Water Street was one of the first streets laid out by the Canada Company, and was named for its proximity to the "water" of the Avon River, which was then a stump-filled stream.
In 1829, surveyor John McDonald described the river as the "east branch of the Thames, half chain wide, one foot deep; runs swift." A chain is 66 feet. He also noted it was a "good mill site." The name "Water Street" was written on the 1839 Plan of the Town of Stratford on Avon in the Huron Tract, based on the 1834 survey. For many years, Water Street was closest to the Mill Pond, as the widened part of the Avon was then called. Ballantyne Avenue and Lakeside Drive did not exist until much later.
The 1879 Perth County atlas map shows North Street running north from Water Street to the Mill Pond. The large triangle of land between the river and Water and North streets, like most of the land bordering the Little Thames, as the river was then called, had been reserved by the Canada Company for grist mills, lumber mills and other industries requiring water. By Stanford Dingman
Stratford was established as a river-crossing settlement known as Little Thames. That crossing was at the point where the Huron Road crossed the river. Water is still central to Stratford's existence, as residents and tourists alike flock to the Avon River to soak up its beauty.
But its existence was not always secure. In 1885, the city passed up a chance to buy the dam and mill pond, then the widest part of the river. Instead, those properties were sold to the "Lake Victoria syndicate" for $4,000. Thatr privately owned company became known as "the dam syndicate" and was unpopular with many people who thought the river should be in the public domain. In 1899, the company announced plans to drain the river and divide the river-bottom into building lots. Fortunately, that scheme never materialized. Instead, it helped in the creation of a city parks board in 1904. In 1913, the city voted, by only 127 votes, to keep the Canadian Pacific Railway from running tracks along the north side of the river.
Thankfully, Water Street still has beautiful water nearby to justify its name. Source: Streets of Stratford, 2004.
The McLagan house, originally built in 1907, seen as it is in 2023 at 210 Water St. The fountain was not part of the original landscaping.
In 1834, William Fredrick McCulloch was deeded a sizable block of land south of the dam on the mill property, which was on the original map of the Plan of the Town of Stratford on Avon. In 1834, there were 34 people living in the Town of Stratford, which by then had not reached even village status. Enter John McDonald with orders from the Canada Company to lay out a plan for a city to eventually accommodate 35,000 people. And that he did.
By 1842, Col. McCulloch had arrived from Ireland and began accumulating more riverfront land. One piece was a choice broad estate, "the Grange" property.
The Grange property straddled the river. On the south side of the river, at what is now 210 Water St., McCulloch e built a luxurious home in the 1840s for his wife and 11 children. As other properties became available,. he bought them as well. He became Stratford's leading aristocrat and wealthiest landowner. He was a miller, distiller and lumber merchant ,and a most astute businessman.
The McLagan house on Water Street, viewed from Cobourg Street in about 1910. The approaching laneway eventually became Trow Avenue.
Former Stratford Normal School 270 Water St.
Sidney Silcox Vince Gratton
Stratford Normal School
The former Stratford Normal School occupies a prominent position in the southwest corner of Upper Queens Park. Montreal architect Frederick G. Todd was consulted on the landscape design for the school.
The Stratford Normal School was associated with the Ontario government's involvement in the education of teachers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The government constructed several "normal schools," to provide standard provincewide training practices for teachers.
The building in Stratford is one of four such schools built from the same plans. The other three were in North Bay, Peterborough and Hamilton). The school, which became known as the Stratford Teacher's College in 1953, trained close to 14,000 teachers before closing in 1973. The building is now owned by the city and leased to the Stratford Festival.
It reflects the Italian Renaissance style of architecture. Of the four "normal schools" built in 1907-1908, the Stratford school is the only one to survive without substantial alterations.
The three-storey building consists of a rectangular floor plan with a central bay projection, portico entrance and a copper-clad dome. The window pattern around the building is a double hung, single pane configuration with pre-cast sills, lintels and voussoirs. There is a continuous brick parapet on all sides adorned with minimal metal detailing. Source: Heritage Places
Sidney Silcox, principal
Harold Martyn, principal
The Ontario Heritage Plaque for The Stratford Normal School Reads:
In the 1900s, concerns about the quality of rural education prompted the Ontario government to build four new Normal Schools to increase the supply of qualified teachers in the province. Identical Italian Renaissance buildings were constructed in North Bay, Peterborough, Hamilton and Stratford. The Stratford Normal School attracted women and men from surrounding districts and educated them with an emphasis on conditions in the rural schools that employed most new teachers. Known as the Stratford Teachers' College from 1953 on, the school trained close to 14,000 teachers before closing in 1973. It is the only one of the four Normal Schools opened in 1908-09 to survive without substantial alteration.
Memorial window, dedicated 1920
The memorial window at the Stratford Normal School, which highlights its south face, was unveiled and dedicated on Jan. 31, 1920. The Stratford Beacon-Herald described the service this way in its Feb. 2, 1920, edition.
“On Saturday afternoon at the Normal School before a large assemblage, a memorial window was unveiled to the late Lieut. H. V. Pickering, former English Master at the Normal School and the 13 former students of the school who gave up their lives ‘In Flanders Fields’. The service was of the most impressive character, and the large attendance present to pay their tribute to their brave boys, spoke volumes and was a safe assurance that Canada will not forget her sons.”
The article described the ceremony, complete with various students and faculty members of the school reading tributes, poetry and the names of the honoured soldiers.
A Union Jack that had been covering the window was lowered and there was a moment of silent reflection. Finally, In Flanders Fields was performed by the normal school glee club, followed by the sounding of the Last Post by a 110th Battalion bugler.
It was at that time that two regiment colonels were asked to make some remarks on the solemn occasion, and both Col. John Lant Youngs – whose son Jack died in the war (see Youngs Street) and Col. G. Williams spoke eloquently about their fallen brethren and the human cost of war. The names of those brave men honoured in the memorial window from World War 1 are as follows:
Marthe Jocelyn Photo: Terry Manzo,
Marthe Jocelyn, children's books
Stratford resident Marthe Jocelyn has written and/or illustrated more than 30 books and novels for young readers. In 2004 she released Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril and Romance, inspired by her grandmother’s diaries. Mable is a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Perth County in the early 1900s. In those days teachers were trained at “normal schools."
Ms. Jocelyn’s father was the noted teacher, musician and actor, Gordon Jocelyn. (see Strachan Street). Her grandfather, Dr. Harold Martyn, was principal of the Stratford Normal School from 1935 to 1944. Mable Riley won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for most distinguished book of the year. She won the inaugural TD Canadians Children’s Literature Award in 2005 and the Vicky Metcalf Award in 2009. Her picture book, Hannah’s Collections, was shortlisted for the Governor General's literary award for illustration. She has written five novels for older readers and five picture books. See: Marthe Jocelyn Source: Stratford Literary Walking Tours
The fictitious diary of a young girl living near Stratford, Ont., in the early 1900s and her encounter with the suffrage movement.
Winner of the 2005 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
Marianne Brandis 96 Water St.
Marianne Brandis, writer
In 1977, she began writing historical fiction, and since then most of her work has had a strong historical element. The Tinderbox, The Quarter-Pie Window, The Sign of the Scales, Fire Ship, and Rebellion are set in Ontario in the early 19th century and have been used in schools to help teach history. Elizabeth, Duchess of Somerset is a fictionalized biography of a duchess who lived in England in the time of the Stuart Restoration and Queen Anne.
The process of reconstructing the life of Elizabeth, Duchess of Somerset, led to an interest in non-fiction biography and autobiography – life-writing, which is also history. Finding Words: A Writer’s Memoir appeared in 2000. It was followed by a biography of Marianne’s mother, Frontiers and Sanctuaries: A Woman’s Life in Holland and Canada, and by a professional biography of her brother Gerard titled “Artist at Work: Gerard Brender à Brandis, Wood Engraver and Bookwright.”
An important area of Marianne’s work is her collaboration with her brother Gerard Brender à Brandis (see Brunswick Street Studio), the wood engraver and creator of handmade, limited-edition books. Though much of their work is done independently, they have created more than a dozen books together, including some of Gerard’s handmade books, as well as trade publications. Gerard’s wood engravings appear in most of Marianne’s historical fiction, and the siblings have collaborated on several chapbooks. For more information see mariannebrandis.ca Thanks to Marianne for text and picture
Audrey Conroy at the organ in the Ontario Street Baptist Church
Audrey Conroy, pianist and teacher
Paul Helmer, pianist
Paul Helmer at Audrey Conroy’s Steinway at 195 Water St., 1949 Gordon Conroy
48 Water St. Looking east from Waterloo Street.Stratford-Perth Archives
Looking east at the Waterloo Street Arena built 1895 in front of the curling club/Casino which was built 1906 Stratford-Perth Archives
Note: The following building and bowling greens bordered on Water Street, Waterloo Street and Lakeside Drive.
The Waterloo Street arena
The curlers in 1906 as a Christmas present received five shiny sheets of ice under an arched roof with no hockey players.
The Curling club
The curling rink extension built 1895 is seen at the left of this 1906 photo at the eastern end of the Waterloo Street arena. The photo was taken from the north side of the Avon River. The extension allowed the curlers to have separate facilities with great ice ungouged by the skates of the hockey players. It was used until the curling rink, later known as the Casino, was constructed just over a decade later in 1906. Photo: Vince Gratton Collection.
The curling rink, later knowen as the Casino, to the left, is viewed in this 1918 photo from the north side of the Avon River. On the right is the Waterloo Street arena demolished in 1924 after the Classic City arena was built just east of the curling rink. In between the two structure is open space which was created when the curling extension seen in the photo on the left was taken down. The space between the structures became the bowling greens for the Stratford Lawn Bowling Club. Photo: Vince Gratton Collection.
48 Water St. Stratford-Perth Archives
Lawn bowlers, beside the former Casino Stratford-Perth Archives
Note: The following building and bowling greens bordered on Water Street, Waterloo Street and Lakeside Drive. Later tennis courts were added.
Stratford Lawn Bowling Club
Billie Holiday in 1957
Festival exhibition hall Gord Conroy
Third Stage and original Tom Patterson Theatre, 2010
The Third Stage, renamed the Tom Patterson Theatre
The Tom Patterson Theatre
Photo Fred Gonder
Kroehler Field, heroes
Kroehler Field was located where the Stratford Tennis Club is now, at 371 Water St. It was there that the Kroehler men's and women's softball teams played.
In the 1950s, one of the most successful and dominant teams was the Stratford Kroehler women: great in 1950, champions in 1951, runners-up 1952, champions again in 1953. They are on the Stratford Sports Wall of Fame, along with other notable athletes, teams, builders and legends .