Book Cover: Thanks to Rick Orr
Thomas Orr, the dean of parks
The R. Thomas Orr Plaque is located beside the bandshell on Veterans Drive. It reads:
R. Thomas Orr 1870-1957. A life-long member of the Stratford Parks Board, R. Thomas Orr was the driving force behind the Stratford parks system. Orr led the fight to save the riverfront and millpond from railway development and oversaw the transformation of the former industrial area into parkland. In 1936, Orr's plans to link Stratford with the birthplace of the English playwright William Shakespeare led to the creation of the Shakespearean Gardens. These parklands provided an inspirational setting in 1953 for the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. During his life of community service, Orr also helped to establish Stratford's library and the war memorial, to extend Highway 7 to Stratford, and to found the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and the Stratford Historical Society. He also was instrumental in establishing the bandshell ( see below.) Source: Ontario Heritage Trust
"This is interesting to read about the remarkable contribution Thomas Orr made to the city ". Now I will amble down beautiful Lakeview Drive to the Grand Old Shrine on Morenz Drive to see the picture of Flick, Roth and Flanigan, the line that almost won the Allen Cup for the Stratford Indians.
The birth of a park
Note: the Stratford-Perth Archives has extensive Orr documents in their Thomas Orr library. The book R. Thomas Orr, A Lifetime Devoted to Stratford is available for a small charge that goes to charity.
Hundreds assembled for the opening of the new bandshell on Tom Orr Day Sept. 21, 1929 Stratford-Perth Archives
Note: The octagonal bandshell seen on the left of the photo was relocated to this land between Cobourg Street and the River Drive from the intersection of Ontario and Erie Streets. It had been moved there from Battery Park opposite the YMCA but would be moved again from this location after the new bandshell was dedicated and in use.
Bandshell 1939 Photo Vince Gratton
Nursing school graduation, June 17, 1931 Photo: Brenda Trowsdale Barr
A stage for the Festival?
Thomas Orr Sr., planing mill and lumberyard
In the 1870s, Thomas Orr Sr. (1833-1914) established a planing mill and lumberyard near where the bandshell is now located on Veterans Drive. His planing mill and lumberyard operated for more than 50 years. Orr Sr. and his wife Fanny (Frances Noble), had come to town in 1855, not long before the first train arrived in 1856. He first established a contracting business, which did well in the rapidly growing town. Within his first year in town, Orr tendered for the first town Hall project (see Market Place). Over the years, he built many of the better houses and buildings in Stratford (see Waterloo Street).
Thomas Orr's second youngest son, R. Thomas Orr (1870-1957), joined his father's mill after his school graduation, and before long he was preparing tenders for building projects. By 1884, the business had undergone changes and was devoting itself entirely to manufacturing furniture under the supervision of Tom's older brother, Joseph Orr (1863-1938). Source: book R. Thomas Orr, A Life Devoted to Stratford
This watercolour was painted by R. Thomas Orr in about 1880, to record his memories of what Tom Orr Sr.'s property looked like when he, R. Thomas, was about 10 years old. The view is northerly, across the Avon River as though it were an aerial photo taken from the over the Ontario Street business buildings. The building at the left, the Orr planing mill and factory, is located about where the bandshell is now. The building on the right is the Orr family house at 50 Cobourg St. (see Cobourg Street), the street that runs horizontally in the foreground of the photo. Crossing the river is the long and narrow wooden Waterloo Street bridge. West of the bridge on the far shore of the Avon is the Easson planing mill (see Easson Street). The wooden dam is beyond the left side of the scene. Photo:Stratford-Perth Archives. Source: Brian Wendy Reis, If You Grew Up in Stratford . . . FB
This is Joseph Orr's furniture factory, built by his father, Thomas Orr Sr. In the background beyond the factory is the Waterloo Street Arena. Stretching across the Avon River is the wooden Waterloo Street bridge. Stratford-Perth Archives