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Victoria Hall and East Ward Market House – Part Two

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1 King Street, Brockville

Built 1862-64



Brockville City Hall


Market Day ca1903

The Brockville Farmers Market was a busy place on Market Day. This photo dates to about 1895 and shows the original design of the East Ward Market House which was located behind Victoria Hall.


The new Concert Hall and Market House nears completion.

It might be interesting to quote here from a newspaper article written on Nov. 5, 1863 which anticipated with pleasure the future official opening of the new building:

“The new Market House in the East Ward is now all but completed, and on all hands we hear nothing but praise awarded to the capable and energetic contractors, Messrs. Steacy & Booth. On Thursday last we entered the building for the first time, and must express satisfaction at the manner in which the work has been done. The butchers’ stalls are equal, if not superior, to any we have seen either on this or the other side of the Atlantic, and we hope to see the lessees of these stalls vie with each other in the neat and cleanly appearance in which they will be kept. The stalls are ventilated by moving windows at the top, worked by cords placed in the centre of the passage. There are eight stalls on each side of the passage.”
“On the ground floor there are very fine rooms which might be let for public offices of some description. These rooms form the east and west portions of the main building, the centre being occupied by the main passage to the butcher stalls.”
“The upper storey contains “The Hall”, and a most splendid hall it is. Its size is 75 x 40. The ceiling is very beautifully executed, the centre pieces, in stucco, claiming a just need of praise. The stage is placed at the east end of the Hall, from which there is a door leading to the ante-room. There is also an orchestra on the north side of the Hall, but this is intended more to cover the arch forming the bases of the tower than for actual use.”

.FITZSIMMONS William ca1869

William Fitzsimmons, a master builder and the Mayor of Brockville in 1862 when this building was initiated. He was also appointed to be “Superintendent of Construction” by the Town Council.


By November of 1863, the Brockville Gas Light Co. had completed their installation of gas fixtures. With the building almost ready for use, the winter months were spent levelling and preparing the adjacent streets and landscaping on all sides of the new market building.

The official opening took place on the Queen’s Birthday, May 24, 1864 at 8:30 p.m. with a grand ball hosted by the Mayor and Defiance Fire Co. No.2. Music was provided by the Olds Quadrille Band. Tickets were sold for $1.50.

During the summer months of 1864 they carried out the work of fitting up the butcher stalls. For example, local carpenter and builder, William Holmes received $120 for his efforts in “fitting up 16 stalls with tables and hook rails & beams”. Blacksmith Luke Leach was paid $160 for “making hooks, bolts, fastenings, etc.” for the stalls.

The first concert to be presented in the magnificent upstairs Hall was on October 8, 1864 with a musical concert by Madam Anna Bishop.

Work on the tower of Victoria Hall was the last to be completed as construction there continued through the winter and spring of 1864-65. Tinsmith R.W. Grant presented a $34.44 bill for labour and materials for tinning the roof of the tower in November of 1865. He was also paid $106 in full for his work on August 8, 1866.

As a final interesting item, they paid cabinetmaker John McElhinny $250 on September 3, 1866 for supplying 360 wood-seat chairs for Victoria Hall.

One of the first major tenants to occupy the ground floor offices was the main Post Office who remained in that spot for more than fifteen years, until new facilities were constructed and opened by the Dominion Government on the west side of Court House Ave. in 1883-85.

Town Council starts Conversion for Town Offices

In 1882, Town Council carried out repairs and improvements to the building based on plans prepared by Brockville architect O.E. Liston. Details are not available, but it is assumed that space was converted for town offices. The contract for the work was awarded to John Loftus for $1814. In 1886, the space which up to that time had been used for wagon passage through the central shaft of the whole building was incorporated into the building and the entrance doors at each end were closed up.

In 1904 two additional floors were added to the rear wing. This completed the new massing of the building as we see it today. All of the town functions were moved here, including the Police offices and jail which were housed in the ground floor of the rear portion.


Victoria Hall rear ca1910

A view of the rear of Brockville Town Hall about 1910, following the renovation of the Market Area. The present Council Chambers are on the new third floor, as shown here.


Victoria Hall Tower gets Clock and Bell

Also in 1904, Mayor S.J. Geash and property chairman, Alderman William H. Kyle moved for installation of a clock and bell in the tower for the first time. The clock was purchased from the Seth Thomas Clock Co. Of Thomson, Conn. The bell was made by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland. Local jeweller and horologist, Frederick B. Steacy was in charge of the installation for the town.

This clock has been operating for almost 100 years with the help of dedicated clock technicians from Steacy’s and Knowlton’s Jewellers, along with various Town Hall caretakers. Over the years the necessary once a week ritual of re-winding the mechanism which raises up the weights for the clock and bell has been carried out by Richard H. Miller and Ralph McInrue from Steacy’s, and then Glen Jackson, and his son Richard of Wingfields. For the last twenty years the job has been carried out by Vic Smetona who retired from the space industry but was trained as an horologist in his younger years. Vic has carried out his share of repairs when needed and coaxed the old clock back into running order when it has faltered.


Victoria Hall photo ca1920

This photo is dated about 1920 showing how automobiles are becoming commonplace on the streets of Brockville.


Sources: I began collecting information on Victoria Hall more than thirty years ago. Some of the sources are no longer available. The minute books of the 1859-62 Brockville Town Councils, and the Town Treasurer’s Cash Book (1861-67) were previously stored in the City Hall. I would like to regognize former City Clerk, the late John Miles who allowed me to copy information into notebooks which I have kept since the 1970s.



copyright DG cards MAY 2009

About Doug Grant

I am a local history buff who lives in the terrific city of Brockville on the north side of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Toronto in the Canadian province of Ontario. I intend this Blog Site to share a lot of historical information which I have been collecting for the last 35 or so years. I was educated in Scarborough, Ontario and Toronto. I graduated as an Architectural Technologist from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in 1966. My first career was as an Architectural Technologist/Draftsman in Toronto between 1966 and 1972. I decided to go into teaching in 1972, and attended the Ontario College of Education in Toronto. I was then qualified to teach Architectural Drafting in the Ontario school system and obtained a position to do this in the town of Prescott, Ontario. I taught all my career at South Grenville District High School in Prescott until my retirement in June 2000. I have continued to develop one of my main interests and hobbies in Canadian History and specificly the History of Brockville since moving to live in Brockville, Ontario in 1972. Some of the material that I intend to use on this site was originally published in the Brockville newspaper, "The Recorder and Times" under my copyright. In addition I want to use a number of historical photographs that I have collected over the years. Would love to hear from anyone with similar interests to mine.

5 responses »

  1. I always wondered who was in charge of keeping that clock going. I bet the view from the tower is pretty great (maybe a little scary).

    Good post!

  2. So it’s true – there used to be a large Hall on the upper level of the Town Hall, but it was converted to office space. In a recent Recorder & Times article concerning restoration of the North end of the Railway Tunnel, Mayor Henderson spoke of the importance of preserving important heritage sites including this Hall. Is there now a movement to have it restored as a public space?

    • Hi there, Nick.

      The restoration of the original ballroom would be a very expensive proposition for the City of Brockville. We had a meeting with the mayor earlier this year and discussed various things that could be worked on at the front entrance, but not the ballroom. Sometime down the line if taxpayers can be convinced of the need, a future council might consider it. We can show everyone who is skeptical how proud they are in Kingston, ON after they restored their City Hall interiors a few years ago. Why don’t you give the mayor a phone call?

      Regards, Doug

  3. Hi Doug,

    Just found your wonderful web site on the History of Brockville. My Great Grandparent’s, Henry and Mabel Taylor, lived there for many years as did their daughter Kitty Taylor. Henry died in 1955, Mabel in 1967 and Kitty in 1971. They are buried at Oakland Cemetery. The Taylor family had a lovely cottage on Fulford’s Point right beside the Fulford Pioneer Cemetery dedicated in 1786. I remember it from my childhood and I took a side trip there this summer on my vacation to try and find it, which I did. I now live in California.

    Looking at your site I came across a photo of the Jones-Harding Building (41 – 45 King St West). It mentioned that a Mrs. Mabel Taylor was a tenant there when the picture was taken in the 1950s. I think that she would be my Great Grandmother and I was wondering how I could find out what business she had there and for how long. I do know that my Aunt Kitty had a well known knitting store on King Street in Brockville at one time but her name was Katherine Taylor.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Kind regards,

    Ann Brown Ritchie

  4. Do you have information and/or early pictures regarding the fountain behind City Hall. When was it put there? Was it always a fountain? Fountain and lights?


    Curt Wheleer


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