To market, to market
Market Place runs between Wellington and Downie streets to form the third side of the triangle known as City Hall Square.
The area between Market Place and the back of the city hall is still called Market Square because it was for many years the site of the farmers' market, an integral part of the first Stratford Town Hall, built in 1857. Market Place was named for the bustling market which once occupied the square and was an important part of the town's early business and community life.
The market was also at the social and political hub of the town, a natural outgrowth of the new town hall, which was hailed as one of the finest buildings of its kind in Canada. Donald McDonald, who, with his cousin John, was one of the original Canada Company surveyors. He sold an acre of land at the apex of the triangle to the town as a town hall site. In 1834, John McDonald had laid out the original village square on Ontario Street. It became known as Shakespeare Square, then Post Office Square, and now it is known as Memorial Park. It was the coming of the railway in 1856 that drew the focus of the town away from the Avon River.
Donald McDonald was a surveyor, but also skilled in land transactions, and he became a man of wealth. Shrewd enough to foresee the value of the land which would become the core of Stratford, he and his wife Frances acquired it from Dr. Morris Lee Wolf of New York City in 1853. They sold the apex of the triangle to the Village of Stratford in 1855.
The market, 1906 postcard. A view behind the city hall, looking west, towards Wellington Street. The back of the city hall is to the right, not visible. Stratford-Perth Archives
Like all the land on which Stratford is now situated, it had originally been owned by the Canada Company. When surveyor John McDonald laid out the street plan in 1834 he included the city hall triangle as it is today except the street known as Market Place was then occupied by an open stream called the Romeo Creek.
Romeo Creek mill
It was Romeo Creek which led to the appeal of this site. German settler William Rischmiller (or Rueschmiller) bought the property and on it established a sawmill in the 1840s. Adelaide Leitch described the scene in the book Floodtides of Fortune: "In the heart of the growing village, Rischmiller's steam-powered sawmill worked away, strewing the area with logs, slabs, stripped bark and brush, until the village council began complaining much to the distress of the schoolboys from the nearby grammar School who used the marvelous, primitive jungle for their games. The mill turned little Romeo Creek into a moving belt of sawdust that went sluggishly downstream into Erie Creek and, eventually into the Avon."
Shortly, the growing prosperity of the commercial centre of the fledgling community was no longer compatible with the operation of a sawmill. The mill property changed hands, and its ownership went to New York City. In 1855, when Donald McDonald (1816-1879) and his wife sold one acre of their property to the village (for 200 pounds), they stipulated the buyer was "to have and to hold the said land and premises and appurtenances in trust to use the same for the purpose of erecting and maintaining thereon a market house and buildings incident thereto as aforesaid forever."
The text of that stipulation made no mention of a town hall, and that omission led to many legal wrangles over the years. But Donald McDonald was shrewd. His reason for stipulating "a market house and buildings" was probably because he believed a market would best guarantee continued prosperity and commercial activity for the site. McDonald and his wife had a vested interest in the new town hall site; they owned considerable additional property around the triangle of Town Hall Square. Stratford separated from Perth County in 1853, became a village in 1854, and a town in 1859. A bonus of 50 pounds was offered for the best "town hall plan," and work was underway in 1857 on the new "market building."
To satisfy McDonald's stipulation, the town fathers were careful to incorporate both the town market and town offices in one building, supplemented by the weekly outdoor market in Market Square. Perth County historian William Johnston described the new building as follows:
The Market Square :
Comprehensive articles on the history of Market Square are listed below.
Meat market by-laws in Market Square
Market House and First Town Hall, 1858
The Market House " a handsome brick structure" in the centre of Market Square, contained the Town Hall and the various offices of the town government. Source: Stratford City Directory, 1876.
Note: Bob Toleff summarized the building's importance this way: Built in 1858, it was multiuse, doubling as a market building. It also housed a music club, debating club, and concert hall. The police and fire departments were also accommodated there, as was the town's first library. There were stores and butcher stalls on the bottom floor. The building was destroyed by fire on November 24,1897. The town hall building on Wellington Street is built on the same spot. Source: If ou grew up in Stratford FB. (See Wellington Street)
"With its cupola and extended flag staff, it was for years the pride of the citizens, exciting wonder and admiration in backwoods youths who came from the northern townships with their oxen, to trade in this great metropolis. After four homeless years since separation from the country, the first Town Council meeting was finally held in the news building on May 10, 1858. There were stores and market stalls on the main floor, with the council chamber and concert hall above.
By 1876, Stratford town council wanted to extend Market Square and approached McDonald to buy more land. By now he was a Canadian senator (Liberal), and got about $50,000 for two acres of land. In 1887, Frances McDonald, by then a widow living in Los Angeles, conveyed a 30-foot strip of land between Wellington and Downie streets on Market Square, for the sum of $1, again contingent on its being used only as a market place. She also required the city to replace the wooden sidewalk fronting the business places on Market Place and to remove the wooden railing that she considered an eyesore.
On or about 1 a.m. on Nov. 24, 1897, Stratford's handsome town hall, which had become a city hall in 1885, was destroyed by fire. A Scottish concert had been held in the second-floor hall in the evening before. The only people in the building when the fire was discovered were three tramps sleeping in the jail cells, and they were told to "get the hell out of town as fast as possible!"
Donald McDonald's stipulation about a Market House was further ignored when the present city hall was built in 1898. There were no market stalls included. However, the McDonald stipulation plagued the city fathers for years. After the turn of the century, when the parks board wanted to plant grass and flower beds in Market Square, permission was denied.
A proper market building was eventually built behind the first fire hall, near Waterloo Street, and when that building was torn down, the Stratford Farmers Market was shuffled off to the city fairgrounds. With notes from Stanford Dingman
Unveiling of the cornerstone at city hall, 1898, Stratford-Perth Archives, Street Photograph Collection-Market Square
In 1967, Mayor Dutch Meier announced his proposal for revitalizing the city centre. Stratford Perth-Archives
Save the city hall
Director: Andrew C. Brown, Producer: Nancy Musselman SDHS
21 Market Place Photo: Fred Gonder. Detail of Decorative roof line from Herald Building below.
Stratford newspapers, among them, the Beacon (1854) and the Herald (1863)
The Herald newsroom in 1921 on Market Square. Ross Keane has been identified but not the woman in the photo.
For a full history of the Dingman Family's involvement in the Herald and later The Beacon Herald newspaper business in Stratford, see Dingman Place.
On the left is The Herald Building at 21 Market Place dating from 1890. The photo dates from c. 1900. The building to the right of the photo is the Y. M. C. A. built in 1898 at 25 Market Place. Photos: Stratford-Perth Archives courtesy of Nancy Musselman.
Elijah Kitchen Barnsdale, 1902 Stratford-Perth Archives.
E. K. Barnsdale's "The Hub," on Market Place
Elijah Kitchen Barnsdale (1850-1916) owned and operated Barnsdale's Trading Post, at 21-27 Market Pl. It was known as The Hub, and was one of the city's biggest and busiest stores. It employed as many as three delivery wagons and sold everything from hardware to prescription drugs and groceries.
The Hub was especially famous for its fine baked goods and cream puffs "that you'd lie down and die for. Barnsdale was described as a short man who enjoyed good cigars and had a way with the ladies. He and his wife Sarah Eliza (Sprowl), 1846-1934, had eight children. Their home was at 62 Church Street.
E. K. was a city alderman from 1900 through 1903, and 1906 before leaving the council to head the water commission. He reclaimed an aldermanic seat in 1913 and 1914, was then was the city's mayor in 1915 and in 1916 until his death in August of that year.
(see photo with Mayor Stamp in 1902 on Hibernia Street)
The Hub on Market Place was like a department store. Photo taken in about 1910: Stratford-Perth Archives
* Carolynn Bart-Riedstra in her book Stratford says Cecil Cook is the man with the full white apron. Behind the counter are Ellen Schmidt and Jean Griffin. The others are not identified.
A Barnsdale tea ad Stratford-Perth Archives.
The picture above shows the gracious interior of the store with its curved central counter and elegant side cases. There was an ornate tin ceiling and a glass cashier's booth. Money was transported to and from the cash in tin capsules propelled overhead on singing wires.
On some market days, in the square right outside, you could find special days for hay or wood, depending on the time of year. Saturdays would feature farm produce, and there were always bargains for the consumer. Vendors were licensed and subject to inspection, so they often gave the customer a bit more rather than risk being fined for selling short.
Sometimes, there was special entertainment. Medicine shows might be set up, where magic tricks were performed and "snake oil" sold. There was always someone trying to sell someone else a cure-all for whatever ailed you.
At night, the wagons were lit with flares. Sources: Mary Jane Lennon: A Stratford Album and Carolynn Bart-Riedstra, Stratford.
In the photo below on Market Day, Barnsdale's "The Hub" can be seen at the left of the picture. The Stratford Beacon reported that the store boasted 4,650 feet of floor space. They advertised across their front that they sold patent medicines, confectionary, tin ware, granite ware, china ware, foreign fruits, wedding cakes, fine candies.
The Ubelacker butcher shop, Market Place, now Cora Couture, 53 Market Pl.
A photo from the Ubelacker glass plate photo negative collection at the Stratford-Perth Archives.(Stratford-Perth Archives)
The Ubelackers' dynasty
Victorian Gothic at 33 and 37 Market Pl., built 1899 Stratford and District Historical Society.
E. G. Budd, a Stratford institution
The E. G. Budd store served Stratford from 1922 to 1988, and many are the memories of kind words, fresh produce, large bags of feed and seed, different grains for animals and birds and, various kinds of bulbs for gardens, grass seeds and clover for the field or lawn, and all the gardening needs one might ever want.
There was careful measuring and weighing -- even of kids and dogs -- on the big floor scale built into the floor and another that moved (see below). And paper bags and string from a twine roll that ran along the ceiling.
There was even home delivery for items such as carrots or tomatoes by the bushel, things too heavy to carry. There were seed drawers and and bins for flour and sugar and porridge mixtures, and wonderful aromas that reminded everyone of yesteryear. And let's not forget the aroma of Dustbane on the creaky floors.
Some youngsters will remember that at the Budd store you could buy a bag of peas that would become the ammo for the 36-inch straws (a.k.a. peashooters) available at Ted's Sporting Goods on Ontario Street, which became Ted's Hobby Shop on Wellington Street. And apples. You could buy an apple at Budd's as a treat. Or candy. And bamboo poles for fishing, or for the home-made high jump bar in the back yard.
The building at 33 -37 Market Pl., considered Victorian Gothic in style, was built in 1899 for William Robison Marshall. George Larkworthy (see Ontario Street), ran his butcher shop at 33 Market Pl. from 1903 to 1912 and later from 1919-1937. Edward Tout, a butcher but also a grocer, who lived at 8 Ballantyne Ave., occupied the premises from 1913 to 1915, and after the Second World War. McDermid and Kyle Hardware served customers there from 1948 to 1963, at that location by the Canadian Red Cross from 1967 into the late 1980s. (see photo to the left).
Before Elmer George Budd (1887-1952) was at 35 Market Pl., there was another flour, feed and seed store at that address from 1913 to 1915. Its proprietor was Oliver Henry Killer, who lived at 370 Huron St. Elmer Budd and his wife Lillian lived at 100 Brunswick St. in 1930. By 1940 their son Keith, still living at home, was working for his father and the store had become E. G Budd and Son. Many remember Keith Budd in his fedora, serving customers; there were no ball caps worn to work in those days.
In 1988,the Stratford Historical Society noted the building originally had a flat roof line. The wall dormers and cornices were added later. The building has unusual semi-elliptical windows and retains its original double doors. Budd's retained the original storefront details including the signboard and the end piers, plus the original hardwood floors. Sources: Stratford and District Historical Society; If You Grew up in Stratford . . . FB; Vernon's Stratford city directories. Compiled by Gord Conroy
Budd's weigh scale
Budd's storefront, 37 Market Pl. Photos: Stratford and District Historical Society
Photos of E.G. Budd history by Mirjam Shut.
Hand-operated elevator, electric coil for driving the belts, hand-painted scene on the front window just before the sale of the building in 2012 to show what the back of the building was like in the early days. Source: If you grew up in Stratford . . . FB