That the street heretofore known as Main Street shall hereafter be called and known as Romeo Street and that the continuation of the said street north of Ontario Street and the continuation south of the present southern limit of the same shall also be called and known as Romeo Street.
City of Stratford -Flashback Friday by Mike Beitz, Corporate Communications Lead
Wherefore art thou
There is no mystery about the origin of the name Romeo.
One of the longest streets in Stratford, it runs north and south from the Avon River. It ends at Vivian Line 37 (formerly Vivian Street) in the north and Lorne Avenue in the south. When first laid out in 1855 by Toronto developers John Arnold and James Lukin Robinson, Romeo Street was then called Main Street. The name Main was probably intended to lend importance to the large new subdivision. Initially, it ran only south of Ontario Street. In 1856-57, Stratford developers, Peter Ferguson and Peter Robinson Jarvis, extended Main Street north of Ontario Street to provide access to their survey in what is now the Devon Street area. Ferguson designed the first courthouse in 1853, and Jarvis (Jarvis Street) was the Stratford mayor from 1863 to 1867. Main Street appeared on both the 1857 and 1879 maps of Stratford, but the name was changed to Romeo Street at about the time Stratford became a city in 1885.
In 1857, the village fathers divided Stratford into five wards, and gave all of them Shakespearean names: Avon, Falstaff, Hamlet, Romeo and Shakespeare That Romeo was one of those names, and that Romeo Public School was built in 1873, probably influenced the name change of Main Street to Romeo Street. Though Arnold and Robinson had good intentions in naming it Main Street, it wasn't really Stratford's main street, and that had led to confusion. By Stanford Dingman
Peter E. Kroehler
Peter Kroehler, furniture maker
In 1902, Peter E. Kroehler bought the Naperville Lounge Co., in Naperville, Ill. It manufactured wooden lounge chairs and upholstered furniture. Kroehler built a new factory in Naperville in 1913, and the original facility was destroyed by a tornado. Soon, he renamed the business Kroehler Manufacturing Co. and it spawned operations across the country. In the Chicago area, it employed several hundred men and women.
By the middle of the 1940s, with more than $20 million in annual sales, Kroehler was the second-largest furniture maker in the United States. In addition to being an astute businessman, Peter Kroehler was also an innovator. In 1909, he patented the Unifold Davenport, a folding metal bed frame with a removable mattress. It quickly became a customer favorite. Kroehler grew to 10 plants and in 1913 the Kroehler Mfg. Co. opened a Canadian factory in Toronto. Four years later, that operation was moved to Stratford.
Here is how that move unfolded. In 1915, Kroehler purchased two-thirds interest in the Kindel Bedding Co., which had factories in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Toronto, at a price of $600,000. The first two plants were sold, but the Canadian business continued until its transference, in 1917, from Toronto to a new factory in Stratford, Ont. Five years later the name Kindel Bed Co. Ltd. was changed to Kroehler Mfg. Co. Ltd. In 1927 it became a wholly owned subsidiary.
During the Second World War, all Kroehler plants were called upon to help the war effort. The company changed its facilities from crafting furniture to making wooden assemblies for airplanes, wings for target planes, army cots, quartermaster furniture, cable drums for the signal corps, artificial limbs, collapsible landing boats, knapsacks, folding chairs, filing cabinets, living room furniture for federal housing projects, life preserver cushions, and much more. The Stratford plant was busy building wing spars and interior parts for Mosquito and Lancaster bombers during the Second World War.
In the 1960s, when the company employed close to 8,000 people around the country, annual revenues passed $100 million. That made Kroehler the second largest furniture manufacturer in North America.
In 1981, Kroehler was acquired by the ATR Group, which put the company up for sale. By the early 2000s, furniture was still manufactured under the Kroehler name by two unrelated companies, one in North Carolina, the other in Stratford, Ont.
198 Romeo St.
One of the ways Kroehler Manufacturing Co. took its products to the people was through a unique collection of 12 miniature rooms included in a traveling exhibition titled Four Generations of Furniture Fashion. The exquisite miniature rooms were created by master craftsman, miniaturist and furniture historian, Eugene J. Kupjack. Source:Naper Settlement
Confederation Park Art by Rich Thistle
Born in 1937, Clive Porter came with his family to Canada in 1947.
It was while working in Kitchener for landscape architects McLean-Peister Ltd. that he was advised one day, “Your next job is going to be the Stratford Centennial project. Just go for it.” Go for it he did. Starting with a cement pond, Porter envisioned the waterfalls and Japanese gardens that would highlight the award-winning design called Confederation Park. Source: Confederation Park – Stratford and District Historical Society
* See video of Constructing Confederation Falls below
Photos courtesy of Stratford-Perth Archives and Nancy Musselman
Original pump house, built in 1883
The Stratford waterworks is associated with the development of public works and municipal services in the City of Stratford.
In 1883, two years before became a city (and was nicknamed the Classic City by merchant James Corcoran), Stratford built a pump house at 54 Romeo St. S. The first section of the building, in the photo to the left, was designed by London, Ont., architect George F. Durand. It was expanded before 1910, which is evident in the photo below, on the left.
With the construction of the pump house, Stratford secured its development and growth as a community.
In 1966, a modern facility was constructed across Romeo Street, which left original expanded pump house vacant. There was a possibility that the buildings would be demolished. Instead, in 1967, as a celebration of Canada's Centennial, the pump house became an art gallery, first known as the Rothmans gallery, because of the financial support of Rothmans Pall Mall of Canada Ltd. In the 1970s the cigarette manufacturer phased out its funding, and there was a name change to Gallery Stratford.
Pump House and reservoir. C 1910. Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives.
Pump House and reservoir 1940. Photo taken from cat walk on water tower. See water tower in colour photo below. Photo: Vince Gratton
Pump House interior. Photo:: Nancy Musselman from Stratford-Perth Archives
From pump house to Rothmans Art Gallery to Gallery Stratford
In 1967, the historic 1883 pump house buildings that might have been demolished were saved and transformed into an art gallery for Stratford. The historic building had become obsolete in 1964 when the Stratford Public Utilities Commission opened a new pump house across the street.
The Stratford Art Society (founded in 1945) prepared a feasibility plan to convert the buildings into a prestigious art gallery. In 1966, the Stratford Art Society became known as the Stratford Art Association. Its director was Robert Ihrig, an artist and designer with The Stratford Festival. With receipt of financial backing in 1967 from Rothman’s Pall Mall of Canada Ltd., the Stratford Art Association renovated and opened the doors of the successful Rothmans Art Gallery. The facility is now known as Gallery Stratford.
The Pump House, 54 Romeo Street South.
The first section of the building was designed by London, Ont., architect George F. Durand and constructed in 1883. Durand also designed the Perth County Courthouse during 1885-1887. (see Huron Street). Durand, one of Ontario’s leading architects of the time, felt, very strongly, that architecture was an art, not an engineering project; his structures reflecting the combination of more than one style of design associated with the Queen Anne Style. The original style of the pump house can be termed Municipal Gothic with notable Italianate tracery in the brickwork. The pointed windows were placed in pairs in inset panels with Moorish fanwort above them and patterned chevrons beneath them. The building is white brick with red accents. To meet increased water demands, sympathetic additions were later added to the original building and a garage built nearby. In 1985, Gallery Stratford’s unique architectural exterior was recognized by the City of Stratford, which designated it a heritage building.
While the Gallery’s exterior appears cottage-like, the building was never designed for domestic living. In its original state, the pump room had 16 foot high walls decorated, in places, by a "wandering artist." It had a brick floor and an oiled hardwood ceiling. Two other men responsible for the construction of the Waterworks in Stratford were W. Perry, Jr., who was responsible for putting the pumping machines in place and William Roberts, who was the building contractor. Roberts was not only a builder, but was also a brick manufacturer and the pump house was built using his "celebrated superior white patent pressed brick." Sources: Historical Places; Gallery Stratford - Wikipedia compiled by Gord Conroy
The photo, a colourized post card, c 1908-1912, shows the 1883 Pump House, water tower and reservoir as well as boaters on the Avon, just beyond the rail line to Palmerston, and the affectionally called "bridge to nowhere."The water tower has long since been taken down and replaced by a grove of trees. Photo: Bob Toleff, If you grew up in Stratford...FB
Robert Ihrig, artist
Robert Ihrig (1931-2005) was the director of the Stratford Art Association. He was a prolific artist, and when he died in 2005, he left a body of work that encompasses paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, books, blueprints, theatre designs, illustrations, mixed media, etchings, silkscreens, lithographs, films, and notebooks with plans for screenplays, animated films, plays and exhibits. The art is from as early as 1950 and continues through 2004.
He exhibited, and was involved with many art shows, galleries, museums, collectives, art associations and alliances. He has permanent pieces at several places, among them Michigan State University, the Stratford Festival and Gallery Stratford. His art can be seen at his studio in Factory 163, 163 King St. Source: IHrigArt.
Bob Ihrig had a career with the Stratford Festival that spanned four decades – as a dresser (1957), a prop maker (1958-1960), supervisor of exhibits (1961-1968), exhibits coordinator (1990-98), and exhibits archivist (1998-2004). During his time at the Festival, he supervised major exhibitions, such as Faces of Canada (1964), 100 Years of Theatre in Canada (1967), and the Tanya Moiseiwitsch Exhibition (1992). He was the founding director of the Rothmans Gallery (1967) and director of the Kitchener-Waterloo gallery (1972-1980). He was an instructor at Michigan State University, taught and did photography for the Stratford Chefs School, and was a founding member of PAL (Performing Arts Lodge) Stratford. Source: Globe and Mail Obit
William Ronald, artist
Born in Stratford, William Ronald was the founder of Painters Eleven, the pioneer movement of Modernism in Canada. Their first exhibition, in 1954, was also the first major commercial display of abstract art in Toronto. As well, Ronald is known for his series of non-representational portraits of Canadian prime ministers (1977-84).
Ken Nutt, artist
Ken Nutt (pen name Eric Beddows) is an artist, writer and award-winning illustrator of children’s books. His beautiful illustrations can be found in such popular books as Night Cars, by Teddy Jam; Zoom at Sea, Zoom Away and Zoom Upstream by Tim Wynne-Jones; and The Rooster’s Gift, by Pam Conrad. Ken has exhibited his art work widely in both solo and group exhibitions.
Born in Woodstock, Ont., in 1951, he has been actively involved with Gallery Stratford in a variety of capacities for more than two decades. He currently coordinates and facilitates the popular Open Studio series. He is also an avid collector, of both toys and early drawings.
Gallery Stratford features a rotating selection of drawings by Ken Nutt as well as some of his favorite works from both the gallery itself and from Ken’s personal collection. Source: Stratford-Perth Archives Walking Tours
Bruno Gerussi, actor
Bruno Gerussi played Romeo in the 1960 production of Romeo and Juliet with Julie Harris as Juliet. It was somewhat controversial, as Macleans said:
Canadian-born Bruno Gerussi is to play Romeo. It is, in the view of some, casting so offbeat as to be outrageous, since the traditional Romeo is a beautiful moon-struck youth and Gerussi is a sort of Dead End Kid in tights. Gerussi himself, when he first got the invitation, gaped, “Me? As Romeo?” When Jean Gascon, co-founder of Montreal’s Théâtre du Nouveau Monde and a director of last year’s festival, first heard the news he uttered a simple, incredulous “No!” At least one entertainment critic, Gordon Sinclair, echoed in print, “Gerussi as Romeo? How could they?” Source: Macleans
Bruno Gerussi was a Canadian stage and television actor, best known for the lead role in the CBC Television series The Beachcombers. He also performed on stage at the Stratford Festival, worked in radio, and hosted CBC's daily television cooking-talk show Celebrity Cooks in the late 1970s. He had roles in 31 plays in Stratford. See list here Shakespeare in Performance. He died in 1995 at age 67. Source: Wikipedia
There were 11 productions of Romeo and Juliet at Stratford from 1960 to 2017.
Christopher Walken played Romeo in 1968.
Announcement of the closure of one of Stratford's oldest factories, in August 2011, put about 330 employees out of work by the summer of 2012.
The Fram plant at 305 Romeo St. was owned by U.S.-based Honeywell until March 2011, when it was purchased by New Zealand-based Rank Group. The plant was established in Stratford in the early 1950s and made 50 million oil, air and fuel filters each year. At its peak, in 2006, it employed 600. Production was moved to a plant in Ohio as a result of over-capacity, which forced the company to consolidate production in the U.S.
Personal note: My father was one of first Fram employees in Stratford, as the manager of shipping. One year, as a sales incentive, the company gave Boer War Enfield rifles to the dealers who sold the most filters. My dad said the shipping dock looked like an armouries. By Paul Wilker
334 Romeo St.
Fram oil flter
Fram miniature cars and trucks
Stratford Country Club
In 1913, Stratford resident Walter Miller was instrumental in acquiring the first parcel of land off Romeo Street in the interest of the city having a permanent golf course.
In his memoirs, newspaperman and historian Tom Dolan provides some details on Miller's involvement with that acquisition.
"One day, while out for a leisure stroll, Walter Miller passed the (Jacob) Cook farm on Romeo Street. Somehow or other, it appealed to him as a suitable site for a golf course. Having no knowledge that Mr. Cook was interested in selling the property, Mr. Miller approached him, asking if he were going to sell what would be his price. Without hesitation, Mr. Cook answered $4,000.
“When Mr. Miller remarked that at least he knew his price, Mr. Cook related that he expected a man that very day to take the option on the property. Before taking his departure, Mr. Miller exacted a promise from Mr. Cook that should the man not present himself that he, Mr. Miller, be given the opportunity to take an option on the property. Mr. Cook promised, and forthwith Walter Miller sought out Kenneth Turnbull and related his story. Mr. Turnbull immediately became enthusiastic and offered to provide half the option money. The next day, Mr. Cook presented himself at the office of Mr. Miller who took the option on the property."
Miller proved to be a skilled golfer. Always dressed in a shirt and tie, he would walk to the course from his house at 46 Waterloo St. N., which is now a bed and breakfast operation called A Patch of Heaven.
Two trophies that Miller won at the country club, the Lloyd Cup in 1917 and the President’s Cup in 1921, were held by a family in Stratford for many years before they were sent to Miller's grandson in Winnipeg. The trophies have since been returned to the club for display, along with a ladies’ championship trophy won by Millers' daughter, Mary Miller (now Murray, in 1930, 1931 ans 1932.
The newly built first SCC clubhouse
The clubhouse in this photo was the second one on SCC grounds. The first one was opened in 1914 but was lost to fire in 1923. It was replaced by the building shown in the second photos, which opened on July 9, 1924. It, too, went up in smoke, on April 12, 1954. The third clubhouse was officially opened on June 24, 1955. Though it has since experienced many alterations and renovations, it continues to serve. Text by Vince Gratton, photo Bill Donaldson . . . FB
Curling rinks were added to the club in 1959-60. Curlers had been active in Stratford since at least 1887, and played on ice at a number of locations, including the building on Lakeside Drive known as The (Avon) Casino, and was later the Third Stage for the Stratford Festival. That building was constructed as a curling rink but was also a summer dance hall, with one of the best dance floors in southwestern Ontario. As well, it was home for the Stratford Badminton Club for several decades. That building became part of the Kiwanis Community Centre, all of which was demolished in 2017 so the Stratford Festival could build a new Tom Patterson Theatre on the site. For a short time, before there was ice at the country club, the curlers spent winters in a small metal building at the Stratford fairgrounds. The squash courts at the SCC were added in the late 1970s. They were first owned and operated by a city squash club, before ownership was transferred to the country club in 1991. Source Stratford Country Club
Anne Hathaway cottage
Shakespeareland, at 379 Romeo St. N., was a miniature reproduction of Stratford -Upon- Avon, England.
It was managed by Harold Mallon, owner of the As You Like It motel, next door. In the layout, there were miniature versions of 52 buildings from Stratford-Upon-Avon in England. However, the project was short lived, due to the expense, and also the difficulty in finding a company to create the replicas. Some local residents were against the project, fearing their Stratford would becoming a “commercialized imitation of its British namesake.”
Shakespeareland operated in Stratford in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was then given new life at the Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo, near Morpeth, Ont., not far from Rondeau Shores Park.
John Gambles Hut
Murder on Romeo
The victims: John Gamble born December 06 1885 a resident of Stratford Perth County. Adam Seneca born May 23 1886 a Chippewa native from Middlesex County.
John Gamble was a well-known young farmer around town. He owned his own farm located on the eastern outskirts of Stratford on Romeo Street South. It was here that he lived during the summer months of 1905 in a small shack to look after his seasonal crop of Flax. In late August when it was time to harvest, he brought in 8 indigenous men of the Chippewa tribe from the Delaware area to work the field and pull Flax. They set up their encampment on the north-west corner of the Gamble farm and proceeded to harvest the flax and gather it ready for shipment.
At the end of the work day on August 23 Gamble invited one of his workers Adam Seneca to join him at the Dominion House for some cold beer. After a short walk alongside the railway tracks, they arrived and settled into enjoying some comradery. They where soon joined for drinks by two other local fellows know to Gamble, Caleb Poynar and Harry Cornfield. Later in the evening the four men decided to leave the hotel and head back to Gamble’s Hut for more merriment.
It was here that they drank themselves into a frenzied state and as a result a brawl broke out. Gamble received a serious blow to the head by a table leg swung by Seneca. At this point Seneca also hurt in the brawl and having knocked Gamble to the ground started to crawl back to his tribe’s encampment. For reasons that remained unknown he passed out while crossing the railway tracks and was run over by the late-night train leaving for Toronto. The engineer did not see the body and carried on as scheduled. The engineer of an early morning train did see the body but was unable to stop in time to avoid striking the body a second time. After getting the locomotive stopped he went back to find Seneca with both his legs cut off and his head badly mangled to a pulp.
At the inquest a few days later, Poynar after being arrested stated that Gamble and Seneca got into an argument over the beer and whiskey that was left. He stated that Seneca hit Gamble with a hard blow to the head. At this point Poynar himself quite drunk decided he had enough revelry and walked back to town. Cornfield then stated that he had passed out inside the hut after hitting his head on the door frame when he attempted to go outside. When Cornfield did awaken in the morning, he saw Gamble outside lying on the ground and realised that he was dead. It was then that he proceeded to town to report what he could remember of the situation.
The inquest was told by the investigating officers that it was a gruesome and disgusting scene both at the Gamble’s hut and at the death site at the railway tracks. It was decided that Seneca had died by being hit by an earlier train as his body was cold when the second engineer checked on him lying on the track in the early morning dawn. Without proper evidence or a reliable witness, the inquest ordered that Seneca’s body be returned to his tribe and that the murder be filed as unsolved and the case closed. Source: Vince Gratton