhibit, the museum received a few thousand visitors in a good year. With the exhibit in place, that number jumped to more than 20,000 visitors a year, Bieber among them, more than once. A book penned by John Kastner presents a behind-the-curtain look at the exhibit. Justin Bieber: Steps to Stardom features 100 colour photos of some of the most iconic pieces of memorabilia in the exhibit, as well as never-before-told stories behind what makes the items significant. Source: Stratford Perth Museum

Click above to see the Star of Stratford - Justin Bieber (before he was famous), playing on the steps 0f the Avon Theatre). The city honoured him with a Bronze Star on its Walk of Fame on July1,v2011.

Pattie Mallette, actor, author

Pattie Mallette was born in 1975, in Stratford, Ont., of French descent. She is the mother of Justin Bieber

As a child, Mallette showed an interest in acting and singing. At age nine, she began appearing on local television programs, including Romper Room and Big Top Talent, a locally televised children's eating contest. When she was 10, she was cast in two theatrical productions in the Stratford Festival. Through middle and high school, she took every drama and choir class available, along with seven years of dancing. After earning numerous trophies and awards for her singing and acting, she signed with a Toronto-based talent agent.

Mallette encouraged her son after he began showing an interest in music at the age of two. In 2007, she entered Justin in the local "Stratford Star" talent show where he sang Ne-Yo's song, So Sick, finishing second in the competition. Mallette posted a video of the performance on YouTube for their family and friends to view and continued to upload videos of subsequent performances as her son's online popularity grew.

In September 2012, her autobiography (co-written with A. J. Gregory) Nowhere but Up was published. The book is about the troubled upbringing of Mallette and the personal transformation of turning abandonment and single parenthood into strong faith and a life filled with grace and hope. During the first week of release, it was No. 17 on the New York Times best seller list. Source: Wikipedia

Walk of fame

Bronze stars in front of the Avon Theatre.  * Click on  slide photos by Fred Gonder below.

Scott and Christina 

Scott McKowen and Christina Poddubiuk

Scott is an award-winning illustrator, graphic designer and art director, specializing in graphics for theatre and performing arts. He works in scratchboard, an engraving medium in which white lines are carved into a black surface with a sharp knife. He has illustrated a wide range of books for many publishers, including 36 titles in the Sterling Classics series (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, Gulliver’s Travels, Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables), and eight covers for 1602, Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel for Marvel Comics. He has also illustrated Jane Urquhart’s book, A Number of Things, stories of Canada told through 50 objects, published by Harper Collins for the Canadian sesquicentennial.

Includes Story of Stratford's War Memorial

For almost three decades, 428 Downie St. has been Scott McKowen’s home and studio. The original building was standing when land records were introduced in Stratford in 1856, and was once used as a boarding house for workers on the nearby railway operations. Scott and his designer-wife, Christina Poddubiuk, bought the house next door in the 1990s. It was in rough shape and had to be demolished, and in its placed built a modern studio (inside reusing the yellow brick of the original house). It’s joined to their original Victorian home at 428 Downie. It is in the front room of this house where he creates his distinct illustrations. Source: Stratford Literary Walking Tour

 Punch and Judy Inc. is a small design studio operated by Scott McKowen and Christina Poddubiuk. He is an art director, graphic designer and illustrator specializing in graphics for theatre and performing arts. She is a costume and set designer with a strong background in the classics, having worked with theatres across North America. Source:  Punch and Judy Picture: Thanks to Scott and Christina

Note: Scott McKowen designed the plaque honouring Walter Allward, who created the Stratford war memorial. (see Erie Street).

The Gordon Block: the final jewel.

The heritage building at 2-12 Downie St.,  commonly referred to as the Gordon Block, is on a five-sided parcel of land at one of Stratford's most prestigious downtown intersections. The architect of the three-storey red-brick building is unknown, but the date of construction has been traced to 1893-94. William Gordon, mayor of Stratford in 1894-1895 and 1907-1908, was the man behind the construction and planning. The unique form of the Gordon Block is the result of its location at the intersection of Downie, Ontario, and Erie streets in the heart of Stratford. Its large massing and two towers make it an urban landmark within the downtown, and its vertical character provides a unifying quality that matches much of the fabric of the area. The structure abuts a building to the south once known as the Beamish building (1888), and together they form an indoor shopping centre called Festival Square. 

Gordon Block       Fred Gonder

The Gordon Block is representative of the early growth and development of the City of Stratford. Its construction was one of the projects commissioned by the city's first mayor, William Gordon. The building was also the last brick commercial building of the 19th century constructed in Stratford's downtown core, thus signifying the end of a period of intensive expansion and commercial development (1870 to 1900). Upon threat of demolition in the mid-1970s, the building was restored by a heritage-minded developer and now stands as one of the focal points in the downtown core. The preservation of the building's façade was historically significant, in that it launched heritage conservation practice in Stratford.

The Gordon Block is an excellent example of a late-Victorian commercial building that incorporates design influences from a variety of architectural styles. Among the most notable of the building's features are the two pyramid-capped corner towers along the main (north) façade and the intricate brick corbelling along the roofline. As impressive as those features may be, the Gordon Block is the first building in Stratford to be constructed of a cast-iron frame. Timber frame construction had been predominant throughout the downtown core in the early days of Stratford, but in 1863 a municipal bylaw was passed in an effort to reduce the hazards of fire. The adoption of a cast-iron frame not only helped to curb the threat of fire, it also expanded design opportunities by reducing the amount of space required for structural components. Given that new opportunity, the floor level of the building was designed as a solid curtain of plate glass, allowing uninterrupted views into the building from all three sides. Source: Historic Places

The Idington Block 

The Idington Block was the name of a group of buildings on Downie Street south of the Gordon Block (see above), at the corner of what is now the apex of Erie, Downie and Ontario streets. It was named for John Idington, the owner, who commissioned their construction in 1885.  That construction connected to some additional buildings behind it that dated from 1879.  Those buildings with their entrance on Erie Street were known as the Idington Block in the 1880 Stratford Directory. Before the Idington Block was built,  John Idington, (see William Street), had his law office with his partner Charles J. Mickle in the Redford Block, at the corner of Church and Ontario Streets. That information is contained in the Stratford Directory for 1876. By 1880, the law offices moved to the Idington Block that fronted on Erie near Ontario. Idington lived on James opposite Elizabeth ; Mickle at 276 St. David.  Dr. A. E. Ahrens, dentist, had his offices on Erie in the Idington Block. By 1896, he would move to offices to the second floor at 3 Market Square. He is the father of Cora B. Ahrens (see Hibernia Street) who would have a piano studio on Market Square in the 1930s occupying part of her father's premises. 

The Idington Block had entrances on both Erie and Downie streets, while the Gordon Block had entrances on Erie, Downie and Ontario streets. Today, Festival Square (10 Downie St.) is on the site of the former Idington and Gordon blocks. In the Stratford city directory of 1896, The Idington Block is located on the west side of Market Street, the early name of Downie Street.

John Idington later sold his block of buildings to Duncan Ferguson. In the Stratford directory of 1896, Duncan Ferguson and Co., purveyors of dry goods and millinery is at 9-11-13 Market St. (now Downie Street) and 10-12-14 Erie St. Mr. Ferguson lived at 81 Hibernia St. Mr. Idington is described as living on James Street, opposite the east end of Elizabeth Street. Sources: Stratford Directory 1896; Adelaide Leitch, Floodtides of Fortune. Researched  by Gord Conroy

* The Idington Block was not recognized for many years until the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC) placed a plaque on the building to signify its historical significance.  The building later housed the Eaton and Beamish department stores. The Stratford LACAC plaque reads:  

Idington Block 1885. The building and others behind it dating from 1879 were erected by John Idington Q.C. who was appointed to the ench of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1905.   

The Idington Block on Downie Street just south of the Gordon Block. Stratford - Perth Archives

Myers Block

In 1850, Robert Myers (1826-1890), came from Manchester, England, to Stratford, where he became a prominent businessman. He was the settlement's first boot and shoemaker, and developed the Myers Block (1893) in the latter half of the 19th century. That block is on the northeast corner of Downie and Brunswick streets, just east of Market Square. 

In 1876, in the Stratford Directory, Robert Myers establishment is described as an auction house which seemed to be a new venture. Myers is noted to be a dealer now in second-hand furniture. According to his advertisement, he extended liberal advances on goods for sale or those received on assignment; he stressed that his dealings were confidential. 

John Way was also a prominent boot and shoe merchant in Stratford. In the 1870s he was a partner in Way and Heinbuch Boot and Shoe Store in the Myers’ Block, Market Square. (see Brunswick Street).

Myers Block,  69 Downie  St.  Fred Gonder

By 1880, John Way owned the business himself. He later moved the store to 26 Downie Street and then to 13 Market Place. The business flourished until his death in 1921, at which point it was taken over by his daughter Sarah. 

In 1879, Myers' daughter Margaret married Frank Hamilton, another boot and shoe merchant. In 1883, Frank, in partnership with his brother Archibald, purchased the store owned by John Way, another well-known Stratford boot and shoe merchant, located at 53 Downie Street, which was part of the Meyers Block. They operated the store for fourteen years before selling the business in 1897. 

John Ross who arrived in Stratford from Ireland in 1860 also had a business in the Myers Block at this time. Ross worked first as a stevedore for the railway and then a grain merchant. A few years later he joined William Fortune to create a produce business, Ross & Fortune. Their store was located in the Myers Block on Downie Street across from the Market Square.

  Source: 1876.pdf;  Historical Plaque Properties 

The Wooden Indian

The cigar store Indian was created almost 170 years ago, sculpted out of a basswood tree that had been felled near Romeo Creek, where the first city hall would be built. He stands 4 1/2 feet tall, and was the artwork of Charles  Textor, an Italian immigrant who had settled with his family in Stratford.

 It is likely Mr. Textor's skills could have brought him a good living, but for settlers in those days life was difficult and there was little financial reward for any kind of work. 

The real story behind this carving is a very sad story indeed. In 1857 an Italian carver by the name of Texter arrived in the village. He carved in marble and stone for gravestones. Because he could not work enough to feed his family and they did not ask for help, his baby and later his son died from starvation. John Scott when he found this out ran to his store and told his wife to take food from their grocery immediately. To help the carver she paid to have the life-size "Indian" carved from a single basswood log found in the market building site." It stood before the Scott store for years. The building was called the Indian Block. Mr Texter carved a marble headstone for his children and then they left the town. Source: Nancy Musselman

From 1856 to 1869, the Indian stood in front of John Scott's store, and later, when he moved his business to 33 Downie St., where the downtown branch of the Royal Bank is now, the Indian was placed in front of that store. During the First World War, the Indian was in front of the post office at 60 Ontario St., his hand, outstretched. People put $100 in his powder horn in support of the war effort.

 After the war, he went to the Stratford Historical Society, but he made a couple of public appearances, among them the celebration some special occasions with the Stratford Indians hockey team.

 In 1966, he presided at the inaugural meeting of the Perth County Historical Foundation. Then it was back into a storeroom in the Stratford Public Library.

One of his moves resulted in a broken arm, which was healed by the ministrations of Doug Krempien, a skilled carpenter and woodworker, who had a shop behind the Galbraith dry goods store at 90 Erie St., next to Avon Knit (Stratford Textiles), and who became a prop-maker for the Festival Theatre. Source: Brian Wendy Reis . . . FB

Mooney Biscuit and Candy Co.

The Mooney Biscuit and Candy Co. at 245 Downie Street was an impressive five-storey factory on the southeast corner of the Downie and Falstaff streets intersection. It was built in 1903 and business was so good that an addition was built in 1904 and a further one shortly thereafter.  by 1906, the building extended the full block from Falstaff Street to Milton Street. It had 130,000 square feet of floor space after the first addition and close to 200,000 after the final addition just three years later. The south wing was demolished when the building was briefly occupied by the Canadian General Electric Co. Ltd. in the mid-1920s.

In its era, the Mooney operation was considered a mammoth factory, perhaps the largest in Stratford. In 1914, at the height of its business, Mooney employed more than 1300 workers with a quarter of them in Stratford. 


The building of the factory in 1903 took place quickly and efficiently.  On March 11, 1903, the Stratford Evening Herald reported  that "the first stone of the Mooney Factory was laid yesterday," and also reported that "there was no ceremony attached thereto."  By August 17, 1903, just six months later,  the company was fully operational and served as headquarters for the company with eventual factories in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. 

Photo Note: The building seen to the left was designated a heritage building by the City of Stratford in 1991. It is now the home of Bradshaw Lofts. 

1910. Mooney Office Staff. This recently acquired photo of the Mooney office staff in 1910 was taken by noted Stratford photographer William I. Becker. (see Becker Street) Photo: Stratford Perth Archives.

Products and Sales. The company produced an average of 20 tons of candy per day and several tons of more than 150 varieties of biscuits. The biscuit department occupied the second floor while the candy making department and facilities were found on the third and fourth floors.  The goods were shipped across North America in the distinctive royal purple and blue packages. Perfection Cream Soda and Avon Chocolates were two most popular products.

In Stratford Mooney had dedicated railway cars to deliver its goods from the shipping department on the first floor on a spur line connected to the main track of the Grand Trunk Railway. The Stratford factory produced mostly specialty items in bulk, to supply the eastern and western branches of the company. For example, all the raw chocolate, to supply the other three branches, was manufactured in Stratford.

The president and manager of the company was William J. Mooney. His brother, William C. Mooney, was vice-president. William J. was born in London Township. As a child, he lived in Sarnia, where he received his schooling until he went to work at the age of 13. He established the Mooney Biscuit and Candy Co. in 1903, after 15 years "on the road," noting that these kinds of products were needed for various large Canadian concerns.

Other prominent tenants at 245 Downie St. included the Canadian Edison Electric Appliance Co. (1920-1923), the Canadian General Electric Co., Ltd. (1924-1925), Kist Canada Ltd. (1933) and National Grocers Co. Ltd. (1935-1942 and 1948-1975).  Source: Charles Mountford for Stratford-Perth Archives; Stratford Times article by Betty Jo Belton, May 3, 2024; Old photo: Stratford-Perth Archives

The building, now called the Bradshaw Lofts, is home to 56 condominiums, University of Waterloo classrooms in the basement, a business office, and an art studio, thanks to the considerable restoration efforts of two local developers. Heritage Stratford recognized those efforts by presenting them with the 2019 James Anderson Award for heritage preservation. As can be seen, the original Edwardian Classical style has been preserved, complete with channeled brick and radiating voussoirs that frame arched windows and entrances. the Mooney Biscuit and Candy Factory defined the entrepreneurial spirit of the time. It was in this spirit that successive enterprises built their own legacies at 245 Downie Street including J.L. Bradshaw, one of Canada’s oldest wholesalers, whose history is honoured with the name, Bradshaw Lofts. (see Bradshaw Drive). Source: The Bradshaw    Also the source for the new photo.

Left: This Mooney ad appeared in a Lindsay Ontario paper.  Source: Stratford and District Historical Society

Joseph Christopher Harrison 

Joseph Harrison was born in 1814 on the Hemingway plantation in Virginia, where he was given the name of his owner. At age 14, he escaped slavery and wound up in Boston, where he changed his name to Harrison.

He taught himself to read and write and also learned barbering. At that time barbers not only cut hair and trimmed beards, they also performed small surgeries. They removed tonsils, teeth and did blood letting using leeches. In addition to his skill as a barber Harrison learned hair dying and clothes cleaning, and dreamed of the day he could have his own business. Eventually, Harrison came to Canada, and he and his wife Emma, bought a farm in Waterloo County where they raised a family.

In about 1855, after time in Hamilton,  the family moved to Stratford, where he worked as a builder but also opened a shop at 106 Downie St. His downtown business comprised dry cleaning, barbering and hairdressing. His son Harvey (1855-1920) was the tonsorial artist and barber. His daughter Harriet 91841-1908) ran the Human Hair Emporium, providing what are now called “extensions,” but were then known as curls and switches. Joseph Christopher Harrison died in 1890. Source: Stratford Historical Society

Harvey Harrison, son of Joseph. 

 Stratford-Perth Archives

Addendum: The images below show an ad in Vernon's Stratford Directory in 1924 for the Harrison Family Businesses at 106 Downie Street. Thanks to Nancy Musselman for providing the image. To the right, we see Joseph Harrison in front of his establisment at 106 Downie Street. Note the signs in the windows. The building was on the northwest corner of Downie and George Streets.  The wooden building was later replaced by a brick structure  which can be seen in the coloured photo. Both photos posted by Bob Toleff on If you grew up in Stratford FB site.  Additional family history of later generations can be found here. Joseph Christopher Harrison (1814-1890) - Find a Grave Memorial 

The Crown Hotel

The Crown Hotel, at 209 Waterloo St. S. (corner of Falstaff Street)  was owned by Richard (Dicky) McArdle from 1896 to 1919. In the photo to the left, he is standing to the rioght of the corner door. In about 1900, the second floor was reserved for boarders, while the third floor was for travellers. The hotel, with its well-appointed bar was a block from the Grand Trunk Railway station, from where patrons could be picked up by horse-drawn carriages.

Richard McArdle (1856-1921) was an avid horseman, but also among the first in Stratford to own a car. After his death, the hotel became the Kent Hotel. After a an eventual downward slide, it burned on Nov. 28, 2003. Said the Beacon Herald, "All the splendor of the 19th century hotels in Strafford is evident in the photograph of the old Crown Hotel at the corner of Downie and Falstaff streets at the turn of the century. The photo shows the owner of the hotel, Mr. Richard McArdle, on the front steps. He owned the Crown Hotel from 1896 to 1919."

It was subsequently owned by his son James, who had 10 siblings. Their mother, Olive (Bart), had roots that traced back to Louis Hébert (1575 – 1627), believed to be the first European to farm in what became Canada. By Paul Wilker  Pictures: Stratford-Perth Achives

The McArdles in about 1917. Charelotte, Aileen (sitting), Thomas, James, Olive (mother), Olive, David (sitting), Richard (father), Richard Jr., Grover (sitting), Winnefred, Hazel and William. Cutlines: Paul Wilker

Olive McArdle

aka Louise Moore

Keep her feeling close with long listance. It's the next best thing to saying. "Here Granny, hold the baby." 

Olive (child  in the picture) was well known for her food column in the Toronto Telegram and her radio work with CFRB radio in Toronto. She used the name Louise Moore as her media name, and did a number of ads depicting herself as a kind and wise grandma. 

Tir na nOg gates

 These gates are between Festival Square and the corner of Downie and Wellington streets.

In 2002, in celebration of the Stratford Festival’s 50th anniversary, the gates to an array of cobblestones, flowerbeds  and benches were designed by Debra Hansen, a city resident and nationally acclaimed theatre, television and film designer. The gates, 15 feet high, are titled Tir na nOg an Irish mythological term meaning "land of eternal youth." The gates are meant to celebrate youth in the community and to remember those who have been lost.

Metal flower, vines and birds comprise the public art piece. On each side, basket-woven pedestals support leaf-entwined globes.

The are surprises beyond the gates, inside the parkette. A large rock bears a plaque engraved with a portion of The Wandering of Oisin, a poem by William Butler Yeats. Thanks to Phyllis Hinz and Lamont Mackay for text from their book Stratford for All Seasons, Theatre and Arts.

Photo Fred Gonder

O'Higgins Alley Barbara Storey Art Photography

O'Higgins Alley

O’Higgins Alley, at 15 Downie St., features portraits of some famous actors who have graced the stage in Stratford, among them Sir Alec Guinness ,William Shatner and Kurt Vonnegut .

Thanks to Barbara Storey for photos. At the Agora Gallery Stratford photo contest in 2019, she won third prize for the O'Higgins Alley limited edition giclée fine art print. Barbara Storey Fine Art Photography

Photos by Barbra Storey

 105-109   Downie   Photo Fred Gonder

Fosters Inn, a heritage site

This heritage site is on the east side of Downie Street, just south of George Street. The two, three-storey buff brick commercial buildings were constructed in 1906 and 1908. This  Heritage site was designated by the City in 2000 for its heritage value.

It played a pivotal role in the establishment of the commercial district south of Market Square in the city's downtown. In conjunction with the similar, adjacent buildings, at 105-109 Downie St., these structures form a continuous block of early 20th century commercial buildings. 

Joseph John O'Brien owned the land on which the Foster's Inn was built  and conducted his well-known tobacco and cigar business from that location. The building reflects a simplified Edwardian Classicism, a style common in commercial architecture early in the last century. E

Edwardian architecture is reflected in the buildings' modest design, restraint in detailing, and simplified, but formal composition. The buff brick exterior produces the appearance of a smooth surface, subtly accentuated with pilaster accents. A cornice adorned with modillion blocks and a frieze, is shared with 105-109 Downie St. Source: Canada's Historic Places

Victoria House Hotel

The two-storey brick building at 96-100 Downie St., on the northwest corner of Downie and George streets, was constructed in 1867 as the Victoria House Hotel. It was one of several hotels not far from the city's railway station.

It was designated by the City of Stratford in 1999, for its heritage value, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, Bylaw 4-99. It makes an important contribution to the historic streetscape.

From 1881 to 1884, the Victoria House Hotel was operated by John O'Donoghue, who would later become the mayor of Stratford (1897-1898). In that role, he he laid the original cornerstone for the current city hall.

The building at 96-100 Downie St. reflects the Georgian, Gothic and Italianate architectural styles. It has the balance, symmetry and formality of the Georgian Revival style, but a Gothic gable and Italianate brackets add ornamental details. These styles were gaining popularity at that time. Source: Canada's Historic Places

The Duggan department store at 55-67 Downie St., 1902  Stratford-Perth Archives

J. A. Duggan Ltd. department store

In 1883, Jeremiah Augustus Duggan came to Stratford from Dundas, Ont., to buy out J. M. Struthers, and opened his store at 57 Ontario St. in 1883. He called his store the Golden Beaver, and it featured dry goods, clothing and home furnishings.

The growth of his business was steady, and to meet the requirements of his customers, he imported goods from England, France and Germany, the first Stratford merchant to do so. The business increased to such an extent that the old store was too small. On the retirement of his next-door retail neighbour, A. Macnair, Duggan rented that store.

His business continued to flourish, and again it outgrew his expanded premises. It forced him to seek new and larger quarters. He bought the two large stores in the Hamilton and Myers block at 55-67 Downie St., and demolished them. In their place, he erected a state of the art retail facility. It was clean and well ventilated, with maple floors, polished quartered oak counters and shelving, metal ceilings, polished birch pillars, and four of the largest windows in Canada for his display of goods. The store was three storeys tall and had more than 40,000 square feet of floor space.

The large plate-glass windows were always artistically dressed by Thomas Simpson with the latest in the fashion world. He was acknowledged to be the first decorative artist in western Ontario. The store opening, in March 1900, included music from a respected orchestra. The impression J. A. wanted was "A place that has everything and everything in it place."  Years later, the store became Walker;s and then Marks and Spencer. e store eventually became later became Walker's and then Marks and Spencer. Today, in 2022, it's the Dollar Haven and Discount store.

Source: Stratford Illustrated 1902; Nancy Musselman . . . FB

The GTR's greenhouses along Downie Street, south of the YMCA   Photo: Dorothy Zorgdrager  

Head gardener Alf Williams inspects seed beds in the greenhouse he ran for 21 years.  Photo: Dorothy Zorgdrager

The GTR greenhouses

The Grand Trunk Railway beautified its stations and parks with flowers, trees and shrubs. That policy led to the creation of two large greenhouses in Stratford, in which the railway could grow the necessary plants and ship them to all its properties in the district. Stratford was one of the GTR's district headquarters.

The greenhouse idea belonged J. C. Garden, who was running the GTR operation in Stratford, but it was under his successor, John Roberts, the greenhouse were built and functioning, in 1922. They were positioned along the Downie Street boundary of the shops' property, just inside the fence that ran between the YMCA and the building that housed the shops' offices, the apprenticeship classroom and the assembly hall.

Roberts hired Alf Williams, who worked in the shops as a boiler-maker's helper about a year before the greenhouse was operational. Soon, there developed an annual routine, which began early in the spring with the railway's landscape artist, Samuel G. Skinner, travelling throughout the division's catchment area to estimate the number of plants required by each station for its window boxes, planters and flower beds. It was then up to Williams to satisfy those requirements. Their place of work was a well-equipped 300- foot greenhouse whose steam heat came through a line from the shop's powerhouse.

In 1923, the Canadian National Railways absorbed the GTR, and one of the changes that followed in Stratford was the addition of a second 300-foot greenhouse, parallel to the original facility.

The operation's output grew to about 80,000 plants a year, some of them bound for CNR properties as far north as North Bay, as far south and west as Windsor, and as far east as Niagara. Williams and his helpers formed an assembly line and wrapped the plants in strips of dampened newspaper and put them in clearly marked boxes. Then, based on the proposed delivery route, they loaded the boxes into a baggage car furnished by the railway. When came the Second World War, the Stratford greenhouses were dismantled and sold to a Hamilton company.  Williams retired in 1946 at age 65. Source: ACO Newsletter 2013. Text taken from Dean Robinson's book  Railway Stratford Revisited.

480 Downie St.  Stratford-Perth Archives

Pounder Brothers  crew    Stratford-Perth Archives

Anne Hathaway school

On Feb. 17, 1922, in a room in the city hall, the public board of education offered Hugh G. Holman, a local architect, a contract to build a new school. However, it wasn't until May 8 of that year that board member Dr. John A. Bothwell (1865-1936), a dentist, moved that the new school at 480 Downie St., be named Anne Hathaway, to complement Shakespeare Public School, also located in the city's Shakespeare ward. Similarly, when Juliet public school was built, it was named to complement Romeo public school. 

Holman, to be paid six per cent of the cost of the building, was told to have his plans ready for the start of construction by March 13, 1922. He and the contractors, Pounder Brothers, were given until Jan. 26, 1923, to complete the building.


The school's grand opening was on Thursday, Feb. 15, 1923. It was a festive evening, with Irish, Scottish and hornpipe dancers, an orchestra, and numerous solos. The program also included several speakers.


The first three teachers hire for the school were Margaret Casson (also the principal), Beatrice Osborne and Hope Bowra. 

The school was built with rug brick, which was used mainly in the 1920s and '30s. The style of the building is similar to other schools built during that period. By Brandi Borman, Stratford-Perth Archives

The photograph is of  the Pounder Brothers "construction crew," when that company built Anne Hathaway school in 1922.


According to a Stratford Herald report, the "fine structure was built for $58,000." It was described a "an imposing edifice and a source of pride to the board of education, the builders and the citizens generally . . . Its exterior beauty and interior appointments and equipment are second to none in this city. Nothing that would add to its architectural appearance and to the comfort of the pupils and teachers has been omitted."


There were four large and well-ventilated classrooms, a dental clinic, a teachers' room and a record room. In the basement were two large recreation rooms and lavatories . . . large and airy cloak rooms [adjoined] all classrooms. Source: Betty Joe Belton, Stratford-Perth Archives.


In 1867, Stratford had its own the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and held meetings in the Temperance Hall at the corner of Erie and Ontario streets. There were Bible classes and prayer meetings on Sundays, and concerts, debates and lectures on week nights. Dean Robinson, in his book Y Stratford: A History 1858-1991, is the source for this information and for what follows. Robinson claims there is evidence that a YMCA group had started in Stratford as early as 1858, just 14 years after the movement had started in London, England.

In fact, the YMCA had several beginnings in Stratford, Ont., through the years. There was great interest at each beginning, but sustaining that interest and ongoing membership seemed to be a problem. (see YMCA Feature Article for details)

By 1895, the YMCA organization was meeting and operating out of a series of rooms on the north side of Ontario Street, near where that street meets Huron Street. In 1897, the Y leaders were told their lease would not be renewed. That prompted the purchase of the vacant property at 25 Market Pl., immediately west of the Herald building at 21 Market Pl. The Y board arranged a mortgage for $3,500, mounted a successful donor campaign to lessen their debt, and put up their building in 1897-98. George McLagan, a young cabinetmaker, played a key role in that venture. An avid sportsman, strong Baptist, and soon-to-be a prominent furniture designer and manufacturer, he served on the YMCA board for 22 years. He eventually played an equally sronbg role with the city parks board. (see McLagan Drive)

 The purpose of the YMCA organization was articulated in 1889, "to elevate young men mentally, morally and physically.”

The new YMCA quarters, built in 1898 at 25 Market Pl. The building to the left was occupied by the Stratford HeraldPhoto Nancy Musselman . . . FB

The stately YMCA at the corner of Downie and St. Patrick streets, built in 1904. Photo courtesy of YMCA.

New YM-YWCA in 1968.  Beacon Herald photo

YWCA building completed in 1927 on the southeast corner of Cobourg and Waterloo streets. Stratford-Perth Archives.

The new Y officially opened on March 3, 1898. In the the basement there was a gym and viewing gallery, showers and washroom. On the main floor were offices, a parlour, a games room, and a large reading room at the rear with a spacious hall in which members could park their bicycles. The top floor featured a large classroom and an assembly room that could seat 300.  

In that same month, the Grand Trunk Railway in Stratford became affiliated with the YMCA. The new organization was called The Young Men’s Christian Association of Stratford, Railway and Local, and with that agreement and name change, the GTR gave the Y $150 annually, and $25 a month for upkeep of the new building. In 1901, the GTR also made vacant land available for a lacrosse team and additional track and field activities.

Membership expanded, the budget increased, staff was hired, new gym programs offered and a four-team basketball league formed. The league idea quickly expanded into other sports. Church services were held on the top floor, as were weekly Bible classes.

Within three years, the GTR gave the YMCA  a sizeable chunk of its property on the southwest corner of Downie and St. Patrick streets. The land was for a new YMCA. Architects R. Thomas Orr (See Veterans Drive and Cobourg Street) and James Russell designed the imposing structure, and John.Lant Youngs, who had constructed the city hall, was given the contract to built it, for no more than $20,000. The new building include a swim tank in the basement, courtesy of a $1,000 donation from local philanthropist William Battershall. (see Battershall Court).

George McLagan presided over the afternoon proceedings when the new Y was officially opened and dedicated on Sept. 23, 1904. YMCA president H. S. (Tinny) Robertson hosted the evening program. The building they celebrated on this day served for 63 years. It was 120 feet long, 55 feet deep, finished in red-pressed brick, and topped with a slate roof. The final cost was $25,500, $5,500 over budget.

Despite behind-the-scenes financial issues, the building became the social and physical hub of the city. It hosted dances, receptions and lots of sports, all amateur, with “no taint of professionalism,” as Robinson noted. The gymnasium measured 40 feet by 60 feet. The basement pool, sometimes referred to as a plunge bath, was 33 feet by 16 feet, seven feet deep at one end, four feet deep at the other. Water for the pool was steam-heated by same the powerhouse that energized the adjacent railway shops. Boys did not wear swimsuits; girls visiting from the YWCA at Waterloo and Cobourg streets did. The YWCA did not have a pool.

The YMCA has long been well-supported by the Rotary Club of Stratford. The club sponsored summer camps for children in the Y programs, first near Thamesford beginning in 1920, then on Lake Huron between Bayfield and Goderich beginning in 1925. That latter was camp called Kitchigami, on a seven-and-a-half-acre site that the club bought for $500. 

The camp flourished for both boys and girls for more than 35 years until it closed in 1963 when the property was sold. By this time, there were too many competing interests for the camps to be successful.

By the mid-1960s, the railway connection was also a memory, and because the city could not afford two buildings, the YMCA and YWCA amalgamated formally in 1965. Demolition of the first Downie Street Y took place in 1967., and a new modern structure was built.

The aim of the new YW-YMCA was “…the promotion, development and improvement of the spiritual, intellectual, social and physical condition of men, women, boys and girls…” The million-dollar campaign under the leadership of Allan Knight was successful but even then, not everything could be done at once.

When it came time to choose between a gymnasium and a swimming pool, the committee chose pool. But there was still the small gym at the old YWCA building on Waterloo Street.  So, that is where gym and sports activities were centred, though church halls and schools also played a role.  

The early 1970s were difficult times for the Stratford Y, times of low revenue and high operating costs. To reduce the latter, the directors in the fall of 1970 listed the YWCA building for sale and decided to shut it down as of March 31, 1971. Details of its history can be found in the YWCA Featured Article also based on materials and photos from Dean Robinson's book  Y Stratford.

Despite the financial problems of the early 1970s, additional facilities in the new YM-YWCA were needed. Oliver Gaffney (See Queen Street) chaired the building fund committee to add a gym, handball and squash courts and a physical fitness area. The target was $500,000 including $76,000 to wipe out the existing capital debt. By October 1974, the amount raised was $504,405.

In 1976, construction began, and by February 1977 the new gymnasium, some additions and renovations were opened and dedicated with some 300 in attendance. The jogging track, suspended on the wall above the gym floor was opened a week later, and in March 1977, the handball-racquetball court was opened. Cooper-Bessemer, which had taken over the CNR land and shops, donated land for that court and more parking, valued at $21,500. Overall, it had been a $700,000 project.

In the 1970s, the Y involved itself with the ministry of correctional service through TAP (the Temporary Absence Program), which provided free use of the Y facilities for inmates of the city jail who had fewer than three months remaining on non-violent sentences. They dressed in street clothes, visited the Y in lightly-used hours, and were accompanied by a guard. 

In the 1980s, most of the growth was positive. One of the three racquetball courts was converted, and squash became the Y’s newest sport. The Y membership numbered 2,400.

In 1979, the Stratford Y Foundation was incorporated to ease the monetary problems that had long played havoc with the Y's operation funds. 

In 2020, the CBC reported that the YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo, the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph, and YMCA of Stratford-Perth officially joined in what came to be called  the YMCA of Three Rivers.

At the culmination of a 37-year career with the Y, Mimi Price, chief executive officer of the YMCA of Stratford-Perth, said, "It's exciting that as I'm transitioning into my retirement, the YMCA of Stratford-Perth is also transitioning into a new phase, one that will afford increased relevance and impact in our community."   Area YMCAs merge with a promise to increase impact in communities | CBC News

Special thanks to Dean Robinson for his Y Stratford book. The research, writing and photos used in this article and in the Featured Article can be found with much additional information in Robinson’s book .

Hudson's, prior to major renovations 

Hudson's Department Store

Hudson's was a Stratford business institution started in 1912 by Harry Shapiro with a horse and cart, and door-to-door-service.

It remained a family-owned-and-operated business that served the citizens of Stratford and area for more than 100 years, latterly from its location at 141 Downie St. It was known for carrying trusted brand-name products and selling them at affordable prices.

In 1911, Harry Shapiro, a Russian emigrant escaping poverty and racism, sold pelts and dry goods door-to-door from a horse-drawn cart to the townspeople of Stratford. In 1912, as his business grew and prospered, he was able to establish a storefront on Ontario Street, a location well placed between the rail yards to the south and the downtown city center. His store was originally called Stratford House Furnishings, and employed both him and his wife Jenny. In time they moved it to Downie Street, closer to the Canadian National Railways shops  and its sizeable workforce. After the Second World War, they rebranded the store as Hudson's.

Harry Shapiro   

Sylvia (Shapiro) and Maurice Helperin

Before the Great Depression (between 1929 and 1939), Harry and Jenny expanded with new businesses. They opened Majestic Ladies Wear, where the Majestic Theatre had been, and where the Avon Theatre is today. They opened Shapiro’s Ladies Wear at 30 Downie St. where there is a CIBC branch.

Majestic Ladies’ Wear did not make it through the Great Depression, but Shapiro did, taking his mother’s sage advice to extend to his customers relaxed credit terms. Harry did well after the Depression, and had just completed a major expansion of the Stratford store in March 1966, before he died in September of that year. Shapiro’s Ladies Wear closed its doors in 1973.

Harry and Jenny had three children. Louis established a Hudson’s store in Woodstock; Richard established another Hudson’s store in London. And Sylvia, with her husband Maurice Helperin, entered the family business in 1951 and assumed ownership of the Stratford location .

The current building on Downie Street was doubled in size in the 1940s and doubled in size again in 1966.  An addition was completed in 1999, and the entire building was completely renovated inside and out in 2001-02.

Hudson’s is no longer a department store. The clothing departments closed in early 2020, and the store has become one of the largest furniture and mattress stores in Stratford. Three generations of the Helperin family have now worked at Hudson’s, continuing a long tradition. Sources:  Hudson's about us. and  Celebrating a Century of Success, compiled by Gord Conroy

With scissors in hand, Stratford Mayor Dutch” Meier joins members of the Shapiro-Halperin family for the grand re-opening of the Hudson's store in March 1966.

Hudson's, renovated to reveal its original architecture

129 Downie St.

Edward (Teddy) Payne

Edward (Teddy) Payne hails from Constable country in the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk in eastern England. He completed his formal art education in England, in Norwich and London. After many travels and adventures around the world, in 1996 he found his "Shangri-La" in Stratford, Ont., where he pursues his avocations as a watercolour artist and writer. Teddy lives at 129 Downie St. atop Your Local Market.

His published books (available at Fanfare Books) are:             

For more of his work see:  A Stratford Artists Project

Stratford     Edward Payne

Victoria Sponge For Tea    Edward Payne

The drive-in

The drive-in theatre was on Downie Street, just south and east of Lorne Avenue. Its memory still generates great nostalgia for those who grew up in Stratford in the 1950s and '60s. Many parents would take their children to movies in their pajamas and let them sleep in the back seat. It was great for dating, too. The popcorn was horrible and the sound system was not stereo, but we loved it anyway. On a personal note, I proposed to my  wife in 1965 at the drive -in after watching Psycho. I didn't want to be alone after that. The drive-in was closed in about 1985, leaving an empty field. By Paul Wilker   Picture by Doug Gibbons . . . FB

Click on picture to see video.

Beniah (Bunny) Fryer

Beniah (Bunny) Fryer contributed in a big way to women's softball in Stratford. He lived at 126 Downie St.

Bunny had a drive and passion for getting youth involved in softball. In the 1940s, he formed the first Stratford and district junior league, which would become the "farm system" for five Provincial Women's Softball Union championship seasons.

In 1947 he led the Stratford Rotanettes to a PWSU junior A title. Three years later, he was joined by his sons Bob and Ralph, and they had a major influence on the Stratford Kadettes winning four consecutive PWSU junior A championships, starting in 1951.

When Bunny Fryer died in 1957, Stratford lost one of its best-known sports figures. His name was added to the city's sports wall of fame in the builders category 2016, for his contributions to softball and the to the community at large. Source: Stratford Sports Wall of Fame

The Odd Fellows Block from an Engraving circa 1880, showing the Bank of Montreal. (see article below). Courtesy: Brian-Wendy Reis.

Odd Fellows Block razed for Kresge's

The Odd Fellows Block was unique in Stratford. It was an iron-fronted building, the only one in Stratford, but it is no more. It was razed in 1935 to make way for the new Kresge's building. (See Below). 

The print was taken from a zinc engraving from about 1880. Brian Wendy Reis on If You Grew Up in Stratford FB described the Odd Fellows Block as a "really cool building." In the engraving, you can see the words IOOF Hall and on the ground floor The Bank of Montreal name. In 1876, the Bank is noted in the Stratford City Directory to be at 32 Downie Street with James Hogg as agent. 

The IOOF Hall was on Downie Street just a few doors south of Albert Street opposite the Market Square. It was located immediately south of the Windsor Block which housed stores and the Windsor Hotel.  

The IOOF building also housed the Bank of Montreal, and the next building north of it was the first British Mortgage and Trust office which is located there by 1880 as noted in the City Directory. By 1896, the Bank of Montreal is listed at the corner of Ontario and Market Street(now Downie) on the street level of the Gordon Block. (see Gordon Block above). George W. Lawrence and Son, barristers, also occupied the Odd Fellows Block in 1880.  Thomas Miller, accountant and insurance agent, also had offices there. The Bank of Montreal was then to move to the southeast corner of Brunswick and Downie Streets by 1928. (see Great Bank Heist story below).

By 1896, Thomas F. Quirk had moved to the Odd Fellows Block. (See image below). He is listed in the 1896 Stratford Directory as being a dealer in liquors and lived at 119 Waterloo Street, with his wife Ellen Colloton Quirk (1863- 1908).  They had one son Frank. (1897-1948) Twenty years earlier, in 1876, Thomas had been listed as a clerk who boarded at 17 Waterloo Street so he had done well for himself. 

In the early days of Stratford, there were many fraternities and their members aided in the development of the downtown doing good works. The Independent Order of Odd fellows (IOOF) was one such fraternity and its background and philosophy can be found here. About Us – The Grand Lodge of Ontario 

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a fraternal organization founded in England in the 1600s.  At that time people in society were class-conscious and few helped their neighbors.  When people got sick or their loved ones died, they were left to fend for themselves.  Many didn’t have enough money to bury their dead. 

The Odd Fellows stepped up and pooled their money and resources together to help people in need.  Since this attitude was converse to how society thought at the time, they considered themselves “odd” — thus the name. 

In 1876, the Odd Fellows were already established and meeting in the Oddfellows Block opposite the market on Downie Street. The business men, such as E. K. Barnsdale, of Taylor and Barnsdale, grocers, situated in Stoney's Block, on Market Square, met weekly on different days and were divided into Lodges such as the Avon Lodge or Romeo Lodge. Sources: 1876.pdf (perthcounty.) ;: Stratford and District Historical Society FB; If You Grew Up in Stratford FB; Thomas Francis Quirk (1845-1917) - Find a Grave Memorial 

Photo from Vince Gratton  collection.

Vince Gratton, Stratford historian: "Again it would be nice had the building escaped the wreckers ball; however, the Art-Deco replacement holds a well respected position in the city's real estate holdings." 

 To read more of Notman, visit the Stratford Public Library. The World of William Notman | Stratford Public Library | BiblioCommons 

Odd Fellows Building 1910 to the right of the Windsor Hotel. Photo: Vince Gratton.  

To the left: Odd Fellows Building photographed in 1884 by reknowned Canadian photographer William Notman (1826-1891). 

Vince Gratton, Stratford historian, made the following observation:   "[Notman] felt the Oddfellows building worthy of his talents and took the photo attached here on the left. It is now a part of the museum that houses his work." The Notman collection, containing over 400,000 photographs, plus office records and family correspondence, forms part of the collections of the Notman Photographic Archives housed in the McCord Museum of McGill UniversitySource: William Notman | The Canadian Encyclopedia 

See Pierre Berton's article on Notman with pictures and photo techniques of the era explained.  Macleans Magazine 1956-11-24 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive ; William Notman: Photographic Pioneer - Canada's History 

Thomas F. Quirk Liquors in Odd Fellows Block on Downie Street across from Market Square. Photo 1905. The Windsor Hotel is to the left of the photo.  Source: Stratford Illustrated, 1902, posted by Nancy Musselman, If You Grew Up in Stratford FB

Thomas F. Quirk, liquors

Thomas Quirk (1845-1917) had his business in the Odd Fellows building. Quirk and his parents  emigrated from Ireland early in his life. He learned  the wine and liquor business in the employ of Sir Frank Smith in London and then set up his own store in Stratford. In 1905, the Stratford Beacon reported his success in the wine and spirit trade since his entry and commented on his acknowledged integrity and  courtesy which have won for him a constantly increasing trade. Source: Nancy Musselman, If You Grew Up in Stratford FB. 

Thomas F. Quirk, Liquors and Wines

Thomas F. Quirk pottery jug from a bygone era. Source: Nancy Musselman. Posted on If You Grew Up in Stratford, FB. 

Kresge's new building is seen here being constructed at 47  Downie Street 1n 1929 between Albert and Brunswick Streets. The Oddfellows building where Quick Wines and Spirits had lived on the ground floor was completely demolished to make way for Kresge's. The Windsor Hotel is seen on the left.  Stores occupied the first floor. Source: Stratford and District Historical Society FB. 

Kresge's, Canada's first Kresge's store. 

Kresge's came to Canada and to Stratford at 47 Downie Street in 1929. It was the beginning of The Depression and times were tough. Perhaps because of that, Kresge's did well. If people had only limited finances, the "five and dime" was an option.

They did so well they decided to build just north of where they were. They purchased the Odd Fellow's Block beside the Windsor Hotel on Downie Street. The Odd Fellows Block immediately south of the Windsor Hotel was then razed though it was unique in Stratford with its iron façade. (see Oddfellows Building and Quirk Wines and Spirits above).  

The detail below of the photo to the left shows us the writing on the construction sign:  "This store is to be occupied by S. S. Kresge Limited." At the time of the Kresge construction, the Windsor Hotel Block to the left rented space to other stores including the A to D Shoe Store at 43 Downie and,  J. J. Sutherland, wallpaper, at 45 Downie. Both  moved there in 1929.  H. M. Harwood Drug Store was already established on the corner of Albert at 39 Downie but not seen in the detail of the photo. Harwood Drugs would later move to Wellington Street. Times were tough in the hotel business as well and that allowed Woolworth's to move beside Kresge's. . 

Woolworth's in Stratford by 1928. Woolworth's was already in town before 1928 but occupied 69-71 Downie Street on the northeast corner of Brunswick and Downie Streets  across from the Bank of Montreal . A & P groceries moved in when Woolworth moved out. Woolworth's would move to the corner of Albert and Downie in 1935 after the Windsor Hotel sold half of its building because of the loss of clientele during the severe downturn in the economy which lasted during the 1930s. 

In 1935, S. S. Kresge purchased and razed the Odd Fellows Block and built a new Art Deco style building from the ground up. Renovations to the Windsor Hotel by Woolworth's to the left of the Kresge building which would replace the present stores and change the roof line had not yet begun.   Sources: International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts - Wikipedia;  Photo: Nancy Musselman, Stratford and District Historical Society. 

Kresge's was influenced architecturally, by the Art Deco style from that period. The strong vertical lines, the repetition and the symmetry are all part of the style that was highlighted in the Paris Exposition in 1925. Kresge's was a smaller store than Woolworth's but people loved to shop in both. Side by side they were unbeatable for kids and adults alike.  

The initials S. S. in the Kresge name stood for Sebastian Spering and he was born in 1867, in Pennsylvania, the year of Canada's Confederation. He died 99 years later in 1966 after establishing his first K- Mart in 1962. In 1977 Kresge Corporation formally changed to Kmart Corporation.  Kresge originally thought that the discount stores in the big suburban shopping plazas could coexist with the downtown variety store but by the 1980s, the change from Kresge to K-Mart matched the change all over from the "five and dime" variety to discount.   

After Kresge's in Stratford closed in the 1970s, the Municipal Savings & Loan Corporation occupied the building before Tourism Stratford took over at 47 Downie Street. Sources: Finding Aids and Digitized Collections - Perth County;  Destination Stratford - Stratford, Ontario | The Arts Are What We Are ;  Stratford and District Historical Society FB;  S.S. Kresge Co. - Gone but not forgotten);  S. S. Kresge - Wikipedia.  Complied by Gord  Conroy.

 Woolworth's buys ...  half a hotel!     

In 1935, F. W. Woolworth's bought, remodeled, and moved into half of the Windsor Hotel Block and began their iconic stay on the southeast corner of Albert and Downie Streets. Unlike Kresge's, Woolworth's did not raze the building but they did extensive remodeling. Note the changed roof-line and the Tudor style architecture.  They were an institution in Stratford and together with S. S. Kresge right next door, the two stores catered to generations of Stratford people of all ages. Woolworth's like Kresge's were stores for people and that meant for people of all ages from kids to adults and seniors. They all could find something they wanted  at "the five and dime." 

And those were real prices. Woolworths was founded in Utica, N.Y. in 1879 by Frank Winfield Woolworth, who conceived the novel idea of selling a variety of goods for a fixed price of either a nickel or 10 cents – the original "five-and-dime" concept. The company raised its price ceiling to 20 cents in 1932 and abolished price limits altogether in 1935.  

F. W. Woolworth Sales Philosophy. On September 16, 1922, an advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post explained Woolworth's philosophy for success.  

"In 1879, F.W. Woolworth set forth to do a new thing--to give values for five and ten cents as had never been given before. He knew that values alone will not build a business; the goods must be so displayed that people can see them. 'Our windows,' was one of the reasons he gave for his success." 

From the very beginning, the signature Woolworth windows were the company's only form of advertising. They featured standardized lighting (GE's "Edison Mazda Lamps,") and sumptuous and enticing displays, the style of which had been codified by the turn of the century by Samuel Knox, an early partner. 

Every window calls out for noses to be pressed up against it, every display beckons the viewer inside, and every counter is piled high, as far as the eye can see. The displays can be elaborate for toys and Christmas but even the more mundane (sewing supplies, stationary, dry goods, toiletries) seem voluptuous and welcoming. Despite the wide variety of stock, the merchandising is remarkable for its consistency. Virtually every item is accompanied with its own little price sign, a constant visual reminder that this treasure can be yours, for only a nickel or a dime. That pricing structure held for a full fifty years. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, the familiar "Nothing in this store over 10¢!" banner hung in every Woolworth store. 

Then came the crash of 1929. That year, a 15¢ line was added to the lower-priced items, and in 1932 the upper limit was raised again to 20¢. Then, on November 13, 1935, the final blow: as later related by the Saturday Evening Post, “The five-and-ten, as an American institution, came to a quiet end. The occasion was a meeting of the board of directors of the F. W. Woolworth Co. The action they took was designed to engineer the company into merchandising more profitably than the price-restricted field of five-and-ten. On that fateful day, the board voted "that the selling-price limit of twenty cents on merchandise be discontinued.’Although Woolworth would stay in business for another fifty years, the five-and-dime era truly had come to an end."

In Stratford as elsewhere, the 1930s were tough. Many were out of work. Jobs were hard to find. Wages were peanuts. The Stratford Strike of 1933 was still raw. The anthem of the Great Depression from 1932 sung by Bing Crosby told the cold, hard facts of the economic collapse, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime."  Audaciously, Stratford had built a new outdoor swimming pool (See William Street) and a baseball stadium (See Norfolk Street) during The Depression and this was one more statement of hope.

The Windsor Hotel had fallen on tough times. No one had money to travel. Radical times called for radical solutions. They sold half of the Windsor Block and that move meant they survived The Depression and continue on Albert Street to this day. 

Woolworth's eventually became Woolco in Stratford in 1968 and bought and razed the Old Firehall on Albert Street. Eventually Woolco's era passed as well and other small stores bought pieces of the large Woolco including Rhéo Thompson Chocolates . (See Albert Street).  

 Sources: Finding Aids and Digitized Collections - Perth County;  Stratford and District Historical Society FB; Stratford-Perth County Archives; Saturday Evening Post, September 16, 1922; Woolworth Co. | American company | Britannica; F. W. Woolworth Company - Wikipedia  Complied by Gord  Conroy.

Woolworth's and Kresge's on the northeast corner of Downie and Albert Streets provided bargains and something for everyone in this location beginning in 1935 until the 1960s. Woolworth's purchased part of the Windsor Hotel, renovated and added a Tudor architectural influence outside. Kresge's razed the Odd Fellows building (see above) and built an Art Deco exterior that had its roots in the 1925 Paris Exposition accenting strong vertical lines. The Windsor Hotel built 1881 can be seen on the left of the photo on Albert Street. Note the pay phone booth on Albert Street. Photo: Nancy Musselman, Stratford and District Historical Society. 

Earlier Woolworth's history ... at the corner of Brunswick and Downie Streets ... or ... The plot for the Great Bank Heist, Nov 7, 1928, at the Bank of Montreal.

In 1927, J. W. Woolworth 's appears for the first time in the Vernon Stratford Directory and was listed at 69-71 Downie Street. That's the northeast corner of Brunswick and Downie Streets, right across from The Bank of Montreal, at 73-77 Downie Street, on the southeast corner. (See photo below). The manager of Woolworth's was John Warren Spencer of  11 Birmingham Street and later of 105 Douglas Street. When Woolworth's opened in their new location at  Downie, Spencer moved to 89 St. Vincent North. Robert L. Whitman, 90 William Street, was the bank manager. 

And here is the story...the plot of The Great Bank told by Adelaide Leitch in Floodtides of Fortune

One November day in 1928, Police Chief Joseph Bradley called the newsroom of the Stratford Beacon-Herald and told a young reporter it might be to his advantage to be around the Woolworth corner at Downie and Brunswick Streets across from the Bank of Montreal, in the early evening. Plans for a bank robbery, simmering away for weeks, were about to come to a head. 

The date was November 7, 1928. The young reporter was Tom Dolan, later known as "Mr. Stratford." (see T. J.  Dolan Drive).

The plot for the Great Bank Heist in Stratford had been dreamed up some time before, in a prison in Detroit. There, serving time, and with little to occupy his facile mind, Freeman J. Talbot mulled over information he received that the Stratford Bank across from Woolworth's carried over $50,000 in cash at times. He devised a scheme. When he was released, Talbot headed for the Classic City and tried to enlist a likely bank employee as accomplice. However, Walter Martus told his manager who, in turn, told the police. 

 With the supposedly willing employee as bait, a trap was set for Talbot, who was to be provided with a bank key and the vault's combination. November 7 was set as the date. Up cruised Talbot, with a partner at the wheel of the getaway car. Walter Martus, the bank employee, emerged on schedule to give Talbot the key to the bank and the combination to the vault.

But the whole Stratford police force was concentrated in the centre core, and Chief Bradley and staff descended on the surprised Talbot and accomplice, and hustled them off. Thanks to the Chief's thoughtful tip, reporter Tom Dolan (See Tom Dolan Drive) was able to write a fine eyewitness account of the whole episode. Talbot was given three more years in jail for conspiracy to rob. The alert reporter, numerous scoops later, became managing editor of his paper, The Stratford Beacon-Herald.  Source: Adelaide Leitch, Floodtides of Fortune.  Complied by Gord  Conroy.


Downie Street looking south in 1905 from Wellington Street in front of City Hall .  Photo: Nancy Musselman, Stratford District Historical Society. 

Windsor Hotel extreme left of the photo on the south east corner of Albert and Downie Street. Next, The Odd Fellows BlockThe Myers Block is on the northeast corner of Downie and Brunswick Streets (pyramid shaped roof-line). The building on the southeast corner of Brunswick which was the Commercial Hotel will become the Bank of Montreal by the time of the 1928 attempted Great Bank Heist. 

Office of Dr. J. H. Moore, Stratford's first doctor. The office was  on Downie Street near the present YMCA. Photo: Stratford and District Historical Society FB. 

Dr. J. H. Moore, first doctor

Dr. J. H. Moore was the first practising doctor in the hamlet of Stratford in the 1830s, the very early days of Stratford. It's quite possible he first worked out of his house before he had an office. 

His office was in a small log shack near the present day Y.M.C. A . building on Downie Street. However, the word, "street," may suggest the wrong picture. The street really was just a mud road running to the townships. It was later paved with logs laid crosswise to form what was known as a corduroy road. When the railroad arrived in the 1850s, Downie Street became more important. 

Apparently, Dr. Moore added a second storey  to his building at some point. Adelaide Leitch, in Floodtides of Fortune, notes that his offices were on the second storey.  His office was in use from 1845 to 1854.  

Payment for a doctor's services was not always with cash. Patients who could not pay could clear trees off another lot which the doctor owned....OR...they could offer a little nip of whisky which could sometimes settle the bill.

Another early doctor was John Hyde. (see Hyde Road and Brunswick Street)

Source: Adelaide Leitch, Floodtides of Fortune.  

Bank of Montreal is presently located at 73 Downie Street on the south east corner of Brunswick and Downie streets.  The building seen to the right in the photo was originally the Victoria House Hotel. (see article above).

Bank of Montreal...three notable Stratford locations

The Bank of Montreal came to Stratford in 1860. That's seven years before Upper Canada now known as Ontario became part of Confederation and less than 40 years after the bank received its charter in Montreal in 1822.  

The bank was Canada's first bank. It had existed before that 1822 date as early as 1817 but at that time was a joint-stock operation owned by 289 subscribers.  

In Confederation Year in 1867, the Bank of Montreal was the largest bank in all of North America. 

The Bank of Montreal has occupied three key locations in Stratford in its history. Two have been on Downie Street and the third of the corner of Ontario and Downie Streets.  The first location was at 32 Downie Street in the Odd Fellow's building. In the c. 1880 engraving seen above that accompanies the article about the Odd Fellow's Block that was razed to build Kresge's, the sign 'Bank of Montreal' can be seen in the lettering on the ground floor.  In 1876, the Bank of Montreal is noted in the Stratford City Directory to be at 32 Downie Street with James Hogg as agent. This is still the location in 1880-1881 and James Hogg remains as manager with his residence on Douglas Street near John. 

However, by 1896, the Bank of Montreal has moved to the southwest corner of Downie and Ontario streets. It would remain there until 1922. The Bank occupied the lower level of the Gordon Block built in 1894.  Central Business College occupied the second floor. Thomas Plummer is the manager of the Bank of Montreal in 1896 and lives at 340 Ontario Street. By 1900, the Bank of Montreal had purchased the mansion at 90 William Street which would be home to its bank mangers for more than half a century. (see William Street).  E. P. Winslow was the first manager to live there at 90 William Street in 1900; K. Ross McNaughton was the last to reside there in 1958. 

The advertisement in the City of Stratford Directory for 1896 declared that the bank of Montreal had assets of $12,000,000, plus other assets of $6,000,000 with undivided profits of $800,000.

The Bank of Montreal moved from 32 Downie Street to the Gordon Block on the southwest corner of Ontario Street and  Downie Street (known as Market Street for a few years) after the Block was built in 1894.  The address was officially 65 Ontario Street. Photo above:  Courtesy of Nancy Musselman.

In 1921, the Bank of Montreal would take over the Merchants Bank. (see Albert Street).  This merger that joined two of the country’s largest banks — Merchants Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal — ensured stability, but at the same time it chipped away at the faith Canadians had in their banks.

However, that merger would prompt a purchase by the Bank of Montreal of the Commercial Hotel at 73-77 Downie Street and a move to the site in 1922. It remains the home base in Stratford for the Bank of Montreal more than 100 years later. 

In 1921, the Bank of Montreal was still on the corner of Downie and Ontario Streets but by 1922 it had moved to its present location  at 73-77 Downie Street.  It would be only a few years before there was a memorable story to tell of 'The Great Bank Heist" at the Bank of Montreal in 1928. See story above. .

Series of Four Photos Below. In the first photo below on the left, we see the Commercial Hotel which gave way to the Bank of Montreal. The photograph from 1898 was taken by Bill Clutton Sr. whose family had a stall at the market situated behind City Hall. The photo on market day is looking east from Market Square and shows the Commercial Hotel later the Bank of Montreal on the southeast corner of Brunswick and Downie Streets in the centre of the photo. South on Downie from the Commercial Hotel in 1898 were Sealy's store, the Hesson property, Berry's grocery; Bowes and Wreford's pump works. Romeo Creek ran next to that building. In 1932, when the photo on loan from the Clutton family appeared in the Stratford Beacon Herald edition celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Stratford's founding, the businesses were Wingefeiders butcher shop and then Swanson's bookstore. 

The second photo pre 1897 shows the Bank of Montreal in the Gordon Block on the right. As we look south on Downie Street, known as Market Street for some years, we see the tower of the Market Building which housed not only the market but a large auditorium, the library and the offices of the City Council as well before the building burned down in that same year. The present day City Hall was built on the same site beginning in 1898. (see Wellington Street). Photo: Posted by Rosemary Vail, If you grew up in Stratford ...FB.

The third photo  from the left from 1966 posted by William Cole on If you grew up in Stratford...FB, shows the Bank of Montreal entrance at 73-77 Downie Street and the clock that was a well known landmark in Stratford for many years.  The north side of Brunswick Street can be seen in the background. 

The final photo  on the right is from 1976 taken by Keith Beaty of The Toronto Star showing Walker's Department store, The Limelight Restaurant and the Bank of Montreal  before the change to the present day roof line. Sources: Vernon's Stratford City Directories; thecanadianencyclopedia.; BMO History - 200 years and counting; If you grew up in Stratford...FB; Financial Institutions in 19th Century Stratford, 

The Nut Club

Located near the railway, it was originally a hotel commonly known as the Victoria House Hotel. From 1881 to 1884 it was operated by John O'Donoghue, who would later become Mayor of Stratford (1897-1898) who laid the original cornerstone for the current City Hall. 

Later a well know store called the Nut Club was established at 100 Downie Street by the  Watermans.

Mrs. Waterman and her husband Nick came to Stratford in 1952 from Toronto where they had operated a variety store. They purchased a nut and candy shop, already called The Nut Club, at the corner at 100 Downie Street across from the Avon Theatre.

That was to be the home of The Nut Club for the next 26 years. Then, when the building was sold in 1975, The Nut Club moved to its location on Brunswick Street. Three years after buying The Nut Club Mr. and Mrs. Waterman put in a lunch counter with 10 stools and that was the beginning of the dual nature of their business. Both sides of the operation grew, with the Watermans expanding the coffee shop and both wholesaling and retailing candy.

 Even after Mr. Waterman died in 1967, Mrs. Waterman continued the tradition, only dropping the candy-making part of the business when she changed location in 1978. In the meantime, the Watermans became involved in another business venture, the operation of Stratford’s first steak house. It was called the Tall T Steak House and opened on Ontario Street in 1960.  In 1970, Mrs. Waterman sold it and it became the All Baba Steakhouse . Source: Stratford-Perth Archives

This is a Heritage Property.