The Evolution of Wellington Street  compiled by Gord Conroy

Wellington Street first appeared on Donald McDonald’s 1848 Canada Company plan of the town of Stratford.  When Canada Company officials were naming the first streets of Stratford, they made a special effort to honour Britain’s heroes. Most of the buildings on Wellington St. were called blocks. 

Take a scroll here though time and see more of the stories and drawings of old businesses and hotels on Wellington Street

1864. This is the north side of the Town Hall and Market building in 1864 facing Wellington Street's north side where most Wellington Street stores still are today.  The lovely old “Queen of the Square” was erected in 1857-1858 on the site of a burnt-out sawmill. Topped with a cupola and extended flag pole, this impressive building served as the architectural, political, commercial and cultural centre of the village. There were stores on the bottom floor, plus butcher stalls and space for market vendors. The fire and police departments were also accommodated, as was a concert hall that could hold 500 citizens, fully a quarter of the town's population, as well as the first library. 

It is probable that young Thomas Edison working in Stratford briefly at this time would have visited the Mechanics Institute with his insatiable appetite for learning. It is interesting to note that wooden buildings were banned from the downtown areas in 1863 and that led to the change to brick and the historic brick downtown we still enjoy today. Photo. Stratford-Perth Archives. 

Addendum: 1856.  In 1856, there were, in Stratford, eleven hotels, a brewery and a distillery, and the weekly Stratford Beacon and Perth County General Intelligencer ($2 per annum in advance) had a standing head for a classified ad column: "Hotels, Saloons, Etc." 

1857.  In 1857, the village council asked the ratepayers to vote on a bylaw to close the saloons. Although the "yes" vote was 82-2, the bylaw was defeated because it did not win, as required, a majority of the ratepayers - who numbered 280. As if this weren't enough of booze for one community, Stratford also made liquor and had been catering to its citizens' thirst since the earliest whisky and beer days of settlement, when W. H. McCulloch  (see William Street) had added a distillery to his mills.  Source: Adelaide Leitch, Floodtides of Fortune. 

1864. This view of City Hall shows the rear and west of the building  The rear we know as Market Square today and the street entering at the top right of the picture is Brunswick. Wellington Street's north side would be just outside the photo to the left of the picture. The south wall of the “Queen” of Stratford’s triangular square shows part of the wooden Downie Street buildings.  

What you are looking at was the market half of the building. The arcade and stalls can be seen on the ground level and the concert hall on the second floor. The wooden sidewalk in the foreground is on the site of today’s Market Place. The entire Market Building and Town Hall was gutted by fire on November 24, 1897 and the present City Hall was built on the same triangular site shortly after. Its address today is 1 Wellington Street so it seems appropriate to start our Wellington Street journey here.  Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives. 

*   For further details about the Town Hall, see Market Place.

1873.  This is the north side of Wellington Street opposite Market Place. Stratford's population in the 1871 census was 4,313 up from 200 in 1841 which was just nine years after Stratford was given its name in 1832 by Thomas Mercer Jones and the first sawmill and hotel and other smaller buildings were erected.    As you can see, wooden buildings were gradually being replaced by brick. And though storefronts on the ground level have changed, the historical facades on the upper stories remain intact. Blowes Travel, 28 Wellington, is now on the site of what was then the City Hotel, the hotel to the right of the German House. The Easson Block is on the extreme right. You can see that the Great Western railway occupied the ground floor. Photo: Vince Gratton Collection.

1871. A further note on Stratford Hotels.  By 1871, there were 25 hotels and taverns, four saloons and five liquor shops. It was said that you could walk the four blocks from the corner of Huron and John Streets to Erie Street and pass (or fail to pass) fourteen places where you could get a drink. Source: Floodtides of Fortune by Adelaide Leitch.

1876.  In this year, the German Hotel (originally German House) was at 19 Wellington (John Hartlieb), William Worth's establishment was at 25 Wellington, built in 1871,  the Market Hotel (William Patrick) was at 37 Wellington, and the Cabinet Hotel and Restaurant (H. Samson) was on Wellington opposite the Market. 

1876. The Balmoral Hotel (1871), (C. George) was at the junction of Wellington, St. Patrick and George Streets. It was later The Mansion House and is now The Parlour. Also in this year, 1876,  Stratford streets were lighted for the first time with gas in January. In that year, about two miles of mains had been laid. The Gas Works was located further west on Wellington near the G.T. R. In 1876, Wellington ran from Albert south to Gore between Nelson and Erie. Source: Stratford City Directory, 1876. 

1885. Photo: Vince Gratton Collection.  Here we have a view of Wellington looking east to Market now Downie Street.  On the left is Lowe's Feed and Seeds, then the Brandenberger establishment.  You can see it was a brick structure now replacing The German House in the photo above from 1873. Next, to the right of Brandenberger, is O'Flaherty and Quirk, liquors. Then came The Easson Block and the Royal Hotel. It had been known as The Royal Exchange Hotel. Finally, we see The Shakespeare Block and The Mowat Block on the corner of Market later Downie Street. Details of other businesses in those blocks can be found in photos below. Source: Stratford  Vernon Directory, 1896. 

1898   More brick buildings replaced wooden structures in the 1870s and early 1880s.  By the turn of the century, the streetscape was complete. The blocks, from the left: Worth Block, (not visible), Brandenberger Block, (lettering at street level, J. Brandenberger, see below), Cabinet Hotel, with the awnings furled at street level, Royal Hotel (Easson Block), with the Dufton & Tilley mill outlet at street level directly below the men standing on the roof just to the left of the Shakespeare Block,  Shakespeare Block (Duncan L. Myers , hardware at street level, The Advertiser on the second story), and Mowat Block on the corner of Market ( Downie) Street.   The lettering at street level reads Mowat & Son.  Stratford-Perth Archives

1898.    This is the complete photo that was detailed above to show the Blocks more clearly. This photo shows the laying of the Corner Stone  for the new City Hall. Downie Street is running north-south on the right of the photo.  We are looking north toward Ontario Street.  On the building on Wellington at the left of the photo, is the lettering J. Brandenberger at street level.  Note the man at the top of the hydro pole in the right foreground and people observing the occasion from the roofs of the buildings. Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives . For more information on the building of the new City Hall, our present City Hall, see Market Place .

Circa 1895-1898.    Royal Hotel     Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives.  The Royal (j. D Wray, proprietor) had other names and a history on Wellington Street as did other hotels. Even after business blocks replaced the inns, the skyline of Wellington Street, three stories up, reminded the people hurrying along the road below that four hotels had once been there: The Cabinet, The City, The Worth and The Corn Exchange, which became The Royal Exchange and then just The Royal. Dufton and Tilley had a mill outlet as can be seen on the right, and to the left of the Dufton sign, is an entrance to the stables behind for horses and carriages also accessed via the laneway behind the buildings. There was another entrance from Erie Street. Source: Adelaide Leitch, Floodtides of Fortune. 

Circa 1904-1905.  Stratford-Perth Archives. Awnings were rolled up or out by individual businesses in sun to provide shade for shoppers and in rain.  Shopping usually happened on a daily basis and deliveries  by horse and wagon were commonplace. The first awning on the right of the picture is the lower level of The Mowat Block right on the corner of Market Street now Downie. The lower floor was occupied by the retail store for Whyte Meat Packing Company. Myers hardware is next door. The Advertiser was directly above. The Shakespeare Block has the large roof sign. The Worth Block with the pointed centre tower is seen at the left of the photo. Sources: Stratford City Directories

 1905  Photo: Vince Gratton. This photo is iconic in many ways. It is yesteryear as we imagine it and it really was. In this photo, we are again looking at the west side of Wellington, near Downie Street which is just to the right of the photo. The exterior of the present City Hall can be seen at the left. The parasol carried by the lady in the foreground is for sun protection.  Going shopping or out on business required more formal dress rather than casual. The horse and wagon as you can see was still the preferred mode of transportation though a few cars, often referred to as horseless carriages, now could be found in town.  The problem? They frightened the horses.

The corner at Wellington and Downie can be clearly seen in the photo that follows. Downie was called Market Street from the river to Albert Street at this time. Downie ran south  to the city limits from Albert. The first business that can be completely seen on the right up above is Duncan Myers hardware at 3 Wellington.  The sign for Pratt Printers and the Labour Hall banner can be seen above Myers. To the left of Myers Hardware, is McCurdy Bros (Brothers)  Hardware at 7 Wellington. At 9 Wellington, was E. A. Rae, druggist, and then came The Royal Hotel at #11 and the Cabinet Hotel at #13.  H. M. Patterson Books was at # 15,  and another hardware, McDermid and Kyle, was at #17.  A number of other business were located before the junction of St. Patrick where The Mansion House Hotel was located. It is now The Parlour Inn. The  City Hotel was still at #33, and A. G. Lloyd, grocer, was at #45.   Source: Stratford Vernon's Directory, 1905. 

 1905 .  This photo provides detail from above and shows the Northwest corner of Wellington and Downie Streets. Photo: Vince Gratton.  In this photo, we see business establishments clearly on the west side of Wellington opposite City Hall. The Whyte Packing Company had their retails meat store for many years at what was then 1 Wellington Street on the ground floor in The Mowat Block at the corner of Downie and Wellington. Next door, at 3 Wellington was Duncan L. Myers hardware, with banners for other establishments above: Pratt & Son Printers and Central Labour Hall. Right next to Myers, at 5 Wellington, was another hardware,  McCurdy Brothers.  The "hardware" signage that is clearly seen in this detailed photo shows McCurdy Bros. signage just above it.  The window sign reads McCurdy Bros. Stoves on the right and McCurdy Bros. Hardware on the left.  Their large sign on the roof can also be seen. Source: Stratford City Directory, 1905.

Circa 1910.      The Worth Block with its centre tower dominates the top left of the photo just above.    Photo:  Stratford-Perth Archives. This view of Wellington Street gives us a view looking east from Market Place up Wellington Street to Downie at Albert Street. We see several businesses that were more difficult to see looking from the Albert and Downie Streets junction in the 1905 photos.  The numbering of buildings has now changed from the erlier photos from 1905.  The formal renumbering took place in 1907. Even numbers are now on the north and west side of streets. Odd numbers are on the east and south side. (see Stratford by the Numbers).  

City Hall, just outside the photo on the right, is now 1 Wellington Street and Whyte Packing Company on the corner of Downie was now #2 rather than #1. The Myers Hardware Company next door to Whyte's was now #6 and McCurdy's had been replaced by Ward and Son Hardware at #8.  The druggist next door was now E. A Robertson at #10. Then came The Royal Hotel in the same spot but renumbered to be #18. The Cabinet Hotel was #22 and Patterson's Books was now 26 Wellington.  Patterson's son Tom, as many will know, became a journalist and was to a large extent responsible for the birth of The Stratford Shakespearean Festival in 1953. 

Let's look briefly from the left side of the photo just above.  To the left of the awning closest to us which was Killoran's Grocery is the liquor business of T. F Quirk, seller of spirits.. He was still in the same location but now at 40 Wellington rather than 27 as in 1905 and earlier with O'Flaherty.  Next door, also in the Worth Block, were several insurance agents and the May Tea Company at 42 Wellington. It too had been there in 1907 when the renumbering took place.

The store closest to us looks to have a sign McLaughlin Vehicles which were just beginning to be present as horseless carriages. Another  suggests the sale of Farm Machinery. Those pieces of information help to date the picture despite the presence of horses and wagons only.  

Circa 1927-1929     Wellington Street from Market Square showing the Blocks.  The Worth Block is on the right of the photo. Dominion Stores can be seen on the right in the Worth Block at 38 Wellington Street. Dominion was replaced by Loblaws in 1930 so that fact helps to date the photo. 

We see Allen's Fruit Market (1915-1942, though the name remained after that date with a change in ownership) and right beside it Allen's Alley that leads to the laneway behind the buildings along this Wellington Street block where deliveries were made and stables had been placed for horses and wagons in earlier days. . Now it houses murals honoring Stratford musicians  (see Allen's Alley). Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives

1931     Photo: Vince Gratton This photo shows part of both sides of Wellington from Downie to St Patrick. The  trees in the background mark the crossing of St.  Patrick Street.   From the foreground on the left of our photo which is the west side of Wellington Street, we see  Alex W. Fisher, hardware (#6 Wellington), C. B. Costello, Billiards (# 8A), Parisian Beauty Shoppe (#8) with the Elite Café, upstairs. 

1940. The photo provides almost a full block view  from Downie in the foreground to St. Patrick in the background which crosses just before the trees. We don't usually see the east side of the street in photos. On the left is  City Hall, and directly across Market Square, on the east side of Wellington,  is Ubelacker Meats at #49-53 Market Place. Then came Bill McCarthy's Bicycle Shop (#71)  before Chouler's Big Corner Service Station (#87).  You can see the hanging sign.  Across St. Patrick was The Mansion House Hotel which was later The English Parlour and now The Parlour.   

Many buildings on the east side in the foreground have been named in other photos so let us mention others on Wellington near where St Patrick crosses. Opposite the Service Station on the west side  was Patterson's Book Store at #98 had moved from #26... and opposite it was another bicycle shop, Wettlaufer's Bicycles at #104. The Gas Works were further along Wellington on the west side toward Gore at #160 Wellington. 

1940. Photo: Vince Gratton Collection.  This photo shows the opening of Loblaw's Groceteria in 1940 at 34-36 Wellington. Dominion Stores just down the street at 40 Wellington must have felt the competition.  E & R Shoe Storeat #32  can be seen to the right of Loblaw's in the photo. McDermid & Kyle Hardware is at 28 Wellington.  As you can see, there were no parking metres or guidelines for the parallel street parking. 

1944   Photo: Vince Gratton.  We can see the west side of Wellington Street in the background of this photo of the troops at home in Market Place at the rear of City Hall. The Worth Building can be seen prominently . Dominion Stores is at 40 Wellington.  Gregory's Rexall Drugs was at the left of the Worth Block at 46. In between Dominion and Gregory's were Tait Optical at #42 and Alfred Neal and Sons, Florists, at #44 . 

To the left of Gregory's Rexall Drugs in the photo were Sherwin Williams Paints still at 48 Wellington and Fashion Millinery still at #50 at the time of the fire in the Blue Room above the ground floor stores of the Worth Block in 1951. See Photo below.  

1951    Smoke rises from south end of The Worth Block after a fire starts in the Blue Room 42 Wellington.  Source: Dean Robinson's 42 Wellington., The Music and the memories 1929-1969.  Photo: Vince Gratton from Stratford Beacon Herald/Perth Archives.

The fire was discovered on Sunday November 11 about 11:00 a.m. as Armistice Day celebrations were wrapping up behind City Hall.  The cause was thought to be a cigarette that had dropped behind a cushion on the couch and smoldered all night after the dance the night before. Though serious, residents in the apartments were evacuated safely, and the fire was under control in about 25 minutes after the arrival of the firemen. 

In addition to the destruction of the Blue Room, the fire gutted two second floor rooms and charred the attic. While significant, the damage caused by the fire was less than the damage that was caused by the water that rained into the businesses below. Hardest hit was the Rexall Drugstore, operated by Herbert W. (Duke) Gregory who also owned the building.  You can see the Stan Blowes name on the signage on the opposite side of the Worth Building from the fire. He opened a Travel Agency in 1951 and would take over Kenner's Book Shop  ( see Kenner Crs.) next door as a part of his expansion.  The Blowes family ( see Blowes Dr.) remain in the building and have preserved much of its history. To the right of Blowes in the photo was Loblaw's Groceteria at # 34-36 Wellington. Loblaw's would soon build a large supermarket on the south side of Ontario Street just west of Nile. 

A personal note about walking Wellington Street from Gord Conroy: My mother and grandparents and I had attended the services of Remembrance that day. Many of us who grew up in Stratford during the 1940s and 1950s will recall this event. I was eight at the time and in that same year, I "helped" my grandfather at his Stratford Paper Box Factory at 168 St Patrick Street. Wellington was one of the main streets that we travelled to and from work. At noon and after work at five, we made brief stops to pick up what was needed at one of the Meat Markets, usually Moon's (# 80)  or Allen's Fruit Market (#56) and sometimes we made a stop at Dorothy's Bakery beside Moon's (#82) or Olin Brown's Candy Shop (#88). My grandpa made the fancy candy boxes for Olin. Once in a while we stopped at a Drug Store , either Gregory's Rexall (#46) or Niles Pharmacy (# 62) and also at Makins Hardware (#6). My mom or grandmother usually ordered items ahead. Everything was carried in paper bags and we picked up items both at noon and at the end of the work day but only what we could carry. 

1972  Photo: Vince Gratton. Once again we view part of Wellington Street at the front of City Hall.  Downie Street is in the foreground of the photo. Moving from the left side of the photo, we see part of Doughty Jewellers (#40 Wellington), Ted's Hobby Shop (#38), Stan Blowes Book & Gift Shop (#34), then Stan Blowes Travel Agency (#32), Reward Shoes (#28),  Beneficial Finance Company (#26), The Pharmacy (#22), Pickwick Restaurant and Steak House (#20), Smyth's Shoes (#16) and Sinclair Guardian Pharmacy (#12).