See the attachment below for a template letter to copy and paste and send to the mayor, city council, and the planning department.
To have correspondence/input listed for record retention, it is necessary to copy Tatiana Dafoe firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com AND specifically request that the comments and concerns be listed and recorded, for consideration and inclusion in upcoming meeting agendas
City Contact Information:
City Clerk’s Office – firstname.lastname@example.org
(519) 271-0250, ext. 237.
City Office fax: 519-271-2783
City Planning Department email@example.com
Mayor Dan Mathieson – DMathieson@stratford.ca
(519) 271-0250, ext. 5234
With news of the Perth County Council’s decision to demolish the Registry Office, I thought I’d raise awareness of its significance and give some hope on how we can fight this.
This building was designed by prominent local architect T.J. Hepburn and constructed in 1910. On this street alone, Hepburn designed the original part of the Stratford Public Library in 1903 and undertook extensive renovations of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in 1899.
Hepburn designed the building to complement the existing Perth County Court House and Stratford Jail, so, as the Stratford-Perth ACO stated, “when completed the addition of the building created a unified street scape from Huron Street to the jail thus creating a significant landscape along St. Andrew Street.” Demolition of the Registry Office effectively removes this unified streetscape.
The similarities are evident in the Hepburn’s use of buff brick with rusticated brown stone as well as in the red painted detailing including the stamped metal ornamentation above the entry and in the gable that is designed to replicate the use of terra cotta on the Court House.
Brown coloured stone is applied to the windowsills and lintels, as well as through stringcourses along the base and heads of the windows, along the eaves of the front gable, and as a plinth course along the building’s base. Even more significant, is application of this stone in a rusticated door surround. The words “REGISTRY OFFICE” are inscribed in stone above the entry door. The stone detail and colour closely resemble the Credit Valley stone used on the Court House. Similarly, there is a frieze board with prominent brackets.
Signs of Stickley and the Craftsman Movement in Stratford
The early 20th century was a fascinating time for innovations in building and architecture with movements that spread in what was a global society before World War I disturbed this notion. For some Canadians, it was a time of optimism where people – or a least the literature of certain echelons of society – expressed a strong faith in science, technology, and progress (a term that I believe to be quite elusive). In the period between 1900 and 1914, Canada matured into an industrial country. This was an occurrence that took place a few years after our southern neighbourhood and certainly not with the same magnitude but was nonetheless impressive.
Yet rapid industrialization disenchanted some. The Arts and Crafts movement, as well as the subsequent Craftsman movement which we explore pieces of here, formed in reaction to the monotony, mass-production, and, most crucially, the dislocation of the artisan.
Heritage can be daunting; it is often controversial. Sometimes it is stigmatized as NIMBYism, as elitist, and as directed by people who oppose or even fear change. Yet, I would argue that the public’s knowledge of heritage is sometimes misguided and, to be frank, sometimes downright incorrect. Now, I, as someone who works in cultural heritage, will fully admit that the blame for a lot of this ignorance comes down to the lack of communication amongst the heritage community to the general public. We make assumptions that people know the difference between a designated property and a listed property or know the difference between a Heritage Conservation District and, say, the heritage corridor of the City of Stratford’s Official Plan.
It is at this point that I hope to dispel some of the myths behind heritage and clarify other details, as I focus on distinguishing various heritage designations and other heritage resources and tools. Much of this focuses on the most daunting of daunting heritage resources and tools, the Ontario Heritage Act (referred throughout as OHA). The OHA was first enacted on March 5th, 1975. At its most basic, its purpose, according to the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries, is “to give municipalities and the provincial government powers to preserve the heritage of Ontario” which can be achieved through designating properties or districts that have cultural heritage value or interest, as well as listing non-designated properties on a municipal register.
Despite Stratford’s industrial prowess that exceeded St Mary’s and once rivalled nearby Berlin (today’s Kitchener), Stratford was and still remains a modest sized city. With modest size comes relatively modest architecture, which generally fits into the mould of typical Canadian architecture that is often modest and conservative in nature and design.
Nonetheless, architecturally designed houses do exist within Stratford’s built fabric with the Beaux-Arts style mansion at 210 Water Street, built for furniture magnate George McLagan, as perhaps the most striking example. And while many neighbourhoods feature vernacular Ontario cottages, front-gabled workers’ houses, and some early 20th century Craftsman-inspired bungalows - buildings that are worthy of attention in their own right - others have representative examples of elevated architectural styles that were in vogue at their time of construction. It is with this idea that I turn to Hamlet Ward.
One of Stratford’s five wards, its historic part is perched on a hillier part of the city with historic houses enclosed by Worsley Street to the north, Erie Street to the east, West Gore to the south and John Street South to the west. In particular, we shall bring our attention to 146 Church Street and 220 Cambria Street, two fabulous houses designed by local architect David Gunn Baxter.
Architect David Gunn Baxter was the son of chief dispatcher of the Grand Trunk Railway, Joseph Baxter. David Gunn Baxter was noted as “a clever young man” whose roots in design started as a boy. His career began in June 1892 after training under Stratford’s Joseph Kilburn (known for the Ontario Street Baptist Church, 1888-89 - demolished). His portfolio contained a number of local buildings including what is now the Avon Theatre (1897-98, now substantially altered), the Myers Block (1893) on the north corner of Downie and Brunswick, and a chapel and school room for the Loretto Convent (1893, demolished) at Waterloo and Grange streets.
Long before my time a grand old post office sat in a commanding place at the junction between Ontario Street, Erie Street, and Downie Street. It was demolished in 1961. The demolition of industrial buildings and banks in the name of urban renewal continued into the 1980s and beyond. City Hall was nearly lost. Last year it was the majestic Italianate building, 91 Brunswick Street, that faced the rise of the machines, its remains carried away in dumpsters. This trend of demolition continues up to the present with the threat to the Ontario Street Heritage Corridor, the latest that stands face-to-face with the wrecking ball.
Four buildings in a row along the Ontario Street corridor are under threat of demolition for a 3.5+ storey condominium development of significant scale. This development is proposed in a neighbourhood of 1.5 to 2.5 storey single detached houses. These buildings appear to be well-intact. Adaptive reuse and integration into the condominium plan, which the developer has not considered, would be more suitable, appropriate, and environmentally friendly – and would be a marked distinction from a history of demolition in this city.
The developer has stated that the units will be sold at market value and that there will be no affordable housing options, a difficult pill to swallow especially for young Stratfordites trying to break into an increasingly expensive housing market.
It is imperative that we also consider the environmental impact of demolishing heritage buildings. Demolition is inherently tied to waste – waste that amounts to an average of 40 tons added to the landfill when a home is demolished. Most of it is cherished and valuable wood! Is this really what we should strive for as the clear and present danger of climate change is already affecting every one of us?
As an issue that affects Stratford’s heritage, community, and future, I’d like to shine light on the history of these four buildings that are under threat of demolition. The focus is on 370, 388, 390, and 396 Ontario Street.
Ubiquitous in Toronto, this bay-and-gable row is a rare gem in Stratford. Popular in the 1880s these rows, often constructed with Gothic Revival and Queen Anne influences, take their name from the protruding bays and accompanying - and often decorative - gables. Most rows of this style are two-and-a-half storeys which permit maximum space on a narrow lot.
This c. 1888 row, located at 105-109 St. David Street, features decorative bargeboard along the gables and shed roofs covering the entry porches. Buff brick is present in the bay corners, decorative detailing, and around the windows. Older or original windows are still present along the first storey and have segmentally arched heads. 107 and 109 St. David mirror each other in form. The east side of the row has a fire wall while the west side has a gable with decorative bargeboard. It is likely that this row was constructed to accommodate a growing population as the Grand Trunk shops, located just across the street, were expanded in 1888.
The following was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Stratford Beacon Herald on August 7th, 2020.
Despite rich histories, the Grand Trunk Shops and Avon Crest – Stratford’s first hospital – sit derelict, their futures in jeopardy. The cost to restore these buildings only grows over time. Now the fate of the historic pump house, the home of Gallery Stratford, is in danger as time and wear take their toll. In July, the Beacon Herald published a story about the city’s rejection of a Gallery Stratford proposal to match a federal grant. The city’s funds would have helped secure an architectural feasibility study for this 137-year-old city-owned building. The cost to the city would have amounted to a modest $22,000. As many will recall, the city is spending $48,000 this year – an increase from $32,000 in 2019 – to remove Canada geese from the Avon river, a costly venture with questionable results.
Built in 1883 by architect George F. Durand, who also designed the Perth County Court House and the first Stratford Hospital, the pump house is a unique piece of architecture that helped provide the city’s water for many years. The proponents of the pump house hoped it would attract industry while lowering insurance rates and preventing disease, such as typhoid. It was repurposed in 1967 and has since showcased Stratford’s artistic talent.
Countless times in Stratford’s history its significant architecture has been threatened – and in some cases demolished. The demolition of the old post office and the Perth Mutual Insurance Company buildings, which both once sat on Ontario Street, are tragic examples of foolhardy decision making. While we marvel at our existing heritage architecture, we mustn’t be complacent. We must realize that these spaces show us our past. We must realize their fragility.
Nearsighted politics prevents proactivity. If the city is unwilling to provide the funds, then Stratfordites ought to band together to raise the $22,000 through donations and address a problem before it becomes too late and too costly. We must invest today to save tomorrow.
Seventeen archival boxes examined and 2991 photos of historic documents snapped at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland but after two-and-a-half days I was ready to get out of there! I'll make sense of this data later. In the meantime, as Simon & Garfunkel sing, I've gone to look for America, and Pittsburgh's the goal. That's the fun of this journey, knowing that you have your mind set on going somewhere and covering the miles to reach that goal. So at 1:30 pm I set off for the five-and-a-half hour drive to Pittsburgh, glad to get out of this stuffy DC suburb and on to new sights. Well fifty minutes in I made a stop at my beloved Checkers with its renowned double-lane drive-thru and checkered logo against a retro chrome and red backdrop. Raul served me up a nice razor-thin patty and those delicious seasoned fries.
Setting off again I finished my meal in time for the next stop twenty minutes down the road in Harpers Ferry where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac. Crossing the Sandy Hook Bridge I glanced to my right at the wide expanse of the two rivers meeting and I couldn't help but think of Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea canoeing through on their westward trek. I gasped at the raw beauty of the scenery, disappointed slightly that I couldn't park close-by to admire it some more.
Harpers Ferry is a quaint West Virginian town wedged between the aforementioned rivers, and Maryland to the east and Virginia to the south. I drove through all three states in as many minutes. Robert Harper settled the town in 1775. Less than a hundred years later the Union and the Confederacy battled here and eight times during the Civil War it changed hands amongst these parties. Industrial railway competition and the Civil War proved detrimental to Harpers Ferry and in the 20th century its population declined. Today it is considered a national park. I walked through it for about forty minutes as I couldn't spend too long here. Many of its buildings were rebuilt and it's probably bulging with tourists in the warmer months, but I enjoyed soaking in some of its history and scenery on a cool February day.
I backtracked through Maryland and cut north up Rohrersville Road, which winds through Maryland's farm country, with Hank Williams Jr. and Dwight Yoakam on to fit the Dixieland setting. In the foreground red barns and farmhouses rolled over the low hills. Maybe I imagined it but a small town had a gun shop in their restaurant. Off to the west the afternoon sun shone and the Appalachians bordered this entry into the American South. It took me a while to realize I was no longer in Virginia, because this was the frontier to God's country and there's little to distinguish west Maryland from it.
I hit the I-70 in Hagerstown and jutted left to I-68 that cuts through the splintered portion of Maryland that borders Pennsylvania along the Mason-Dixon Line and West Virginia through the Appalachians. My little Nissan struggled through the climbs and the western sun beamed in my face but boy was I happy climbing through the mountains. There was nothing to complain about. At one point I darted north onto what's known as the National Pike and was joyous when a saw Maryland rest area at the top of a rock cut through the mountains. I parked and laughed to myself at how unbelievable this journey was when I didn't have any expectations of this. I admit ignorance as I had no idea Maryland contained this kind of landscape.
The sun slowly set on my entry into Pennsylvania and as dusk hit a trim blood orange sky slivered between the charcoal and blue hues of the mountains and the dull glow of the light pollution of northern cities. Briefly the temperature dropped three degrees and a dusting of snow scurried across the road. The real fun came on the descent between Chalkhill, PA and Hopwood, PA. I had The Doors on and "The End" was playing through this treacherous, winding descent. I didn't fear the worst, but some truckers must've experienced "the end" at some point because signs dotted the shoulder warning about truck speeds and the perilous doom if they failed to abide or took a turn too quick. Pittsburgh was straight north up the road!
People will tell you that driving at night is boring and that you can't see a thing, but they're wrong! In this populated corridor your imagination takes over as you substitute characters into the story. With "Borne On the Wind" and other haunting tunes of Roy Orbison playing my imagination wandered. Night music for the lonesome. Along the shoulders ordinary churches popped up sporadically but it's business that's worshiped here. This is America, after all! Illuminated billboards reminded you to buy the products that they're selling. Huge Ford and Chevy dealerships the size of several football fields stretched lengthwise and perched above the traffic, and the used car lots fit into any nook and cranny. Who's winning and who's losing? The glow of Sunoco, Marathon, and Exxon gas stations attracted the eye. There's people out here tonight driving around aimlessly, I thought. Another town, another Dollar General. The penny-pinchers. The vernacular architecture burrowed under lamps so that one only saw the cinder block facades. Pick-ups lined the roadhouses and I wondered who's getting drunk and brawling on the gravel tonight. Through the whole capitalistic expanse I wondered whose coming out of the woodwork at night to conduct their business and get into trouble. In this uniquely American landscape the night writes the stories for you.
We're getting close! With Johnny Cash inspiration: How far's the city mama? Fifteen miles and lowering. I crossed the Monongahela River and laughed aloud. How far's the city papa? Ten miles and lowering. I passed a Primanti Brothers, a Pittsburgh staple, and knew it's real close. Five miles and it was all fast food joints and used car lots lining this river-like road. Finally, I reached Pittsburgh! My Airbnb is on Mt. Washington and from the brow I looked across at the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers and Pittsburgh glowing in the crisp night air! Alas!