Town in the wood

Shrewsbury Street was named in the 1860s. Because it runs between Cambria and St. David streets, both good Welsh names, one might expect Shrewsbury to be a Welsh name, too. You are almost right. Shrewsbury Street was named for Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire. 

Though Shropshire is in England, it is in the West Midlands Region, bordering on Wales. That makes it close to being Welsh. In fact, it was because of its proximity to Wales, that Shrewsbury had such a troubled history.

As an important stronghold of the Welsh Marches, Shrewsbury suffered many sieges while serving as a main base of operations for the English fighting against the Welsh.

Shrewsbury town, England

The name Shrewsbury  comes from an Old English Saxon name "Scrobbesbyrig," meaning "Town in the wood." That makes it a suitable name for one of the many beautifully treelined streets of Stratford. The name Shropshire comes from the Old English "Scrobbesbyrigscir," meaning "Shrewsbury-shire." From the Norman form “Salopescira” “Salop” which is sometimes used for both Shrewbury and Shropshire. The Welsh spelling for Shrewsbury is “Amwythig.” By Stanford Dingman

A more personal account of the naming of Shrewsbury Street . . .

William Price Byers, with his wife Charlotte, was a missionary in India for 40 years. Upon retirement to his boyhood home in Stratford, he offered this account of the naming of Shrewsbury Street.

There was in Stratford in the 1860s an enterprising builder named John Holmes. He built several of our churches including St. James, St. Joseph's and Central (felled by fire) and several others. Mr. Holmes bought a tract of 18 acres bordered by Birmingham, St. David, St. Vincent and Cambria streets. He paid $100 an acre and later was able to sell it for $500 an acre. My father, George Byers, bought an acre plot on the St. David Street side.

One day, Mr. Holmes asked him, "What name shall I give to these streets?" My father suggested that one be called Shrewsbury after the English city in which he had married. George Byers, the man who may have named Shrewsbury, died while swimming in the Avon River in 1882. Source: Streets of Stratford, 2004.  

Sanatorium, 20 Shrewsbury St.

Windemere Sanitorium

In 1899, this beautiful home housed the infamous Windemere Dry Hot Air Hospital, which promised a cure for rheumatism using hot air. It was operated by a Chicago chemist, Willard Ready who, after two years of operation, ran into problems with creditors, and the medical profession which had grave doubts about his methods. Ready disappeared and was never heard of again. The property was taken over artist by artist Peter Dierlamm (see below), who changed the name to the Windermere Sanitorium. He was a hypnotist as well  as an artist. He carried on with the treatment, but worked closely with medical doctors in town.  Source: Beacon Herald scrapbook.

This Stratford heritage building, at 16-20 Shrewsbury St.,  was constructed in 1871, with a significant addition in 1882. It is a good example of the Italianate and Second Empire architectural styles. The southern portion was originally a two-and-a-half-storey residence built by John Holmes in the Italianate style, with storm porch and veranda. Typical of this style are the projecting eaves, large ornamental brackets and hip roof.

In 1882, a large three-storey addition in the Empire style was added to the north elevation of the residence. Built in the same buff brick as the main house, the addition features a mansard roof with dormers. The buff brick is highlighted with quoins and the original two-over-two sash windows feature arched radiating voussoirs. Source Historic Places 

Peter Dierlamm          Stratford- Perth Archives

Peter Dierlamm, photographer

The Stratford-Perth Archives is proud to have in its collection this painting by Perth County artist Peter Dierlamm. Two of his works were sent to the 1900 world’s exposition in Paris to represent Canada. Dierlamm displayed a still life of a dish of apples, and a life-size portrait of Eve. Later works include portraits of the Hon. Thomas Ballantyne (see Ballantyne Avenue ), Col. James Trow (see Trow Avenue) and former Stratford mayor William Davidson. Davidson’s portrait was lost in the fire that destroyed Stratford’s first city hall. 

Realistic landscapes were his other specialty. When Stan Dingman researched Dierlamm's career a number of years ago, he listed all his known paintings, and they included a scene at Little Lakes, his parents’ farm near Walkerton, Ont., the Embro Road, and various perspectives on the Avon River – some showing the Stratford Country Club property and the waterworks building (now Gallery Stratford).

Dierlamm was born in Germany in 1851. The family relocated to the Walkerton area when he was three. He began painting as a child, and his school notebooks “abounded with watercolour sketches of animals, birds and landscapes.” He trained with J. Colin Forbes in Toronto, who hired him as an assistant. Dierlamm, whose portrait style was greatly influenced by Forbes’ methods, arrived in Stratford in 1899.

Though best remembered for his paintings, Dierlamm had other talents. For example, in 1904, he patented “certain new and useful improvements in building blocks” for exterior walls. His cement blocks could have plaster directly applied on the interior side and provided “a cheap, simple, and durable building-block, which may be quickly laid in the wall and which will require only a minimum amount of mortar . . . to secure them together.” 

This invention was likely related to his company, Dierlamm and Sack, manufacturers of marble and granite monuments for cemeteries, along with mantles, wash bowl slabs and countertops. An 1898 advertisement proclaimed “their trade extends to all parts of Perth County, with shipments of monuments often made to other towns with a distance of 50 miles.” At one point, he had a photography shop in Walkerton and later in Stratford. He lived in his large brick house on Shrewsbury Street, which he named Windermere Sanatorium. There he oversaw steam baths and hypnosis treatments.  Source: Stratford-Perth Archives

Painting by Peter Dierlamm ,  in the Stratford-Perth Archives collection

Peter Dierlamm's concrete block patent

Known more for his artistry, Peter Dierlamm took a stab at designing his own concrete block, and received a patent for it in 1904. Differentiating his design from Palmer’s, his block had two interspersed air cavities to prevent moisture build-up and provide insulation. ⁣

⁣⁣⁣With the use of concrete blocks, Dierlamm claimed buildings “will be stronger, more durable, more sanitary, more handsome and more satisfactory than one made of any other material. It will be fire proof, hence lower insurance rates. Age and the exposure to the weather will made the concrete more substantial, while other material deteriorates.” ⁣

His block design closely resembled another concrete block patent called “Miracle” block, which had a similar vintage, though it is unclear if either inventor copied the other. In the mad dash to produce concrete blocks, ideas and designs spread like wildfire.⁣   

James Simpson Russell, architect

James Simpson Russell (1870-1937) was an important regional architect in southwestern Ontario from 1900 until after 1930. From his office in Stratford, he obtained commissions in locations as far north as Parry Sound and Midland, eastward to Oshawa, south to Port McNichol, and throughout Perth, Huron and Waterloo counties. Born in Scotland on May 21, 1870, he immigrated to Canada in 1888 and lived in Napanee, Toronto and in Pennsylvania. 

While in Toronto, he trained with the prominent architect William R. Gregg for four years, from 1889 to 1892 (Toronto City Directory, 1889). In 1893 he was one of eight architects selected by the Presbyterian Church in Canada to prepare plans for a prototype for a small-town church, to be built in various Ontario locations. His plans and perspective drawings for that model church were published in Designs for Village, Town and City Churches by the committee on church architecture, 1893, pages 16-18. A copy of that rare early-Canadian pattern book is held at the United Church Archives, Toronto. 

35 Shrewsbury St.

In 1897, Russell moved to Stratford, to become chief assistant to Harry J. Powell, a successful architect. In 1901, he opened his own office in Stratford and lived at 35 Shrewsbury St. In 1903, he was invited by Robert Thomas Orr to form a partnership in Stratford. Their collaboration was relatively brief, and ended in 1906 when Russell returned to practising under his own name. He then maintained his own office for the next three decades.

He had a wide-ranging practice and produced designs for at least four Carnegie library buildings, more than a dozen churches, and a dozen public and separate schools throughout south and central Ontario. His ecclesiastical works were invariably Gothic in style, with distinctive corner towers, which made them landmarks in small Ontario towns such as Brussels, Owen Sound, Midland and New Hamburg. However, his details and façade treatment often lacked the refinement and attention to scholarly detail evident in the church designs of Henry Langley or Edmund Burke or J. Gibb Morton, all of whom set a high standard for ecclesiastical design that others were to follow.

Russell continued to practise until after 1930. He did design work for more that 20 buildings in Stratford. He died unexpectedly at age 68 in 1937.  Source: Biographical Dictionary of Architect

Russell Street was named for him.

Brothers' Family 1903   Stratford-Perth Archives

Lorne Wesley Brothers: GTR, steel sales, and scribe

Lorne Wesley Brothers was born in Stratford in 1898. After a career that started with the Grand Trunk Railway here and then in Toronto, Montreal and Detroit, Brothers eventually retired back in Stratford. 

Along the way, he volunteered for service in the First World War as part of the 1st Canadian Tank Battalion. The war ended before he completed his training. Upon returning to Detroit, he decided to switch careers and became a salesman in the steel industry. After his retirement in 1963 he and his wife Mary Louisa (McDonald) decided they found Detroit too noisy and dirty, but they wanted to go where they already had friends. 

He later wrote that “the culminating reason for our return was the Festival, which makes the city very exciting . . . Stratford has practically everything. It is small and friendly and has wonderful places for walking, and I love to walk.” Besides that hobby, Brothers wrote articles for the earlier Stratford Times weekly newspaper. 

A jazz enthusiast, he was invited to write an article about Duke Ellington’s visit to Stratford, and that led to a regular column on subjects “of his own choice.” For a special edition celebrating Canada’s centennial in 1967, Brothers described the Stratford of his childhood. See  Times Past: A Stratford Stroll In 1907

Lorne Brothers was 87 when died in Stratford on Nov. 1, 1985. Mary Brothers was born in 1907 and died in 1995. They are buried at Avondale Cemetery. Source: Betty Jo Belton Stratford-Perth Archives

Brothers house, 51 Shrewsbury St.