The famous battle

Waterloo Street, which runs from Mornington Street to Downie Street, is one of the original streets on the 1834 Canada Company map drawn by John McDonald. The name Waterloo appeared on the 1839 and 1848 maps, but only on that part of the street south of the Avon River. At that time, there was still no bridge over the Avon at that location.

What is now that part of Waterloo Street from the river north to Mornington Street, was originally Mary Street. It was given that name by William Frederick McCulloch in honor of his daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Her father was Stratford's leading aristocrat and owned all the land between the river and Mornington Street. He also owned the land across the river where he built his mansion on property known as the Grange. (see William Street and Water Street). 

In the early 1870s, the new wooden bridge provided an important ink in the Northern Gravel Road leading into the rich agricultural lands of Mornington Township, now Highway No. 19. The Waterloo Street bridge also formed a solid bond between Waterloo Street on the south shore and Mary Street on the north. The name Mary eventually disappeared and the name Waterloo was used through to the Mornington Street intersection.

The name Waterloo was chosen by Canada Company officials for the Battle 0f Waterloo on June 18, 1815. Waterloo means “meadow by the water.”    By Stanford Dingman

 Scotland Forever! the charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo, painted by Elizabeth Thompson. 

The Armoury

The Armoury is a recognized federal heritage building, at 80 Waterloo St. S., because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

The Stratford Armoury was built in 1905. The compact plan follows a standard American armoury model and was designed by the Chief Architects Branch, Department of Public Works, under Thomas W. Fuller. 

Thomas Fuller was an English-born Canadian architect. From 1881 to 1896, he was Chief Dominion Architect for the Government of Canada, during which time he played a role in the design and construction of every major federal building. Fuller was born in Bath, Somerset, England, where he trained as an architect. 

Alterations include the addition of an air raid siren. The building continues to serve as an armoury. The Department of National Defence is its custodian. 

Armoury       80 Waterloo St. S.    Photo Fred Gonder

Historical value: This armoury is a good example of a building associated with the pre-First World War armoury building campaign, and the reform and expansion of the volunteer militia. It reflects a government policy to allow the supply of arms to all rural militias, following public debate supporting good local training facilities.

Architectural value: This armoury is a good example of a standard American armoury model. The compact design incorporates medieval military motifs including jutting towers, battlements and a main entrance reminiscent of a fortified gate. The interior layout is also based on the standard armoury model, in which the open drill hall is located on the upper floor. Good craftsmanship and materials are evident in the rough-faced stone that contrasts with the flat red brickwork, detailing typical of the designer, Thomas W. Fuller.

 Environmental value: This armoury reinforces the character of its downtown setting and is a conspicuous neighbourhood landmark. Source: Canada's Historic Places

Addendum: For the story of the building that was moved to allow the Armoury to be built, see Albert Street

The photograph below shows the Armouries C 1910. In the lower right of the photograph, the Stratford Gas and Oil Company can be seen on the north east corner of Waterloo and Albert Streets. . Photo: Nancy Musselman, If you grew up in Stratford...FB

“New” post office, loved or hated right from the start  

Stratford’s "new" post office reflects the style and temper of the early 1960s, in which it was designed and built. The beloved "old" post office (see Ontario Street), designed by T. S. Scott and built in 1882, was demolished in 1961 amid loud cries and misgivings by many in Stratford, though some welcomed the new, sleek modern facility. The lament for what was persists. 

The “new” post office, at 75 Waterloo St. S., is on the north east corner of Waterloo and Albert streets directly across from the Armoury. They are quite a contrasting pair. 

Stratford federal building including the “new” post office.   Photo from the early 1960s.

This building style, popular in the 1960s, is of the International Style of architecture that developed in the 1920s and 1930s and was closely related to modernism and modernist architecture. It was “up to date” and “modern.”  The style involved a radical simplification of form, a rejection of ornament, and the adoption of glass, steel and concrete as preferred materials.  

William Stuart Jenkins, architect Photo: Waterloo Region Generations.

The building was designed by William Stuart Jenkins (1909-1984). He was born in Winnipeg and graduated from the school of architecture at the University of Manitoba. He began to practise in Stratford, Ont., in 1939, where he was listed under his own name until 1942. In July 1945, he formed a partnership with Sherman W. Wright and they opened an office in Kitchener. Jenkins and Wright are best known for their designs of municipal arena complexes in several Ontario towns, including the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium and for the restoration in 1952 of Woodside, the home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, on Wellington Street North in Kitchener.

Sources:  Waterloo Generations  and Wikipedia  

Falstaff School and Falstaff family centre

Falstaff school

Falstaff Public School is associated with the education of the Stratford youth, but also with prominent local architect James S. Russell. Russell's work is evident throughout Stratford. Some of his notable designs include St. Andrews Church, Zion Lutheran Church, Avon School and the Masonic Temple.

Located atop a small incline, Falstaff Public School is an important landmark for the neighbouring community. The "new” school was constructed in 1929 by Pounder Brothers to replace the “old” Falstaff school. The design features a symmetrical façade with expansive windows, a flat roof and parapet. The projecting frontispiece, wall buttresses, arched entrance with stone detail, and parapet reflect neo-gothic influences that were common in Ontario public school designs in the early part of the 20th century.  

In 2000, Stratford resident, singer-songwriter, business woman, Loreena McKennitt (see Wellington Street) bought the recently closed  school and transformed it into the Falstaff Family Centre. Responding to concerns identified by the community, the centre focuses on the needs of families and children in Perth County, Ontario.  Source: Canada's Historic Places

The original Falstaff school 

The "old" Falstaff was built in the 1870s, and served until 1928, when there was a major fire. Audrey Conroy (see Water Street) was a Falstaff student at the time of the fire, after which the new school was built in 1929.  

"The original school was a yellow brick, two-storey building with four classrooms and a curved staircase that students loved to slide down when teachers were not around," she recalled. " We lived close to the school, at 192 Mornington St. and I didn't leave home until I ,heard the school bell ring. We lined up in lines and we all went in the front door." 

One feature lacking in the old Falstaff school was an indoor privy. Jessie (Galloway) Slichter, who  attended that school, joked about that fact. "I acquired some of my education in the outdoor bathrooms!"  

Indoor washrooms in the new Falstaff were a welcome addition.   Source: Gord Conroy

William Hutt 

4 Waterloo St. N., on the Avon River. 

William Hutt, actor

In 2000, the Waterloo Street bridge over the Avon River was renamed the William Hutt Bridge in honour of the acclaimed actor whose house was at 4 Waterloo St. N. on the north shore of the Avon River, immediately across the bridge. The house was originally built and lived in by Robert Forbes who lived first at the Forbes family home at 131 Nile Street. He and his brother John  also owned livery stables in the earlier days of Stratford. (see Ontario Street and Nile Streets). 

Hutt's acting career centered around the Stratford Festival. He was in the original acting company in 1953 and, along with Bruce Swerdfager (see Elizabeth Street), Hutt was a recipient of the first Guthrie Awards. 

Hutt earned notice in many roles, including those of King Lear (1988), James Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night (1994–1995) , and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (1975–1979). 

In 1969 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and in 1992 awarded the Order of Ontario. In October 1997, he received an honorary doctorate from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and in 2000 was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. Hutt was a recipient of a Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 1992. He was also awarded the 1996 Sam Wanamaker Prize

He performed in 63 Stratford plays and directed nine others. See Shakespeare in Performance for a list of roles.

A famous Bill Hutt story.  As well as being an actor, Bill had been a soldier, and as this story suggests, he was a patriot, and a reader of his audience. It was September 28, 1972. Hutt was on stage playing King Lear for a student matinee audience in the Stratford Festival Theatre. It was the day of the final game of the Russia-Canada Summit Hockey Series. 1972 Canada-Soviet Hockey Series (Summit Series) | The Canadian Encyclopedia 

As Hutt left the stage at the end of the famous storm scene with the Fool and Kent, he paused dramatically and announced the final score of the game....Canada 6, Russia 5. 

The screams and cheers were deafening. The stage manager, Nora Polley, wondered what to do. And then, with perfect control, she cued the next scene, the actors entered, and the audience was silent. 

At the end of the play, the audience gave Hutt an incredible standing ovation. Apparently, the director was not happy but Polley felt it was the right thing to do. 

Source: For the complete story and the report in Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine, see Dean Robinson's chapter, "A September to remember with the pucksters and the patriot," in his book, Not the last waltz. 

William Hutt Canadian stamp 1999-2000

Bill Hutt is one of the few people in North America to have appeared on a postage stamp while still alive. In February 2000, Canada Post issued this stamp, featuring Hutt and the Stratford Festival stage. 

The stamp was part of the millennium collection of stamps that celebrated the people, thinkers, creators and entertainers of Canada.  

William Hutt is shown in his role as Prospero in The Tempest. Canada Post made a mistake when it said the image was from the play A Midsummer Night's  Dream. Canada Post millennium stamps - Wikipedia He played Prospero four times in his illustrious career on the Stratford Festival stage. Source: Text and Picture Wikipedia

St. John's United Church and Gordon D. Scott

St. John's United Church, at 175 Waterloo St. S. was established in 1926, after the amalgamation of Trinity United Church and First United Church. It was demolished in 2016.

Gordon Scott was choirmaster at St. John's United Church, and he contributed greatly to the music scene in Stratford. He has been overlooked by Stratford for his wonderful contributions. I joined his young singers' choir when I was about 11. Our choir bused to many Kiwanis music festivals around Ontario and we won most of the competitions. Gordon Scott was responsible for training John Boyden (above) and two other singers who became well known: Barbara Collier (see Murray Hill Road) an accomplished opera singer; and briefly, Richard Manual (see Well Street) of the rock band called The Band.  

See Gordon Scott singing with his wife Velda below.

St. John's United Church

Note: A submission to the city's Stratford Bronze Star program was made to honour Gordon Scott by people who were influenced by him. 

Personal Note: In the 1950 picture below, Gordon Scott  is bottom centre. John Boyden is the first person to his right.  By Paul Wilker

St. John's church choir in about 1950   Paul Wilker

Alexander F. MacLaren

Alexander F. MacLaren, cheese-maker

Alexander Ferguson MacLaren was born in Perth, Lanark County, the son of John MacLaren, a native of Perthshire, Scotland. While Alexander was a youngster, the MacLaren family moved to Cromarty in Hibbert Township, Perth County.

In 1890, Alexander MacLaren bought the house at 30 Waterloo St. S. It had been built by Thomas Orr, father of R. Thomas Orr.

To learn the cheese business, MacLaren first worked for a dairyman. But he soon joined Thomas Ballantyne, a major cheese manufacturer and exporter. In 1890, MacLaren created his own cheese exporting business in Stratford. His company established offices in Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, New York City, London (England), Mexico, China, Japan and Africa.

He was one of the judges at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the sole judge for dairy products at the Toronto and Ottawa fairs. He was also president of the Ontario Dairymen's Association. He was president of the Imperial Wood Fibre Plaster Co., president of the Imperial Veneer Co., and served on the boards of a number of other companies. 

In the federal election in 1896, MacLaren was elected to the House of Commons for North Perth. A Conservative, he was re-elected in 1900 and 1904. Alexander MacLaren died in 1917, at age 63. In 1920, J. L. Kraft and Bros. Co. bought the MacLaren business.  Source: Historic Plaque Properties

40 Waterloo St. S.   

This house, at 42 Waterloo St. S., is now part of the  the homestead of Thomas Orr Sr. On that corner of Cobourg and Waterloo streets, is the Stratford office of Orr Insurance and Investment, at 50 Cobourg St.

A plaque on the property reads:

1890  Thomas Orr  Builder

See below for a history of Thomas Orr. 

Information about his son R. Thomas Orr can be found on Veterans Drive and Cobourg Street

Thomas Orr Sr.             Stratford-Perth Archives

Frances ( Fanny) Orr    Stratford-Perth Archives

Thomas Orr,carpenter and builder 

Thomas Orr was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, on Dec. 26, 1833, the son of John Orr and Sarah Hamilton.

His obituary records that he “started out for himself when only 13 years of age. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Philadelphia, beginning contract work when he was about 20.”

On June 12, 1855, he married 21-year old Frances (Fanny) Noble in Philadelphia. Whether he knew Fanny in Ireland or met her in Philadelphia remains a question.

She was also born in County Tyrone, on Oct. 18, 1834, daughter of Joseph Noble and Martha Nelson. The family left Ireland aboard the Provincialist, which sailed from Londonderry and arrived in Philadelphia on June 3, 1846. The 1850 census records the Noble family living in the city’s Cedar Ward. Joseph’s occupation was listed as a weaver. Fanny’s parents remained in Philadelphia for the rest of their days and are buried in tat city’s Lafayette Cemetery.

On Aug. 5, 1856, Thomas and Fanny’s first child was born, a daughter Martha. At about the same time,

 Rev. Thomas McPherson (see McPherson Street),  who had been sent to Stratford to establish a Presbyterian Church, visited Philadelphia on a fundraising mission. He was a friend of Fanny’s cousin, Matthew Nelson, who had a farm in Downie Township, and who had been trying to convince Thomas and Fanny to move to Stratford. Rev. McPherson persuaded Thomas to at least visit Stratford. Impressed with the opportunities of the town, Thomas moved his family to Stratford in 1857.

By 1861, Thomas and Fanny had settled into a two-storey frame house in Stratford to accommodate their growing family, which in addition to Martha (1856-1890) would ultimately include John (1858-1900); Thomas (1861-1867); Joseph (1863-1938); William (1865-1951); Sarah Elizabeth (1868-1932); Robert Thomas (1870-1957); and Henry Noble (b. 1874-1917). As a lieutenant with the 2nd Canadian Battalion, Henry and his men were hit by an enemy shell while laying wire on July 11, 1917, near the village of Houdain in France. Henry died of his wounds three days later and is buried in the Bruay Communal Cemetery in France.

In the 1861 census, Thomas recorded his occupation as a carpenter. In the next decade, however, he transitioned to house builder. In 1863 he moved his family to a farm on Lot 8, Concession 5 in Downie Township. He also broadened his business interests. In 1866, he became an active investor with Hugh Dempsey in one of the first cheese factories in Perth County. Dempsey had married Fanny’s sister, Mary, after the death of his first wife. The factory opened on May 13, 1867, and for many years turned a handsome profit for the proprietors, according to Dempsey’s obituary. In the following year, Thomas was appointed to the board of directors of the Perth Mutual Fire Insurance Co.

In the 1871 census, Thomas listed his occupation as builder, and as such constructed some of the finer houses and buildings in Stratford. In the same year, he established a planing mill and lumberyard in the vicinity of the present-day bandshell on Veterans Way, on the south shore of the Avon River. Three years later, much to the chagrin of some of his children, he relocated his family from the farm to a house he had built at 50 Cobourg St., where the Orr Insurance and Investment offices are today (see Cobourg Street). 

In the family Bible, John Orr (father of Thomas) is recorded as dying on March 29, 1863, though no death location is attached. His wife Sarah (mother of Thomas) first appeared in the 1876 Stratford city directory. Initially, she lived at 323 Church St., but by 1881 had moved to a house on the newly developed Daly Terrace, which was later renamed Daly Avenue. Thomas Orr’ sister, Isabella, familiarly known as Bella, was a seamstress and boarded her mother on both Church Street and Daly Terrace, until Sarah’s death on May 8, 1889. Sarah is buried in Avondale Cemetery. Her husband John, though not buried in Avondale, is memorialized on her tombstone. Bella subsequently went to live with Thomas’s son John for a time, before relocating to Georgetown, Ont., where she continued to work as a seamstress and boarded with the Metcalfe family. She eventually returned to Stratford, where she died on July 5, 1910, and is also buried in Avondale Cemetery.

Thomas Orr’s wife, Fanny, died on Sept. 3, 1911. Thomas died on June 23, 1914. Both are buried in Avondale Cemetery, as are other family members. Source: Stratford-Perth County Branch ACO (Architectural Conservancy of Ontario) | Historical Plaque Properties 

42 Waterloo St. S.

Rose McQueen, teacher

For 34 years, Rose McQueen dedicated her life to teaching English and history, before retiring from Stratford Collegiate in 1946 as head of the English department. She especially liked teaching Shakespeare, and no doubt had an undeniable influence on the City of Stratford. She was a mentor to Tom Patterson (Delamere Street), founder of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. As well, most of the members of the 1952 Chamber of Commerce, and the Festival steering committee they appointed, had been students of McQueen.

As a youngster, Rose quickly advanced in her grades,  but ran into some difficulty with arithmetic. No one had taught her how to do multiplication. Her mother came to the rescue after Rose broke down in tears and told her about problems she had experienced in the classroom.

After graduating from the University of Toronto, Miss McQueen came to Stratford, in 1912, where she taught with distinction for her entire career.

She had a sure and extensive knowledge of her subjects, which she imparted with illustrative and anecdotal material. She brought Shakespeare to life with historical information about the Globe Theatre and the people of his time. She succeeded in arousing her students’ curiosity and desire to learn by thoroughly covering each play and poem.

She had an abiding interest in her students long after their graduation. She maintained a scrapbook of 100 pages of their accomplishments, dating from 1931 to 1950. On several occasions, she gave financial assistance to students who otherwise could not have pursued a university education.

Though she was heavily involved in collegiate activities, she made time to participate in community affairs. In 1920, she was the first president of the local Women’s Canadian Club. A month after her election, she introduced Emmeline Pankhurst, the well-known British suffragette, as the guest speaker.

In the 1920s she formed a lifelong friendship with Grace Dand (see YWCA below), who was active with the YWCA. (See YWCA Featured Article and Waterloo Street). The two women lived at 42 Waterloo St. S., directly across from the YWCA. Rose became a member of the YWCA board and later a part of its financial committee.

In 1929, she was one of the vice presidents of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. She was also a member of the Stratford library board and the University Women’s Club. Much to her great pleasure, she became the honorary president of Stratford Little Theatre. 

When Rose retired in 1946, she was given a farewell dinner arranged by 150 of her former students. She died in 1963 and was buried in Elora Cemetery with her lifetime friend, Grace Dand. 

*  McQueen Court was named in honour of Rose. Source: Fibergenea  and Gordon Conroy


In 1905, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) formally started in Stratford, though women, with their auxiliaries, backed the various efforts to start a YMCA before that. The YWCA set up in two rented rooms in the old YMCA building on Market Place after the YMCA built a new facility on the corner of Downie and St. Patrick Streets in 1904. One YWCA room on Market Place was used for general purposes; the other was used as a gym. (see YMCA Downie Street)

In 1909, the YWCA purchased property at the corner of Cobourg and Waterloo streets. The intent was to build a new Y but that would not happen until 1927. Instead, the members renovated the frame building on the site and erected a tent to the east of the building to be used as a gym.

In 1910, Grace Dand came to Stratford to run the first playground, and by 1912, she was selected as executive director of the YWCA. Thus began her 43 years of service to the community, which lasted until she died on the job, at the YWCA, in 1955.

In 1912, there were 101 YWCA members. By 1925, the year of the YWCA’s 20th anniversary in Stratford, there were 560 members. Grace Dand spoke of the YWCA as “a home, a club, a place where a girl may find friends, where she may have wholesome recreation, and an outlet for the activities of mind and body.” (see YWCA Feature Article).

Classes of young women and girls exercise on the lawns of the YWCA property at the corner of Waterloo and Cobourg streets, before the new YWCA building went up in 1927.  Stratford Beacon-Herald

In 1924, the YWCA held its first summer camp, along the Thames River flats near Thamesford. After Camp Kitchigami was established in 1927 on Lake Huron between Bayfield and Goderich, girls’ and boys’ camps were held there until the camp closed in 1963. In 1927, a new three-storey YWCA building was opened.  It was a rug-brick building with a concrete foundation trimmed with artificial stone, measuring 74 feet by 87 feet.

An early photograph of the YWCA on corner of Waterloo and Cobourg streets. Stratford-Perth Archives        

The plans included almost 30 bedrooms, meeting rooms, a gymnasium that could seat 500 and a swimming pool sometime in the future. Until then, the girls used the pool at the YMCA.

Physical, educational and spiritual programs flourished in the new building. There were Sunday evening fireside hours, first-aid and home nursing courses, and lectures on art, music and literature. Volleyball, badminton and basketball were popular. Tennis courts were opened in 1931 at the junction of Water and Waterloo streets and rebuilt with lights in 1948. In 1950, the YWCA met all its financial obligations for the first time.

In 1965, after formal amalgamation, the new YM-YWCA opened in 1968 on the Downie Street site of the former YMCA. (See YMCA Downie Street). Programs expanded but money issues remained.

New YM-YWCA in 1968.    Beacon Herald photo

In February 1983, there was a motion presented at the annual meeting calling for disaffiliation from the national YWCA. There was neither time nor money to be connected to both national organizations. It was determined that the Stratford operation was more in tune with the YMCA than the YWCA, and in 1984 at the annual meeting, the Stratford YMCA-YWCA became the Stratford-Perth County YMCA.

For several years, the former YWCA building was a youth hostel, a rehearsal space for the Stratford Youth Choir, or rented by the Stratford Festival as a space to make and store costumes. Eventually, the building was bought and renovated by the Marleau family from Kitchener. In 1994 it was sold to Gordon Naylor who turned the site into the performing arts academy it is today.

The Nancy Campbell Academy is a not-for-profit boarding and day school for grades 7 to 12 dedicated to providing a superior education by creating happiness through community service and academic excellence.

The YWCA building was always a busy place. In addition to recreation sports and fitness activities, the bake sales, spring teas and various fundraisers for world service continued into the 1980s, even after amalgamation of the YMCA and YWCA. As well, there were classes for teens and Friday night activities and Saturday morning classes for children in fitness, as well as games and story time.

The YWCA was also an important residence for thousands of teachers’ college students and young business women through the years. As well, it provided clean, safe accommodation for tourists in town for the Stratford Festival, beginning in 1957, and for guests to Stratford, and students and business women passing through.

Special thanks to Dean Robinson (see Moore Street) for his authoritative book, Y Stratford: A History 1858-1991, which chronicles the history of the YMCA and the YWCA.  All the information in this short article, as well as the photos, which were provided primarily from the Stratford-Perth Archives or the Beacon Herald are found in his book, available at the Stratford Public Library. (See also Feature Articles from Y Stratford on the YWCA and YMCA). Compiled by Gord Conroy.

Art deco station, 110 Waterloo St., 1938   Photo:  Vince Gratton

By the late 1920s, automotive service stations seemed to pop up on every corner in every city. Oil companies used all sorts of promotional gimmicks to get attention and attract new customers. Top of the list were corporate-designed stations which could be found across the continent. Cities Service (today known as CITGO), an American oil company, used art-deco architecture for its buildings. For the times, it was modern and eye-catching.

Stratford got its first Cities Service station at 110 Waterloo St. S. (west side) on land between George Street and Brunswick Street. It was a full four-bay station, its centre public entrance flanked on each side with tall twin glass turrets. They were to showcase all the products customers may have needed to keep their cars in good order.

The station was built new and opened in 1930 by franchise holder Roy Brothers and Sons. In 1936 the operation was taken over by William Orns, who stayed until Second World War shortages in 1940 crippled the station's offerings. In 1946, after the war, Clarence G. (Tiny) Cole took on the franchise kept it until his new partner, Wally Wilkie, took sole ownership in 1962. By 1968, Cities Service was gone, bought out by the B-A oil company. The property was sold and the building demolished in the early 1970s to make room for the expanding Avon Theatre district. Today it is the location of the Stratford Festival's Studio Theatre.  Source: Vince Gratton