Stratford’s controversial bandshell? by Betty Jo Belton Stratford-Perth Archives 2023
Stratford's Bandshell as it appeared by moonlight on the day it opened in 1929 Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives. [The bandshell opened September 21, 1929].
Stratford's Controversial Bandshell?
Stratford’s bandshell, next to the river on Veterans' Drive, has been the venue for many community events over the years. So many that it seems like this small, handsome structure is a natural part of the landscape that’s been there forever. But its design and location were actually quite controversial choices back in 1929.
Adelaide Leitch tells the story as well as anyone could in her 1980 book, Floodtides of Fortune: The Story of Stratford.
She writes: "Like many small cities, Stratford built a handsome downtown bandstand in the nineteenth century, a fine, open octagonal stand that aged gracefully with concerts, the skirling of bagpipes and the martial music of the bands.
"Like the village pump before it, it became a meeting place for the whole community, and there was an outcry when the aging bandstand was slated to be moved and probably replaced. Three sites were possible for a new stand: in the willows by the river, facing the river on York Street, or abutting on Cobourg Street. There were two choices of style: another open stand or the new shell, which was just becoming popular.
"In 1929, the matter came, innocently enough before the parks board, and it quickly fanned the biggest row Stratford had seen since the C.P.R. had tried to usurp the tranquil parklands by the river.
"There was much ado about a bandstand as they battled over location and over style. Opposing sides seemed about evenly matched. All of them circulated petitions, demanded that council intervene, and wrote long, windy letters to the newspaper. The city engineer added the information that the proposed bandstandcontravened the city's bylawsince it was to be constructed chiefly of wood.
"Even within the parks board, there was disagreement, and, in their stormiest session in over two decades, the commissioners finally voted, four to one, for a shell and a location among the willows of Lakeside Park.
The original Bandstand stood in Battery Park between Downie and Waterloo Streets opposite the Y. M. C. A. The stand was moved to the intersection of Ontario and Erie Streets and remained there until it was placed on park property. Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives.
Union leaders speaking from the bandshell with [some members of] the crowd that gathered to hear them during Stratford's infamous furniture workers' strike in 1933. Photo: Stratford Perth Archives. (see also Flashback: A Treasured Reminder of the Stratford Strike of 1933).
Parades at Stratford's bandshell in the 1950s and 1960s. Photo: Stratford-Perth Archives