North Street

The iceman cometh

James Brennen with truck no. 7 of Armour Keane’s pure spring water fleet, preparing to unload his shipment of ice on Market Square in 1935.   Stratford-Perth Archives

North Street first appeared on the 1857 map of Stratford. Though it was initially unnamed, "North Street" appeared on the 1879 map. It was shown as running north from Water Street to the high-water mark on the Avon River. At the time there was no road along the river's southern shore.

Almost all the property between Water Street and the river, and between what was the Kiwanis Community Centre (until April 2018) and North Street, was owned by William Keane, grandfather of Stratford photographer Ted Keane. William Keane had a small farm there, and was also in the ice business, at first under the name of Sleet and Keane.

Ben Sleet was an escaped Kentucky slave who probably came here about in about 1850 with his wife Elizabeth (Betsy) and son Benjamin through the efforts of Stratford pioneer John James E. Linton (see Linton Avenue).   

J. J. E. Linton was a teacher and leader of the Canadian anti-slavery movement. He published an anti-slavery newspaper and helped blacks become established in Canada, some of them in Stratford. 

Sleet was an enterprising man. He is listed in a number of census documents and Stratford directories as the proprietor of the Falstaff Hotel on Ontario Street, and later of Sleet’s Market Refreshment Hall. It was in the heart of Stratford's downtown and served oysters, fried and pickled pigs' feet, tripe and other items, including "the best of wines and liquors." Benjamin Sleet acquired the ice-cutting privileges on the river near where he owned property just west of Waterloo Street. When he died, his son James took over the business. The first icehouse was on the Sleet property until it was sold to the city for parkland in 1921. Then the building was razed.

James Sleet and William Keane built a large wooden icehouse which faced the river on what is now the bottom end of Morenz Drive, at the west end of the Allman arena. A wooden ramp extended from the icehouse across Lakeside Drive. It was there for hauling the 22-inch-thick blocks of ice from the river. The ramp was dismantled when not in use. The present Morenz Drive was William Keane's lane, leading to the back door of the icehouse. He lived on Water Street, just west of his lane. The icehouse office was just east of the lane.

Photo: Nancy Musselman

Sometime after 1904, William Keane moved into a frame house at 48 North St.  It was torn down and replaced by a two-storey brick house renumbered as 46 (early 80s?. )  Ted Keane and Shirley Keane were born in the house at 52 North Street.  The picture of Ted’s booth (below) is where the driveway of 40 North Street is where   The street was apparently informally known as Keane Hill.

Three of the four houses on the west side of North Street were built by Keanes. When the Classic City Arena Co. was organized in 1924, the private stock company bought the land for the arena from Mary (Mrs. William) Keane. 

William Keane's son, Armour, took over the operation of the icehouse. Like his dad, he was nicknamed "Icy Keane."  Armour Keane had a collection of waterfowl (and many other animals) on the property between North Street and Morenz Dr.  He was the "keeper of the swans" before Robert Miller (see Lakeside Drive ).

His brother Ross Keane was associate editor of the Beacon-Herald. Many people will remember the refreshment booth operated by Ted Keane at his home on North Street (see below). That was in the days when a bottle of pop cost five cents. By Stanford Dingman  Additional information from  Stratford & District Historical Society   and Rosemary Stewart

* For more about the Ice Business go to Flashback - The Ice Business

Keane's booth. North Street, in the 1940s Photo: Beacon-Herald, Brian Wendy Reis. 

Keane's booth

Throughout Stratford there were many small corner stores and booths run by families beside or attached to their homes. Thanks to Brian Wendy Reis for this brief memory of Keane's booth, run by Ted Keane, son of William Keane, who owned and ran the ice business and farm west of Waterloo Street. 

"This was my all-time favourite booth, Keane's booth on North Street, with "Sticky" Battersby's on Douro Street running a close second. 

"I watched a steam shovel dig out the basement for the house across the street, in the top centre of the photo, and one of my childhood friends, Freddy Martin, lived there." Source: Brian Wendy Reis, If You Grew Up in Stratford . . . FB.  Photo: Beacon-Herald