Elizabeth Street

Not the Queen

Elizabeth, one of the first streets opened north of the Avon River, was laid out by William Frederick McCulloch in 1851. Elizabeth Street runs through the middle of the McCulloch survey and was named in honour of his eldest daughter. Elizabeth McCulloch, born in Ireland in 1840, was 11 years old when the street was named. Her mother's name was also Elizabeth. William McCulloch brought his family to Upper Canada, and to Stratford, in 1842.

What is now Trow Avenue was the private tree-lined drive from Ontario Street to house McCulloch called The Grange. It stood about where the former Perth Insurance building is, at 210 Water St.

While living at The Grange, the McCullochs had six more children, which ran their total offspring to 11. William McCulloch's father was "in affluent circumstances,'' so William received a first-class education in France. It would appear that William Frederick McCulloch was the wealthiest man in Stratford, and it was common knowledge that he brought a large sum of money with him when he came to the settlement.

He invested much of his fortune in Stratford. He bought mills and waded into the mercantile business on a large scale. He became Stratford's dominant landowner and its leader among the pioneer developers. He owned the block along the river on the north side of Ontario Street from Huron Street to Erie Street. He also owned a large tract of land on the north side of the river, some of which donated for the consruction of St. James Church.

McCulloch actively promoted the separation of Perth from the United Counties of Huron, Perth and Bruce, and though Perth had been established legally as a county in 1850, it could not collect taxes by law until a courthouse and jail were erected. McCulloch sold land at bargain prices to assist with those requirements. The first Perth County courthouse, on the north side of the river, facing William Street, was built on land made available by McCulloch. It served from 1853 until 1887, when the present courthhouse was built.

Elizabeth McCulloch must have been impressed by the interest of her father in land development and public affairs, because she married a man of similar interests, namely Alexander Grant, also a large landowner and developer, in several parts of Stratford. In 1879-80 he was mayor of the Town of Stratford. Elizabeth's brother, J.  A. McCulloch, and her brother-in-law, William Gordon, were also mayors of Stratford. Elizabeth's husband, Alexander Grant, and her father, W. F. McCulloch, owned land and laid out surveys on both sides of Louise Street in the south end of Stratford. One of Grant's surveys went right to Erie Street and included a number of streets named after native Canadian trees. Elizabeth's husband probably had a hand in the naming of Ash, Cedar, Cherry, Chestnut, Elm, Oak, Pine and Walnut streets. Maple Avenue came later. With note from Stanford Dingman

Bruce Swerdfager, 1956

Bruce Swerdfager, actor

Bruce Swerdfager  began acting at 15 on CKCOand CFRA radio in his hometown of Ottawa, and was an active member of the Ottawa Little Theatre. He was named best supporting actor at the Dominion Drama Festival in 1951. While working as a typewriter salesman, he auditioned for Tyrone Guthrie and was selected as a founding company member of the Stratford Festival. He received the first Guthrie Award (along with William Hutt), which he used to travel to London, England, to study theatre in 1954-55. He rose through the ranks in Stratford, to become company manager, theatre and company manager, comptroller, and ultimately general manager. 

Bruce was a member of the inaugural company of the Crest Theatre in Toronto and toured Canada and the U. S. as a member of the Canadian Players. He also performed on Broadway in Tamburlaine the Great and Robertson Davies' Love and Libel. In 1979 he joined the Dallas Theatre Centre as general manager, and was appointed general manager of the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto in 1981. He returned to the Stratford Festival as an actor in 1986, playing in The Boys from Syracuse (1986) and A Winter's Tale. See Shakespeare in Performance for his various roles.       

Bruce died in 2007 at age 79.  He live for a time at 30 Elizabeth St. Biography and picture from Ann Swerdfager

Harry and Charlotte Zurbrigg  Colleen Misener

Harry Zurbrigg,

bread- maker

Harry Zurbrigg lived at 62 Elizabeth Str. He owned and operated the TVB Bakery at the corner of William and Huron streets until its closing in 1949. TVB stood for The Very Best, but at one time, he had operated the Thames Valley Bread Co. in St. Marys. The Zurbriggs used motor vehicles for country deliveries, but horses in town until they closed their bakery at 56 Huron St. 

Harry married Charlotte McArdle. After he died, she rented out the top floors of their house (see below). Upon her death, the became the Amadeus Haus bed and breakfast operation, which ran for 18 years. Source: Paul Wilker

Residence: 62 Elizabeth St.  Paul Wilker

John Vernon, actor

John Vernon rented at 62 Elizabeth St. while acting in festival productions from 1959 to 1962. See his roles at Shakespeare in Performance.

While not an international star, he was well known in Canada for playing a coroner in a TV series called Wojeck , a Canadian drama which aired on CBC Television from 1966 to 1968. It was arguably the first successful drama series on English Canadian television. He made a career in Hollywood after achieving initial television stardom in Canada. He was best known for playing Dean Wormer in Animal House, the mayor in Dirty Harry and Fletcher in The Outlaw Josey Wales.  Source: text and picture Wikipedia  

Brian Bedford, actor

Brian Bedford (Feb. 16, 1935 -Jan. 13, 2016) lived in a large house at 30 Elizabeth St. On stage and in film, he was well known for both acting in and directing Shakespearean productions. He received seven Tony nominations, the second most for a male actor at the time. In 2009, Bedford starred as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, marking 27 seasons of acting and/or directing at Stratford. He died in 2016. His ashes were sprinkled in Stratford.  For his roles in Stratford see Shakespeare in Performance. Source: text and picture Wikipedia   

In 2013 he was honoured by the city with a bronze star, placed near the Avon Theatre. 

Actor's house

These actors lived in this house while they worked in Stratford:

Christopher  Plummer (see Christopher Plummer Drive)

Bruno Gerrusi (see Romeo Street) 

Max Helpmann (1914 - 1987) was born in Adelaide, Australia. He became one of best known and the longest-serving actors in the Stratford Festival, 59 plays from 1956 through 1986. See full list of his roles:  Shakespeare in Performance.

Residence: 5 Elizabeth St.

Residence: 12-14-16 Elizabeth St.

The Dufton house

In 1882, looking out his front windows, Edmund Tyndal Dufton could watch smoke rise from the Dufton Woolen Mills, in what are now the Shakespearean Gardens. 

The house was built for Dufton, who managed the Dufton Woolen Mills 0n Huron Street (see Huron Street).  James L. Killoran, a judge in Perth County, later lived in this house, in 1927. 

Architectural Description: two-storey yellow brick with a hip roof and a centre peak; first floor: large rectangular window with a round-headed transom containing stained glass on the left side and an entrance door on the right; the hipped-roof porch is supported by round columns and has a turned balustrade; second floor has three segmentally arched one- over-one paned windows, centre window closed with shutters; there are brackets under eaves and a round window in the peak. The left side has segmentally arched window on each floor at the right side and a three- sided two-storey bay window to the left; each window in each section of the bay window are segmentally arched with one-over-one panes. A frame two-storey enclosed porch was added to the right side of the house. Source: Stratford Designated Properties

Below: Wallpaper peeled off the wall revealed a painted picture, believed to be that of Edmund Tyndal Dufton  Source: Instagram Dufton House 

Wallpaper coming off

The reveal

William Ireland  Stratford-Perth Archives

William J. Ireland, architect

Willian J. Ireland  was a successful builder in Stratford. He also practised as an architect here 1905 and 1909. Born in Crail, Fifeshire, Scotland, in 1848, he arrived in Canada in May 1873 and settled in Stratford. Here he began his career as a building contractor specializing in ornamental plastering and cement work. From 1905 until 1908 he worked under his own name, designing plain and unpretentious residential and ecclesiastical works. 

In 1909 he entered a partnership with A. M. Killer, but by 1910 he had terminated his practice and returned to his career as a contractor. He lived on 122 Elizabeth St. He died in Stratford in 1919 and was buried in Avondale Cemetery. Source: Biographical Dictionary of Architects

List of William Ireland's works in Stratford

Residence: 122 Elizabeth St.

Albert Gordon Zurbrigg

Albert Gordon Zurbrigg, Today not tomorrow 

Gordon Zurbrigg was born in St. Marys, Ont., on May 6, 1912. He enlisted in the Army in 1938 and served in England and Northwest Europe during the Second World War. He was employed in many roles with 1st Hussars: orderly room clerk, dispatch rider; and Technical Quarter Master Sergeant   ( TQMS ) operator. He was extremely proud of the Hussars' accomplishments. The First Hussars motto, Hodie Non Cras (Today not tomorrow), was a constant reminder to him for action. He was was discharged on Nov. 1, 1945. 

Post war, he became involved in many community groups: Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, Y’s Men, Educated Duck Club, United Way, Stratford and Area World Aid (SAWA), Stratford Perth Museum, Central United Church and Volunteer in Corrections, Red Cross and the Stratford recreational committee. He was honoured as Commander by the the St John Ambulance order. He was awarded Equites in the Legion of Honour by France. He was a member of Stratford Royal Canadian Legion Branch 8 (see St.Patrick Street) for 67 years. He lived at 70 Elizabeth St. died in 2016. Source: The Legion

Residence: 70 Elizabeth St.

Residence: 55 Elizabeth St.

Alfred Ahrens, dentist and Liberal MP

The house at 55 Elizabeth St. was built in 1878, during Stratford's railway boom, for John Farquharson Jr. (see Cobourg Street) a local grocer. The property is also associated with the prominent Ahrens family. Alfred E. Ahrens, who came to Stratford to practise dentistry, bought this house in 1886. 

Ahrens was interested in politics, and he became an alderman in 1890. In the same year, running as a Liberal, he was elected North Perth's member in the provincial legislature. Dr. Ahrens was also a member of the Odd Fellows and Tecumseh Masonic Lodge.

Cora Bell Ahrens

Ahrens' wife, Isabella (Day), also made significant contributions to the community. She was a talented pianist and organist, served in several local churches, and was active in the Perth County Music Teachers Federation. Following in her mother's footsteps, the Ahrens' daughter, Cora Bell Ahrens (see Ahrens Drive), became renowned not only in Stratford but throughout Canada for her expertise in playing and teaching piano.

The house at 55 Elizabeth St. is a good example of the Italianate style of architecture. Typical of this style is the horizontal massing and low-pitched hip roof. Also typical are the wide bracketed eaves, the round hooded windows, and the bullet window in the open pediment with the bargeboard finial. Also of note is the iron cresting on the widow's walk, the Stratford porch with side veranda and the original one-over-one windows. Source: Historic Places