Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | September 20, 2020

Downtown Living History Corner

The property at the s.e. corner of Pitt and Second Street bears a long and interesting history; many of it’s historic businesses were near and dear to Cornwallites.

On Saturday September 19, 2020, Heritage Cornwall presented one of its two annual awards to Andre Pommier in appreciation of his efforts to preserve and celebrate the history of that corner as well as that of the neighbourhood. Pictured here are award recipient Andre Pommier (Pommier Jewellers), Debbie Ledoux (Heritage Cornwall chairperson), award recipient Bruce Russell (homeowner of 121 Adolphus Street.)

What follows is a summary of the land use at the corner property.

169-173 Pitt (Post-1819)
On June 12th of 1819 (the town of Cornwall was just 35 years young), all of Lot 15 between First Street and Second Street (the east side of Pitt Street) was granted to St. John’s Presbyterian Church in trust. At or near what is now 159 Pitt Street, construction of a frame church began in 1823 and was completed in 1826; their original small church one block south was subsequently sometimes used as school-house, sometimes a store-house, until it was pulled down in 1834-35. The congregation continued to worship at the second church until 1886 and has been at 28 Second Street East ever since.

The corner lot was designated as a cemetery for St. John’s Presbyterian Church, but not used for such purpose.

169-173 Pitt (Pre-1841 building)
According to Pringle’s 1890 history: “In the winter of 1841 a fire broke out in a small building on lot 15, south side of Second street, fronting on that street, which spread rapidly and destroyed three other buildings on the same lot, including a store and dwelling house on the corner.”

169-173 Pitt (1841-2010)
Pringle continues: “After the fire a new lease was granted by the trustees of St. John’s Church to Duncan McDonell, the lessee of the north-west corner of No. 15, south side of Second street, for fifty years, on condition of his putting up a brick or stone building with metallic or slate roof [fire resistance]. The building put up by him is the one now held by Samuel Cline.”

169 R.S. Cline’s Emporium 1887

169 The Sterling Bank 1905

169 George Washington Armstrong Grocer 1906

169 The Standard Bank of Canada 1909

169 Groceteria (Wm H. Gardiner & Co.) 1915

169 Dover’s Men’s & Boy’s Wear Until 1967
Archie Dover began with a Pitt Street woolen store in 1919 and gradually transitioned into one of Cornwall’s leading clothiers, settling in at this location.

169 Lord’s Discount Drugs 1967-1968

169 The Half Price House 1969


169 Colossus Restaurant 1969-1992. The arrival of this Greek restaurant marked a shift from an era of banks and grocers to a series of eateries at this location.

The owners were Mike Gerogiania, Minas Diakonis, John Alachouzos and Mike Mastrominas; Dino Roussakis operated the restaurant.

Plastic remnants of the sign for the iconic Colossus Restaurant were brought into the museum by someone who saw them in a dumpster and thought that they should be preserved. We don’t usually take items found in dumpsters, but this sign was such a defining feature of Pitt Street’s landscape during that period that we gladly took it.
169 The Town Hall Restaurant 1992-1997. One of the Henstock family eateries; they are known for their English-style fish & chips.

Publican Ray Henstock is shown here in this 1992 “Standard-Freeholder” photograph saluting his patrons with a mug of Guinness. Ray and his wife Clara renovated the old Colossus in 1992 to give the consuming public a taste of an authentic English pub.

Menu 1992

They closed in 1997, but the fish and chips lived on at Ye Old English Fish ‘n’ Chip Shop at 9 1st St. E. until 2019; the building owner allowed this sign to be rescued. And now the family operates from a food truck in a Lancaster flea market (still great fish rolls.)

169 Amarillo’s Cookhouse Saloon 1999-2004

169 Gryffindor’s Steakhouse 2004. This steakhouse was planned, but the dream did not come to fruition.

169 Athens Greek Grill 2006

169 Sherry’s Breakfast Club 2008-2009

169 Truffle’s Burger Bar until a December 2010 devastating fire. Truffles re-located to its present location on Pitt Street and the old building was demolished in 2011.

Since 2013, the property has been home to Pommier’s Courtyard, which serves as a photographic tribute to the history of the neighbourhood, a community public venue as well as customer parking for the adjacent Pommier Jewellers.

This above series of images are historic views of the 100 block of Pitt Street, looking south.

This final image is an historic view of that block, looking north.

 

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | September 6, 2020

Williamstown Fair – Record Unbroken

For 209 years, neither weather, nor war nor pandemic has prevented the Williamstown Fair from opening the gates of the fairgrounds to the public for Canada’s longest running agricultural fair. The event was held about one month later than usual in order to make needed adjustments. (The ribbon cutting photo is courtesy of Eric Duncan.)

While government response to COVID-19 has undeniably affected the fair’s format, it proceeded with volunteers greeting the public from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturday September 5, 2020 for a reverse-parade Drive-thru Exhibition. Entry was from Johnson Road at the Peanut Line. Guests could tune in to an FM frequency to hear relevant announcements and some local Scottish music.

For those wishing to make a purchase of cotton candy or candy apples, volunteers brought the sweets to their automobile.

There were farm animals, both the breathing kind …

as well as cute painted wooden creatures, and …

even critters of the straw type.

Of course, shiny farm equipment, both new and vintage, was on exhibit.

Straw and wood “people” augmented the human volunteers.

Before leaving, the first 500 guests were offered a white pine sapling (courtesy of the Raisin Region Conservation Authority) and a wood cut of the fair’s emblem.

The tour of the fairgrounds ended as guests exited to John Street, but all were encouraged to make their way the firehall to purchase souvenir hoodies, caps and such.

 

 

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | September 4, 2020

Wilfred McCormick’s Big Win!

Often we’re requested to assist with research of many kinds. While aiding an out-of-town grandson of former Cornwall businessman Jack Sones piece together aspects of the family business’ history (LINK), one day he brought up the subject of his other (maternal) grandfather who won a trophy for a landslide victory in a 1930s footrace. The family had an undated newspaper clipping and were unable to confirm the date.

The Cornwall Freeholder newspaper article reads:

McCormick Wins Twelve Mile Marathon Race from Longue Sault to Park:  MADE GOOD TIME. More than 3,000 persons attended the sports day program presented under the auspices of Courtaulds’ Sports Committee  at St. Lawrence Park Monday. The day’s events got underway at ten o’clock in the morning and continued until evening. It is the intention of the committee in charge to make the field day an annual affair.  Sharp at 9:30 in the morning, a corps of marathon runners left the Longue Sault, 12 miles west of the city, commencing a gruelling run to the tape at St. Lawrence Park. At 10:40, McCormick, winner of the race, was sighted on Montreal Road and completed the run in exactly 82 minutes to win the prize of $15 which was offered. A few minutes later, Tyo, winner of the second award of $10 pulled under the tape, his time being 91 minutes.”

I was able to find the event mentioned in an Ottawa newspaper as well as a more detailed account in a different Cornwall paper. Here are some excerpts from the July 4, 1929 edition of the former Cornwall Standard newspaper:

COURTAULDS SPORTS DAY: Many Interesting Events Witnessed by a Large Crowd – List of Winners. On Dominion Day in the St. Lawrence Park, Courtaulds held the first of what they intend to be Annual Sports and Gala Day. Over three thousand people witnessed the events, which commenced at 10 a.m. and were not completed until 6 p.m. The Cornwall City Band was in attendance and in the evening there was dancing and fireworks. … At 10:40 a.m. the first of the Marathon runners was sighted (these men having left Longue Sault at 9:30 a.m.) and the winner was given a great ovation having run a distance of almost 12 miles in 82 minutes., the second arriving nine minutes later. … Men. Marathon – McCormick, 82 mins., $15; Tyo, 91 mins., $10.”

Neither news account included even a single photograph, nor mention of that fact that McCormick’s time was even better than stated. Because he jumped over the tape, he was made to repeat the last 1/4 mile. To add a bit of irony, reportedly McCormick was filling in for another runner who couldn’t participate.

The fruit of our combined research efforts was shared with branches of the family, with the result that one of the relatives living in another part of the country, unbeknownst to much of the family, had possession of that very trophy. And … he was offering to gift it to his family member or to our Museum.

This was Wilfred McCormick just before the 1929 race. He was born in 1907 and died in Hamilton Hospital on July 7, 1987.

Pictured here is Jim Sones of Brockville with his wife Joan when Jim donated the trophy to our collection in 2019. The couple is pictured standing in front of a Sones Jewellers table that Jim previously donated.

The SD&G Historical Society’s archives and artifact collection at the Cornwall Community Museum includes many additional reminders of our past, including reminders of the role which Courtaulds played as a major Cornwall employer from 1925 until 1992.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | May 15, 2020

Historic Pioneer Corner

Pioneer Corner began in Centennial year 1967, when Stanley McNairn moved two log cabins to 3201 Vincent Massey Drive. The red cedar log house was built at St. Elmo’s Corner, North Glengarry, ca. 1830. During the fourteen years that ensued, Pioneer Corner sold a variety of crafts and local food products. When this delightful group of century old buildings became available in 1981, twenty local craftspeople formed a cooperative to sell their handicrafts, collectables and consignment items from local people.

Standard-Freeholder, October 22, 1991 – Zoning Exemption paves way to changes at Pioneer Corner
One of the most familiar landmarks along Vincent Massey Drive will be updated to include new services for the area. The Planning Advisory Committee approved an exception to the Special Uses 99 zoning of property at the corner of Vincent Massey Drive and Link Road, the site of Pioneer Corner. The new exception will allow owner Stanley McNairn to add a tea room, garden centre, animal veterinary hospital and accessory uses. McNairn said the existing two gift and souvenir shops, popular with both tourists and local residents, have been a successful venture over the years. “But things have changed considerably,” McNairn added. “The tourist industry has slumped badly and expenses have gone up and up and up some more. The time is also fast approaching when the property must be passed on to others. McNairn said the new proposed use will “fit in well in this area.” Ald. Francis Guindon was concerned about traffic entering and exiting off Vincent Massey Drive. McNairn assured the PAC the only access to the new development will be on Link Road. Planner Mark Boileau, in a report to PAC, supported McNairn’s request. He said no change to the Official Plan status will be required. The tea room would be more or less accessory to the current gift shop operation. “The garden centre is an agricultural type of use with precedence in allowing MacDonell’s Garden Centre on the east side of McConnell Avenue north,” Boileau said. “The veterinarian clinic has somewhat of an agricultural nature. The planning department is of the opinion that the application does not represent a significant departure from the Rural Area Official Plan policies,” Boileau added. … McNairn did not say when he plans to begin construction of the new facilities.

3205 & 3201:  Courtesy of Google Streetview, this was the property in 2016.

3205 & 3201:  In this 2019 Streetview image, it is clear that the easterly cabin is no longer there. The easterly building was offered to Upper Canada Village then to the Lost Villages Historical Society, but not needed at either location. Another party purchased it and moved it out of the area in 2019.

May 2020 – The remaining westerly buildings – electrical service disconnected

 

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | May 9, 2020

Historic Fournier Furniture

 

 

 

 

 

Al Fournier, 1960, owner of Fournier Furniture, from the Marcel Quenneville collection.

 

 

 

 

The business started out at 231 Pitt Street, as evidenced by this 1953 newspaper advertisement.

 

 

This 1955 sales receipt is from a donation of several hundred family receipts received in 2017 from Elaine Smith. The Mrs. P. Laundrie (often misspelled) named was the donor’s maternal grandmother.

 

 

 

This 1955 sales receipt bears a different brand style.

 

 

 

Later on in 1960 the company relocated a few doors north.

 

 

 

 

This September 1960 newspaper ad announced the grand opening of the new, larger store at 253 Pitt Street.

 

 

 

 

In 1967 the whole country was celebrating Canada’s Centennial.

 

 

 

By 1975 the company was a limited partnership.

 

 

This May 1976 ad is the latest in our current collection for this retailer.

 

The store exterior. Today the building is  home to Alpins.

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | May 5, 2020

William Clayton, Cornwall Jeweller 1900-1911

William Clayton was born in 1866 in Flesherton in Ontario’s Grey County. He was the middle of five children born to George W. Clayton (1832-1910) and Sarah Strachan (1837-1924).

He undertook the first year of apprenticeship in his hometown, followed by four years in Owen Sound. After that he worked short stints in Aurora and Hamilton before being employed for a substantial period at the J.L. Anderson repair shop in Toronto, possibly the largest in the country at that time.

Clayton relocated to Cornwall in 1891 to work in the repair shop of J.F. Milliken & Co’s jewellery store (est. 1874), then one of the largest in Eastern Ontario. A master mechanic and an expert on watch and clock repairs, he became a practically indispensable and trustworthy employee.

When Milliken’s health failed, Clayton purchased the business’ entire stock and its good will and quickly expanded the selection. A July 27 1900 Milliken ad hinted at a pending change.

An August 17 1900 Clayton ad announced the change of ownership.

Located in Pitt Street’s Miller Block, the store was tastefully appointed with considerable variety and reasonable prices.

 

 

 

The business held exclusive Cornwall agency for Excello Silver Polish, popular for cleaning precious metals, china and glass.

 

This colour photo is from a different era, but Clayton occupied the north stall at 77 Pitt Street on the left corner in later years.

 

 

September 28 of 1904 saw Clayton and Helen Maud Paterson united in marriage with the ceremony taking place at the bride’s parents’ (John Paterson and Caroline King) Fourth Street Cornwall residence. Helen was born in 1876 in Levi, QC. The couple raised two daughters, Wilma (1906-1994) and Ida Vina (1911-1999).

 

 

 

It appears that Clayton closed shop shortly after this June 30 1911 advertisement was published. It may be coincidence, but J.R. Maynard began advertising himself as “The New Jeweller” in the vicinity of Clayton’s store, earlier that same month.

We find the couple residing in Saskatoon, SK by 1916. Helen died on June 1 of 1946 in Winnipeg, MB. William’s passing occurred on March 18 of 1957, also in Winnipeg. A branch of the Strachan line now resides in Milford, IA.

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | May 2, 2020

From Bicycles and Laundry to Automobiles

Like many downtown properties, 148 Pitt Street has witnessed its share of businesses come and go over the years. That building was replaced in 1955 and the building north of it was replaced in 1947.

Guy Brothers Modern Steam Laundry: 1895-1911
The Empire Laundry was founded in 1892 in the Second Street West Standard Block as Cornwall’s first steam laundry. The operation changed ownership five times during its first three years of operation. George and William Guy took over in 1895.

In 1901, the name Guy Brothers signified the end of one business and the relocation of another. Guy Brothers was in the process of winding down their Pitt Street gentlemen’s furnishings business. A December 7 1901 ad stated that J.E. Snetsinger & Co were having a Winding-Up Clearing Sale of Guy Bros. Men’s Furnishings at Guy Brothers old stand on Pitt Street.

Meanwhile, Guy Brothers had already relocated their Water Street West steam laundry to 148 Pitt Street.

By 1907 Guy Brothers had added carpet cleaning to their list of cleaning services.

Mid-July of 1911, Rivier’s High Class Laundry had succeeded Guy Bros.

Cornwall Motor Sales
Ca. 1913, Cornwall Motor Sales launched in the former laundry location, where they remained until 1919, relocating to Second Street West, then to Brookdale Avenue and eventually amalgamating with another GM dealership further north on Brookdale.

Gregson Bicycles
As per this 1907 newspaper ad, Turner Gregson’s Bicycle Shop was located in the north end of the Guy Brothers laundry building; Gregson’s continued to operate there during Cornwall Motor Sales’ time there, as seen in the photo above.

People’s Shoe Rebuilding Shop

A more recent occupant of historic 148 Pitt Street was People’s Shoe Rebuilding Shop.

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | April 8, 2020

Cornwall Icons-Cornwall-Massena Bridge

Welcome to Part 3 of our series on historic Cornwall icons. Part 2 can be accessed at this LINK.
Whether in summer

or in winter

nothing in Cornwall was more universally visible and identifiable than our community’s historic high level north channel bridge to Cornwall Island.

The creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project necessitated the removal of Cornwall’s first international bridge, known as the Roosevelt Bridge (on the left in the above photo), a former railway bridge planked over to accommodate vehicular traffic, and the creation of a new bridge (on the right in the above photo.)

The high level bridge, about eight blocks long over Cornwall (pictured under construction above), was built tall enough for ships to pass under it on their way up and down the St. Lawrence River, except that none ever had need to. Some folks had a dream of an all-Canadian Seaway that might possibly come about when the American locks reached capacity, therefore a high bridge was erected to allow for that to take place.

July 3rd of 1962 brought with it the official opening ceremonies of the much anticipated high level bridge.

With a cut of the ribbon, the bridge was declared open for use.

And the public was invited to test it out.

This was the original toll both and bridge administration building.

A commemorative token was one of the souvenirs marking the occasion; this one is in the SIB collection at the Cornwall Community Museum.

Our collection also includes a donated bridge attendant uniform, pictured here.

 

Even now in 2020, the locks are nowhere near capacity yet. So, when the bridge was in serious need of repair, it was less expensive to replace it with the current low level bridge than to implement extensive restoration work.

In the interim, generations of Cornwallites grew up under the shadow of the high level bridge, whose name evolved from the Cornwall-Massena Bridge to the Seaway International Bridge (SIB) to the Three Nations Bridge (under construction in the above photo).

The above SIB photo was taken by Robert Williams in 2013 and a copy donated to the SD&G Historical Society. The view is looking west along a remnant of the Cornwall Canal. The recreation path is to the right.

Robert also submitted this 2011 photo taken from the bridge.

Dismantling the bridge was a lengthy process, one which afforded many great photo opps. Robert Williams documented many great angles, including this now historic bridge view of Brookdale Avenue long before the current realignment of the street.

Frank Wilson contributed this photo taken when sections of the bridge had already been removed.

He was also there the moment that this section was lowered to the street below.

 

But, before dismantling of the high level bridge got under way, residents were afforded one final opportunity to cross the bridge, not by vehicle, but on foot, to reminisce, take photographs and to bid farewell to an old friend. This photo of the two bridges, taken by Tammy Munroe on the July 8 2014 Bridge Walk, shows the new low level bridge, recently opened to traffic, adjacent to the defunct high level bridge.

Don Smith was among those who were able to attend the historic Bridge Walk to capture a moment in time; the Bonaparte family, on the right of the photo, joined hundreds of people from the area who came out that day.

Here is another of Don’s images from the Walk.

Joseph Bonaparte photographed one of the historic displays on exhibit that day.

Kim Morrissette captured this one,

and this one, too.

Kim also spotted this youngster taking home a piece of the bridge for posterity.

Local photographer Jason Setnyk was there during peak turnout in time to get this great crowd shot.

Tammy Coleman observed that some four-legged visitors took advantage of the opportunity to take in the bird’s eye view.

Rob Fry was standing … we’re not quite certain where he was standing, but what a great shot, Rob!

Holley Boots photographed some residents of Akwesasne who came to honour the memory of Frederick G. (Swasen) Boots, whose portrait they carried with them. Swasen, at the age of 20, fell some 75 feet to his death while on a pole, painting a section of the five year old north channel bridge. Don Smith interviewed some of Swasen’s family to record his story. His article in The Seeker can be found at this LINK.

Ross Dobson was there to catch a glimpse of visitors as they completed their farewell Bridge Walk.

This historic bridge truly was an icon of our community.

We thank the many people who publicly shared images from the Bridge Walk, a few of which are posted here, enabling this blog post to be truly a community effort.

Some of the historic photographs were taken by the now late Marcel Quenneville; we are blessed to be custodians of thousands of his professional images.

Stay tuned for Part 4.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | April 8, 2020

Cornwall Icons-Post Office

Part 1 of this new series can be accessed at this LINK.
In this second installment in our series on Cornwall’s iconic places, we recall our Neo-Gothic post office at the n.w. corner of Pitt Street at Second Street West.

When the St. Lawrence Seaway was being created, there was a sense that it would bring prosperity to our community and heighten its importance. Therefore a prestigious address for the Seaway administration building was desired. Pitt and Second was the principal intersection, the height of Cornwall’s downtown, so one of those four corners was sought.

Since only that corner was government-owned, it was the path of least resistance and selected as the site. The post office had to go.

However, the former post office lives on in our memories, in great photographs such as these as well as through Cornwall post office souvenirs such as those below.

These souvenirs are on exhibit in your Cornwall Community Museum.

Do you have fond memories of this former Cornwall landmark?

In the third installment in our series on Cornwall icons at this LINK, we look at the former high level Seaway International Bridge.

Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | April 7, 2020

Cornwall Icons – Pitt Street

In every era, our city has had streets, structures and other features that spoke loudly:  “this is Cornwall.”

Cornwall’s downtown, and more specifically, Pitt Street, was long thought of as an identifiable feature, symbolic of our community.

Both by day and by night,

and in every era, the sights, sounds and smells along Pitt Street were an attraction, a place where Cornwallites were proud to bring their out of town guests.

Indeed, this was so much the case that a variety of souvenirs were created to celebrate Cornwall’s “Main Street.”

 

 

Some of the souvenirs even had a practical side.

Each of these Cornwall souvenirs and others are on exhibit at your Cornwall Community Museum.

Perhaps you have your own favourite memories of Pitt Street, be it pre, post or pedestrian mall era.

In Part 2 of this series at this LINK we look at another iconic Cornwall landmark, Cornwall’s Neo-Gothic post office.

 

 

 

 

 

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In The Wood House at the waterfront, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada