Thomas Street renamed John Street in 1879. That the street heretofore known as Thomas Street shall hereafter be called and known as John Street. City of Stratford-Flashback Friday

The founders

John Street appeared on John McDonald's original 1834 map of Stratford, and J. C. W. Daly named it Jones Street on his copy. On the 1857 map, the name John Street appeared, but it was called Thomas Street north of Caledonia Street.

The name John was in honour of John Galt and recognized his great contribution to Stratford and the Huron Tract as founder of the Canada Company in 1924-26. What is now called West Gore Street was Galt Street on the 1857 map, and that was done to link the two names, John and Galt, at the John-Galt intersection. When Galt Street later became part of West Gore, and Galt was lost to Stratford as a street name until Galt Road was opened, off Matilda Street.

It is interesting to note the two earlier names on John Street, Jones and Thomas, both of which refer to the Canada Company Commissioner, Thomas Mercer Jones. In 1829, three years before Stratford was settled (in 1832), Galt had been recalled to England by his court of directors and replaced by Jones.

Though Galt and Jones both were interested in settling the Huron Tract, Galt was primarily interested in helping the settlers, while Jones was more interested in furthering his own interests and those of the Family Compact, and in making money for his Canada Company directors.

Galt was respected and well liked in the Huron Tract. Jones was not. But Galt's weakness was that he was a poor administrator and did not devote enough attention to making profits for his directors. By Stanford Dingman

John Galt

Thomas Jones

Gordon and Velda Scott     103 John St. N.   

Gordon Scott, choirmaster

In 1942, Gordon Scott accepted a position as organist and choir director at St. John’s United Church in Stratford. That decision enriched the vocal musical life of Stratford residents and the community beyond anyone’s wildest dream. From 1942, and for more than the next 46 years until his death in 1988, Gordon’s love of music and people was shared with St. John’s, and throughout Stratford and area with individuals and choral groups in both the sacred and secular music traditions. His impact cannot be underestimated. It was life-changing for many.


At St. John’s United, his choirs were legendary. Year after year, they won first-place awards at music festivals in Stratford, Guelph, Woodstock and Toronto. When other choirs asked organizers if St. John’s was to be involved, and received a “yes” answer, they often decided not to enter the festival. When Gordon learned of that, he decided not to have St. John’s compete any longer. His aim always was to encourage musical development. And that was happening in Stratford in many ways.

After coming to St John’s, Gordon added a junior choir to the noted senior choir he developed. Like their senior counterpart, the junior choir also travelled and performed at music festivals. Then came a beginners' choir, and an intermediate choir for teens. That made for a choral musical option for all ages. All the  choirs enriched the worship services at St. John’s at different times over Gordon’s 46 years as director of music, organist and choir director.


Young singers sought out Gordon as a teacher beginning in the 1940s and that tradition continued through Gordon’s life. By 1953, he had formed the Elizabethan Singers (see below), a madrigal group of 10 voices, male and female, from Stratford and area. They sang intricate harmonies, a cappella for the most part, with an emphasis on Elizabethan music. They presented concerts in Stratford at the Festival and Avon theatre, and throughout southern Ontario. The CBC broadcast their performances several times in the summer, and with Sir Ernest MacMillan at Christmas.

In 1955, the Elizabethans were asked by Tyrone Guthrie (see Guthrie Avenue) to sing as Olivia’s court musicians in the Stratford Festival production of The Merchant of Venice. In 1957, some members appeared in Twelfth Night as travelling musicians. In  1959, the group disbanded because some members had left to study in Europe, or to live and work elsewhere. Choral work in churches took major leaps forward during the 1950s and 1960s, and the work by Gordon Scott was in the forefront.

In 1972, he started the Stratford Boy Choir (see below), an ecumenical group featuring the voices of boy sopranos. His coral groups appeared in Stratford Festival productions, which included an appearance with the  Duke Ellington Band. The St. John’s choir provided ensemble choral work for several numbers on stage with the Duke. Gordon also provided boys from his choir to act as a choir boy and fairies in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1956.

On July 7, 1968, in the Festival Theatre, Gordon Scott and the St. John’s choir joined Duke Ellington and his band onstage for a Concert of Sacred Music, composed by Ellington. The music was thrilling and moving for the sold-out audience and for the choir members. It was a compliment to Gordon's talent that he was asked to put together a large ensemble vocal group to work with Ellington.


In 1975, to honour Gordon and his more than 30 years of service to St. John’s, Stratford and choral music, 128 members and former members of the St. John’s choir came together (photo above) to sing and salute him in a service at St. John’s. In 1982, the church marked Gordon’s 40th year of musical service to the church and the community. 

Gordon Scott died in 1982 at age 75. At his funeral, one of his students, Barbara Collier (see Murray Hill Road), sang, accompanied by Mrs. Audrey Conroy at the organ. Text and photo by Gordon Conroy

The St. John's choir , with Gordon Scott lower centre, in about 1952  Photo Paul Wilker  

Gordon Scott choirs

The Stratford Boychoir

The Stratford Boychoir was formed in 1972 by Gordon Scott and directed by Brian Emery from 1986 to about 1993.

It was a choir created to perform Telemann’s Cantata The Schoolmaster with the Kitchener-Waterloo Junior Symphony Orchestra. under the direction of Raffi Armenian. 

The concert was presented for a capacity audience in the Avon Theatre in Stratford in April of 1972. Choir members were drawn from Stratford and the surrounding district, with some boys from the Kitchener area.  The interest and enthusiasm generated by the first performance led to the decision to continue on a more permanent basis. In August 1972, the choir was an added feature on the first Music for a Summer Day, presented by the Stratford Shakespearean Festival.

Click on picture to hear the choir.

Concerts were performed in several Ontario centres, including two at Ontario Place in Toronto. Another appearance was with the Kitchener-Waterloo Senior Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the opera  Carmen with Maureen Forrester in the title role.

The Stratford Boychoir distinguished itself at music festivals in Toronto and Stratford, consistently winning top awards with marks ranging from 89 to 95. Gordon's choice of music for the choir ranged from the traditional classical vocal repertoire of Handel, Purcell and Mozart, to songs from Shakespeare, folk songs from Canada and show tunes from Broadway. Source: Text and picture thanks to Gordon Conroy

Shown here is the record produced by Gordon Scott in 1974. He is pictured on the record jacket with his choir and accompanist Audrey Conroy. Click on the photo to access the YouTube site and hear the Stratford boychoir, kindly provided by a student of Gordon.

Elizabethan Singers on the Stratford Festival Stage for a summer concert, 1954

From left: Lloyd Bradshaw, Keith Elliott, John Boyden, Miriam Root, Velda Scott, Helen Baumbach, Jean Moorehead, Ilene Hunter, Audrey Conroy, Gordon Scott. Director: Gordon Scott; accompanist Audrey Conroy. Picture from Gord Conroy. 

Elizabethan Singers

By 1953, Gordon had formed The Elizabethan Singers, as a complement to the new Shakespearean Festival. It was a madrigal group of 10 voices, male and female, professional in quality, from Stratford and area. They sang intricate harmonies a capella, for the most part, with an emphasis on Elizabethan music and modern music with an Elizabethan flavour.  

The Elizabethans presented concerts in Stratford at the Festival Theatre and Avon Theatre and throughout southern Ontario. The CBC broadcast several of their performances, in the summer and with Sir Ernest MacMillan at Christmas. 

The group first appeared for a Sunday concert in the Stratford Festival's tent-theatre in July 1954. That performance was so enthusiastically received, there was a repeat performance in August. After hearing the Elizabethans in 1954, Tyrone Guthrie asked them to sing as Olivia’s court musicians in his Stratford production of The Merchant of Venice the next year. Source Gord Conroy

*   To hear them sing click on the picture of the choir.

Kathryn Root, musician

Kathryn Anne Root was born in Stratford in 1945 and lived at 175 John St. N. She was a professional musician and a gifted concert pianist with a rich teaching, concert and recording career.

She was the daughter of David and Miriam (Haines) Root. He was a Stratford secondary school teacher, deeply involved in community work, and Miriam was a noted pianist, music teacher, soprano soloist and member of The Elizabethan Singers (see above).

After university, Kathryn was a founding member of Camerata, a chamber music ensemble, formed in Toronto in 1972, with her husband to be, Elyakim (Peter) Taussig.

In addition to touring and recording, Kathryn taught at three universities: Western (London, Ont.), Mount Allison (Sackville, N.B.) and Indiana State (Terre Haute, Ind.). In 1987, she became deeply interested in the study of the meditative and healing aspects of music and began volunteering as a musician at a hospice in Toronto.

In 1989, the ethereal sound of crystal music was introduced to her by Eric Cadesky of Toronto’s Glass Orchestra, who commissioned a reconstruction of a Glass Armonica, first invented by Benjamin Franklin. Kathryn taught herself to play, and in 1991 she moved with her husband and daughter to the Berkshires in Lenox, Mass. and joined the staff of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. The centre gave her the Sanskrit name Yatri.

Yatri wrote and recorded “glass” music for radio, television, film, theatre and dance in the second of her dual musical careers before her death in April 2015.

Therapists and music lovers around the world continue to use Yatri’s album, Crystal Spirit, for massage and deep relaxation therapy, for insomnia relief and improved sleep, and for the pure joy of listening to her ethereal music. Source: Gord Conroy

* Click on picture below to hear her music

Avondale Cemetery

Avondale Cemetery was created by the Town of Stratford in 1871. In 1883, the London Diocese bought 17 acres adjacent to the public cemetery for the burial of Catholics. Many of the local churchyards moved their residents here as land in town increased in value. This Catholic area, at the crest of the cemetery, still bears the names of saints.

Near the top of the cemetery lies the military section. Rather than symbols of religious affiliation, as you would see in the United States, the gravestones here are adorned with maple leaves and red poppies. The 1918 influenza epidemic hit the area hard; 88 victims were buried in the cemetery in a single month in the fall of that year.

Avondale Cemetery     by Fred Gonder

House at 62 John St. N., built in 1875

James Woods, heritage house

The large two-storey white brick house at 62 John St. N. was built in 1875 for James Woods and his family (see Woods Street).


James Peter Woods was born on April 2, 1840, in Torrington, a market town northwest of Exeter in Devonshire, England. He was the first child of James Woods, a wheelwright, and Ann Vanstone. After the birth of a daughter, Mary Elizabeth, the family immigrated in 1842 to Canada, and then to the Ontario settlement called Stratford.


As of the 1851 Canada census, James Sr. was a tavern keeper. Stratford was incorporated on Jan. 1, 1854, and James Sr. was nominated for the village’s first council. He was not elected as a councillor, but did become one of Stratford’s first school trustees. By 1861, his occupation was listed as farmer, and his son, James P., as a law student. James P. had graduated from grammar schools in Stratford and Goderich.

Before the advent of university law schools, aspiring lawyers learned their profession by working with established law offices. James Peter Woods began his law studies in the office of Daniel Home Lizars, who later served as the Perth County judge from 1864 to 1886. In 1863, Woods  was called to the bar and began a prosperous practice in Stratford. By 1879 he was a partner of the firm Woods, Fisher and McPherson, which was listed as a sponsor in the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Perth County of 1879.

Five years later, to reflect his increasingly prominent position in Stratford, and to accommodate a growing family, James acquired a two-acre property on the hill on John Street, north of the Avon River. There, he built a fine house (at 62 John St. N.), set back from the street. There, he and  his wife Maria Caroline Grey (Hodge)  raised seven of their eight children.


James Peter Woods

From 1886 to 1897, James Woods followed Daniel Lizars as the Perth County judge. In that role, he was the first to preside over hearings in the county's new courthouse, which opened in 1887.

Upon his retirement from the bench, Woods was president of the Stratford Water Supply Co. and the Stratford Gas Co. His death at age 70, in his John Street house, on Oct. 28, 1910, made the front pages of both the Stratford Daily Beacon and the Stratford Daily Herald. Maria was 74 when she died in 1924. Both are buried in Avondale Cemetery, as are six of their children. Source: Historical Plaque Properties 

The Catharine East Garden

The Catharine East Garden is on the east side of John Street South, just before the bridge crossing the Avon River and across the street from the entrance to Avondale Cemetery. There is a sign that makes the garden easy to find.

Catharine East always lived in Stratford, where she involved herself in community activities. After her death 1981, this garden was established with a bequest from the estate of her husband Lawrence. 


There is a another Catharine East garden, in the peaceful courtyard at the south entrance to Stratford General Hospital. Source: Stratford Gardens

Residence: 170 John St. N.  

Robert Moderwell, heritage house

This heritage house, at 170 John St. N. was owned by Robert Moderwell, the first sheriff of Perth County,  from 1853 to 1872. There is a Stratford street named after him. (see Moderwell Street).

Architectural description: two-storey, brick painted grey, gable-roofed section at each end, connected by a traverse section. First floor: left side rectangular two-over-two part window with shutters; traverse part recessed; entrance door at left side with a three-paned transom above it; window to the right of door is rectangular two panes over one pane; with shutters; right side window in gabled portion of the house same as the one on left side of second storey; rectangular one-over-one paned window with shutters in each gable section; centre traverse section filled in with enclosed porch with one window on each side and six windows at the front; each peak has a plain square drop finial. The left wall has two rectangular windows in the second storey and one smaller two-part window in the first storey towards the back of the wall. The house was probably built by Thomas Lunn, a Stratford contractor.