Mackenzie Street

A man of means

Mackenzie Street was laid out and named by William Mackenzie in 1853. Though street signs and the official city plan now show the spelling as McKenzie, it's an erro that has crept in over the years. William Mackenzie was a land developer who lived in Galt (now part of Cambridge). He was probably a man of some means and influence who had access to information about the proposed location of the Grand Trunk Railway lines in Stratford. Two of his three land development projects here were adjacent to thoise lines.

He bought the land in anticipation of the coming of the railway (in 1856), and Mackenzie Street was built up during the railway boom. When the Grand Trunk locomotive repair shops were moved to Stratford in 1870-71, Mackenzie Street received another boost. The shops became the city's largest industry, at its peak employing more than 1,000 workers.

At the high-water mark of the steam locomotive era, more than 2,000 people worked in the shops, at the roundhouse, in administration of the local operation as well as the district, and in the running trades. Many of those workers built houses in the immediate vicinity, including along Mackenzie Street. The first appearance of that street on a map of Srattord (1857) was spelled "Mackenzie Street."

Williams Mackenzie’s three Stratford surveys, all laid out in 1853, were a major undertaking involving a large number of lots. Grange Street was named for another outside developer who came to Stratford at about the same time as Mackenzie. George Grange Sherriff of Wellington County (see Grange Street) was instrumental in bringing the Grand Trunk Railway to Guelph. He was also a land speculator who was attracted to Stratford when the railway came here. William Mackenzie probably came for the same reason.

One factor that may have led to the change in the spelling of Mackenzie Street was the confusion that arose in the early 1870s when Stratford had a second Mackenzie Street named in honor of Alexander Mackenzie, the second Prime Minister of Canada.

By defeating Sir John A. Macdonald in 1879, Alexander Mackenzie became Canada's first Liberal prime minister (1873- 1878). Daniel Home Lizars (see Hamilton Street), the third judge of Perth County (1864-1886), was a staunch Liberal who sprinkled his south-end survey with Liberal street names. Mackenzie was one of them, but to avoid confusion it was later changed to Louise Street in honor of the viceregal party which passed through Stratford by train in 1879. Specifically, they were The Marquis of Lorne (see Lorne Avenue), Governor-General of Canada, and his wife Louise, an accomplished artist (see Louise Street).

Mackenzie Street is located between Argyle and Victoria streets, running from Cambria Street to St. David Street. By Stanford Dingman