1 King Street, Brockville
Brockville City Hall
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.”
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.
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.
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.