Orr Street honours R. Thomas Orr, historian, and prime supporter of Stratford's park system.
Thanks to Rick Orr
Diane Sewell's book, published in 2018, chronicles the life of R. Thomas Orr (1870-1957) with stories and memories from his namesake and grandson, R. Thomas (Tom) Orr (1938-2018) and from her extensive research at the Stratford-Perth Archives. Sewell spent the winter of 2017 at the Stratford-Perth Archives digging through 35 banker boxes, containing 600 files, some nearly 200 years old, of information collected by Orr. The author also sifted through about 50 personal scrapbooks.
This is an excerpt from the introduction in her book: "Every so often in the life of a community - that is, if it's lucky enough - someone comes along who is so civic-minded, so driven to improve things that the community is literally transformed . . . Such is the case with R. Thomas Orr and Stratford."
Orr's accomplishments include convincing American industrialist Andrew Carnegie to make a sizable donation to help launch Stratford’s first freestanding public library in 1903 (see St. Andrew Street); arranging to have famed sculptor Walter Allward design a war memorial in the city (see Erie Street); rallying 24 neighbouring communities to persuade the government to build a paved highway between Toronto and Sarnia; and leading the construction of the the riverside parks system while successfully keeping a railway out of the area.in 1913 (see Veterans Drive).
The book also details Orr's personal and family life (see Cobourg Street) and that of his father who was an architect and builder who came to Stratford (see Waterloo Street), and the founding of his insurance company in 1895 (see Cobourg Street), which still thrives four generations later.
Stanford Dingman, in 1984 in the Beacon Herald, stated that during R. Thomas Orr's six-decade career of public service, from the 1890s to the 1950s, " he never stopped striving to restore, improve and enhance the Stratford environment."
Sources: A vital chapter in Stratford’s history | London Free Press ; About Us | Orr Insurance and Investment; Reflections: Celebrating 70 years of a very fitting memorial | The Kingston Whig Standard; and ‘It doesn’t happen very often’: Family-run Stratford business hits 125 years | The Stratford Beacon Herald. Compiled by Gord Conroy
Orr and Russell architects
In 1902, Thomas Orr opened his own office as an insurance agent, and as an architect in partnership with James S. Russell. Their partnership ended in 1908. Below are the projects they worked on in Stratford. Source: Architects in Canada