Dr. Robertson and his dogs

Stratford's Upper Queen's Park, named in honour of Queen Victoria in 1882, had stone gates at the entrance from Parkview Drive, built by John Piehl of Tavistock in 1930. Years later, this entrance to the park would become the forever home of two famous cast-iron dogs, known as the Robertson Dogs.

Dr. Robertson's house 55 Albert St. Stratford -Perth Archives

Dr. Robertson

Dr. Robertson had a love for hockey and was one of the leaders in encouraging hockey here during the golden age at the end of the First World War. He was president of the Stratford Hockey Club at that time, as well as the Northern Hockey League when it was in existence. In 1924, the building of the Classic City Arena was a project in which he threw himself into with great energy. He served on canvassing teams and contributed his own money in an effort to make the building a reality, with the hopes that future generations would have equipment for skating and hockey. Lawn bowling was another of his major hobbies and he played on the greens when they were located beside his home.

His home was built by the elder Dr. Robertson in 1899 at 55 Albert St., next to part of the site that was occupied by Woolco, beside Leeson-Killer Insurance. It was named "The Elms" because of the fine examples of elm trees that surrounded the property, and was a beautiful example of Victorian architecture, with stained glass windows in the hall and drawing room, and stone dogs to guard the front steps. The spacious rooms were fitted with furniture that was the envy of collectors — a table with inlaid Italian table top, a carved teak centre table from Japan, a magnificent tea stand and tray with matching queen's chair, souvenir spoons in a glass case, and china that his mother painted were just a few of his many treasures. Each piece had its own story to tell and he enjoyed them for both their stories as well as fortheir beauty.

Dr. Lorne, as he was affectionately known, occupied the home until the time of his death. He died at home in 1953, in his 77th year. After Dr. Lorne's death, his house was bought by the city in December 1953, becoming the City Hall annex that housed the offices of the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Commission. It was reported in a July 5, 1961, article in the Beacon Herald that, after the Robertson mansion had  outlived its usefulness, it was demolished and converted into a parking lot that opened in July,1958. However, the five-foot 200-pound cast-iron dogs survived, and for three years were kenneled in the city's paint shop building on St. Patrick Street.

What to do with the dogs became a big question, and after much interest from individuals to purchase the dogs, the city made the decision to give them to the board of park management for use in the park system. In July 1961, the dogs were mounted on cement blocks and erected at the Parkview Drive entrance gates to Queen's Park, one on each side, with the warning CAVE CANEM— "beware of the dog." Finally, the dogs that once held a place of prominence in front of the former Robertson home, had a home, where they still stand today, gracing the entrance to our beautiful park. Source: Reflections article: The Stratford-Perth Archives