Portrait John Milton, about 1629

14 Milton St.         

Paradise found

Milton Street, running east from Downie Street to Bay Street, is in the middle of a survey laid out by William Mackenzie in 1853.

Mackenzie was an outside developer who came here from Galt to buy property for three large surveys, which he opened in anticipation of the coming of the railway in 1856. Mackenzie must have had information on the location of the Grand Trunk Railway operations, because his survey was laid out between Shakespeare and Falstaff streets, alongside the GTR main line. The resulting railway boom and demand for housing was  on his doorstep.

The lots sold well and Milton Street built up quickly. One of its early residents was Mr. Hamilton, a GTR engineer who built a fine home at 14 Milton St. He imported handsome black marble fireplaces from Italy and crystal chandeliers from France. The windows were leaded glass. The prosperity of the railway hit Stratford with a vengeance.

Mackenzie's role in Stratford was as a land developer cashing in on the railway boom. But he did chose to honour the well-established local custom of naming Stratford streets in the classical tradition. Milton Street, sandwiched between Falstaff and Shakespeare streets, was in good company. Mackenzie chose all those names.

He named Milton Street for the great British poet John Milton, whose epic poem Paradise Lost is an English classic. He wrote it during his year of blindness and it was published in 1667. He received five pounds as an initial payment and five pounds after all copies were sold.


After fleeing the Great Plague of 1665, and surviving the Great Fire of London in 1666, Milton died in 1674. An anti-monarchist, he was not buried in Westminster Abbey. His widow received eight pounds when she sold the rights to Paradise Lost. By Stanford Dingman  Picture: Wikipedia

106-114 Milton St.

Ruston planing mill

The T. M. Ruston and Co. planing mill (106-114 Milton St.) was built in 1906. Under manager and Stratford contractor, Thomas Mitchell Ruston, the company employed about 20 woodworkers and assistants, and manufactured all kinds of finished lumber, sashes, doors, blinds, lath shingles, every description of interior finishes and all that was required for the erection of the modern house or business block. Local architect James R. Russell (see Russell Road) designed the Ruston building.

Near the planing mill were a number of coal sheds that lined the north side of this block, mainly along Falstaff Street. Those sheds had close and convenient access to railway sidings that passed through here and continued to the Mooney Biscuit and Candy Co. at 245 Downie St. (see Downie Street).

According to newspaperman and historian Tom Dolan, in 1908, George and Henry Kalbfleisch (see Erie Street) bought the mill used by the Ruston company, and their brother, Emil Kalbfleisch, managed it. The mill was expanded in 1914. It ceased operations in 1971, after Emil’s son and successor, Karl Kalbfleisch died. A little more than two years later the building was demolished.  Source: Stratford History . . . FB

Thomas Mitchell Ruston 

Thomas Mitchell Ruston was born in 1860, the second son of 11 children. His parents, Francis Ruston, who had emigrated from Yorkshire, England, and Margaret Ramsey, farmed in Ellice Township, Perth County.

Thomas, who preferred not to follow in his father’s footsteps, became a carpenter. As of 1896, Thomas was employed by the Porteous and McLagan Furniture Co., as a carpenter.

34 Birmingham St.

In 1903, Thomas Ruston and his brother Frank built the red brick Edwardian house with a turret at 34 Birmingham St. which was to become the home of Thomas and Selena, his wife. At the time the house was built, the two men were listed on the assessment roll as carpenters. Both would change occupations several times over the years. Frank was listed in the 1905 city directory as a builder and Thomas the owner of the Ruston planing mill on Milton Street (see above).

In 1913, Thomas became the assessment commissioner for Stratford and remained in that job until his retirement 19 years later. Source: Historical Plaque Properties

86 Milton St.

First house near the railway station

The house at 86 Milton St. was one of the first to be built near the train station and railway yards in Stratford. It helped to establish a standard of development for the area.

Some of the former owners of 86 Milton were tied to the city's railway history. The house was built for and/or by George McFadden, most likely in the summer of 1874. He was a teamster who also built the houses at 80 and 90 Milton Street. At least one of those two was rented to railway employees. 

The house at 86 Milton is a good example of a Gothic Revival-style residence. Often referred to as an Ontario house, it is a two storey with a steeply pitched gable roof. Of note are the decorative bargeboard, original finial and original soffit detail. Source: Historic Place

Angela Lansbury

Arthur A. Lansbury, another owner of 86 Milton, worked in the Stratford freight sheds of the Grand Trunk and Canadian National railways from August 1910 to his retirement in 1934. Lansbury is also notable as the brother of George Lansbury, leader of the Labour Party in the British House of Commons and a famous pacifist. Arthur Lansbury was also the uncle of actress Angela Lansbury, star of the television show, Murder, She Wrote. Russel E. Sarvis, a sheet metal worker with the CNR was another 86 Milton St. resident.

Camping anyone?

This camper-trailer was known as the Stratford Trailer. It was manufactured by Kalbfleisch Bros. Ltd. (see St. Patrick Street) in their planing mill at 114 Milton St. Described as a "motor camp trailer," it featured almost all the amenities of home necessary for a weekend outing. It was advertised as a "summer cottage on wheels." 

The interior included cupboards, refrigerator and luggage storage free from dust. Outside features included running gear with ball bearing wheels, pneumatic tires and springs, and electric lights with a good extension cord. The unit was equipped with two large beds and mosquito-proof windows and screens. 

The automobile shown in this advertisement photo is a 1914 to 1918 Cadillac. Source Vince Gratton 

1914-1918 Cadillac closed coupe with a motor camp trailer   Photo Vince Gratton