Guthrie Avenue

The play's the thing       

Tyrone Guthrie Stratford-Perth Archives

From left: Tom Patterson, James Mason, Tyrone Guthrie Stratford-Perth Archives

Guthrie Avenue runs north from William Street to Delamere Avenue. Originally called Queen Street North, it formed the west boundary of Lt.-Col. Thomas G. Delamere’s chicken farm and was part of the Avon Heights subdivision, laid out in 1920. Col. Delamere, Dr. Lorne Robertson and Alfred Neal where among the owners of the land. Queen Street North, which first appeared on the 1922 street map, was so named because it was in a direct line with Queen Street, already named, on the south side of the Avon River.

In the decade following the Second World War, the development of Queen Street North led to some confusion with the addresses on Queen Street. In 1955, Dr. William Macauley (Mac) Gilmore, who lived on Queen Street North, discussed the address confusion with neighbours and they petitioned the city to change the name of their street in honor of Tyrone Guthrie, the founding artistic director of the Stratford Festival.  Alfred M. (Alf) Bell, of the Festival's board of governors, was tasked with asking Guthrie how he felt about having a Stratford street named after him. Guthrie said he was delighted with the idea, and Queen Street North became Guthrie Avenue. 

Guthrie Avenue is thought to be the only Stratford street to have had its name changed by a petition submitted by residents. In this case, everyone on Queen Street North, signed the petition. Guthrie was also the first Stratford street given a name associated with the Stratford Festival. By Stanford Dingman

In 1952, Tyrone Guthrie was invited by Tom Paterson to help launch the Stratford Festival of Canada. He was intrigued with the idea of starting a Shakespeare theatre in another Stratford on another Avon River. Guthrie enlisted Tanya Moiseiwitsch to introduce her thrust stage design, and actors Alec Guinness and Irene Worth were invited to star in the inaugural production of Richard III. All performances in the first seasons took place in a large, leaky tent in Upper Queens Park. Guthrie was the Festival's artistic director for its first three seasons. In 1960 he returned to direct Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, and in 1961 The Pirates of Penzance

Tyrone Guthrie (right) and his wife, Judy, are greeted at the Stratford Canadian National Railways station on May 15, 1954, by Mayor Lawrence Feick (see Feick Cresent) and Harry Showalter (see Queen Street), president of the Festival Theatre's board of governors (second from right). Guthrie was arriving for rehearsals for his second season as artistic director of the Stratford Festival. As a point of interest, Harry Showalter was the chemist for Kist Canada (see Cobourg Street) in Stratford, and he developed the formulas for the syrups that made some of those delicious Kist drinks. 

The CNR had brought Guthrie to Canada in 1930 to direct a series of radio plays on the railway's network. That radio network was the forerunner to the CBC (see footnote below).

* Tyrone Guthrie was honoured with a Stratford Bronze Star in July 2002. It is on Downie Street in front of the Avon Theatre.

 A footnote:

CNR Radio, the first national radio network

CNR Radio or CN Radio was the first national radio network in North America. It was developed, owned and operated by the Canadian National Railways between 1923 and 1932 to provide en route entertainment and information for its train passengers. The network provided radio programming to Canadians from the Pacific coast (Vancouver) to the Atlantic coast (Halifax).

During its nine-year existence, CNR Radio provided music, sports, information and drama programming to Canadians. The programming was produced in English, French and occasionally in some First Nations languages, and distributed nationwide through the railway's telegraph lines and rented airtime on other private radio stations. 

When political and competitive pressure forced the end of CNR Radio, with many of its assets and personnel migrating to a new government-operated agency, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC), which ultimately led to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. For more see CNR Radio.

Passengers in a CNR radio car, listening to programming in 1927, the first year of the railway's national service.