Gordon Street was named for William Gordon ( April 9 1841-April 13, 1920), a leading businessman who was mayor of Stratford when it became a city in March 1885. The street was laid out by Miller and Pratt in 1915 and appeared on the map of Stratford in 1922.
Gordon was also mayor in 1884, and in his inaugural address that year he called Stratford "the largest unincorporated city in the Dominion of Canada." Mayor Gordon championed the struggle of cityhood for Stratford, which meant separation from the County of Perth, an option that had stirred controversy for 20 years.
A separation vote was defeated in 1876 and again in 1881. But in 1885, Mayor Gordon was determined to win. The town's population had creeped above 9,000 and, apart from the prestige of becoming a city, the residents had fought a long and unsuccessful battle against what it considered unfair assessment methods used by the county in the town.
Perhaps the biggest issue in 1885 was prohibition. The "wets" were afraid the county would go dry and take Stratford with them. The majority of the people apparently agreed this would be bad for business. Mayor Gordon rallied 1,162 votes in favor of separation, far more than the 322 in opposition. The Stratford Beacon reported that the city hall was illuminated by a large bonfire in Market Square, where "an immense concourse speedily assembled."
A special provincial statute was passed on March 30, 1859, and the city was incorporated on March 31. The official inauguration celebrations took place on July 22. There was a special commemorative medal struck to mark the occasion. It bore the new city's corporate seal on one side and its first city hall building (1857-1897) on the reverse.
William Gordon is probably best remembered as the builder of the Gordon Block, which was recently restored as part of Festival Square. Though he described himself in legal documents as a broker, Gordon was a leading member of the Stratford business community and would likely be called a developer by today's definition.
He laid out all the streets in the William Gordon survey, in 1874, in the area bounded by what are now Erie Street, Lorne Avenue, and St. Vincent and Gore streets. He named all the streets in that survey after his friends and business associates.
Other of his downtown projects included the Windsor Hotel (see Albert Street) which originally extended right to Downie Street and the New Albion Hotel, which stood on Ontario Street, opposite the Beacon Herald (see Ontario Street). He also sold the land for the R. M. Ballantyne knitting company (see Ballantyne Avenue).
Gordon's first wife, Elizabeth Jane (Jennie) Quarry, died in 1871. His second marriage was to Margaret (Jukes) McCulloch (1848-1937), whose father, William McCulloch (see William Street) was the third mayor of Stratford (1860-1862) and the richest man in town. (see The Grange on Water Street). The Gordons lived in a large brick Victorian mansion at 198 Mornington St., which is still dominated by its octagonal entrance tower.
William Gordon capped his political career by returning to the mayor's chair in 1907-08. By Stanford Dingman. Photos of coins: Beacon Herald
* In 2016, William Gordan was honoured by the city with a bronze star, placed near the Festival Square, 10 Downie St.