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Category Archives: Portraits

Victoria Hall and East Ward Market House – Part One

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1 King Street, Brockville

Built 1862-1864


Brockville City Hall



Along with the Court House, I would place this building at the top of interesting and treasured building designs in Brockville.


Victoria Hall tower 1

The most distinctive feature of Brockville’s Victoria Hall is the 8-sided Clock and Bell Tower.


The First Market Building on this site

Although it has functioned for more than a hundred years as the Brockville Town Hall, prior to the mid-1880s, it served as the place to house indoor butchers’ stalls at the rear, and the concert hall and ballroom known as Victoria Hall on the second floor at the front. The town government offices were still located in the west end in the building at the corner of King St. W. and St. Paul St. which we now call the Brockville Arts Centre.

Victoria Hall is located in the middle of the East Ward Market Square which dates from the years 1832-33 when it was established by a special Act of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. This establishment was controversial and took months of political debate in the Parliament at York. The land from the Main Street down to the river’s edge was donated by the Hon. Charles Jones who held title to most of the land in the east central area of Brockville, and was prominent as a local and provincial conservative politician.

A small stone building was erected in the middle of the square in 1835 to provide space for local butchers to sell their meat products indoors. Masonry work was carried out by Alexander Spalding, and John Thompson and James Elliott were the carpenters.

They rented the first four butcher stalls in January 1836 to John Cowan, Joseph Cowan, John Harrison and Patrick Murray. The Board of Police charged them 3 pounds, 10 shillings for the first year. Later Charles Dickinson and Richard Baker joined them. All the other market products were offered outdoors.

A Fancy Concert Hall and a new Market House is considered in 1859

This was the situation which existed until 1859 when the town was anticipating the completion of the B&O Railway Tunnel which had to some degree changed the landscape of the middle of the market area. It was during the spring of 1859 that the Town Council led by Mayor William Fitzsimmons felt a need for larger indoor facilities for the East Ward Market. This scheme was overwhelmingly approved by the electors in a plebiscite held on May 30, 1859.

It was then decided to hire someone to draw up plans and specifications for this building. A building committee, headed by Alonzo B. Dana, councillor for the West Ward, set about to determine their requirements, and chose to give the job to a Mr. A.S. Brown, about whom we know nothing.

It was not until almost a year later that Brown’s drawings were submitted to Council for approval. Tenders for construction were called for May 22, 1860. It appears from records of Council deliberations at this time that some dissatisfaction and squabbling in Council meetings started to hamper further progress on the scheme.

Brockville Town Council in 1860 was split into two rival factions whose members zealously stuck together on most issues. Few decisions were arrived at in Council meetings, and as a result it became impossible to proceed with building the new Market Hall.

Two tenders had been received; one from William Holmes and Thomas Price for $9,797 in currency, and one from Messrs. Pidgeon and Gallena for $12,000 in Town debentures. The issue seemed to be centred on how they would pay for the building, and whether the first design allowed for enough space.

Neither tender was acceptable to the opponents of the faction led by A.B. Dana. Councillors McCullough, Poulton, Easton, R. Fitzsimmons and Mayor Wm. Fitzsimmons were determined to have their opinions decide the course of events. Time after time, Dana and his supporters, Donaldson, Manley, Brooks and Beecher found their motions defeated for lack of a majority. The debating in those council meetings of 1860 must have been heated, but we only have the dry council minutes which recorded the words and outcome of each resolution.

A New Council Elected in 1861

The question of the new East Ward Market building remained unresolved into the new year of 1861. A new mayor, Dr. Robert Edmondson, was in the chair along with four new councillors.

The previous factionalism was still present but with a significant difference. The group who had successfully killed the previous proposal had gained the upper hand, and the new mayor seemed determined to remain neutral if he could. This group, now composed of McCullough, Carron, Taylor, Poulton and Price believed that Council should go to the people to ask for permission to raise additional funds to enlarge the size of the proposed new market hall. This was done on July 1, 1861, and the electors of Brockville again voted yes to go ahead.

By August of 1861, it appears that Council agreed to proceed again with plans. The composition of the building committee was altered to allow the dominant faction to control its deliberations without opposition. It was Alonzo B. Dana himself who cleared the way for this to happen when he proposed that he and two of his colleagues be replaced on the building committee.

So, they started the lengthy procedure of obtaining new drawings. The first firm to be approached was Messrs. Fuller and Jones, Architects, the designers of the first Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. The committee received their proposed plans on September 25, 1861.

What took place then is unrecorded. Possibly the building committee was not satisfied with what they saw. Fuller & Jones eventually received $475.00 for their efforts, but their design was not used. They, in fact, had to sue the town in the courts to receive a settlement.


This early photograph taken about 1866 shows the new Victoria Hall on King Street. The nearby streetscape includes the earlier Willson House hotel in the centre and other stores on the right.



A New Architect is Engaged

Kingston architect, Henry H. Horsey was also invited to submit a design scheme for the market hall. It was at this time that the essence of the building which now stands on King St. was decided on. Not only was this project to include space for butcher’s stalls, but a large concert hall was proposed, along with office space which could be rented out.

Horsey estimated the cost of the entire building to be $26,000. It was July 25, 1862 when Town Council finally approved H.H. Horsey’s plans and moved to call tenders for its erection. The 1862 mayor, William Fitzsimmons, an experienced builder himself, was appointed to represent the town as Superintendent of Construction. By September 15th the tender of John Steacy, Jr. of Brockville, and David Booth, his partner had been accepted, and work was started without delay on the new foundations.

By October 18, 1862, the contractors had expended $3,125 in labour and materials. By November, the foundations were completed and backfilled, and the stone walls were beginning to rise. On December 24, 1862, they paid H.H. Horsey $553.70 in full for his architectural services. Construction of the new market hall continued through most of 1863. The records of the town treasurer show that insurance for $15,000 was first taken out in October of that year, but there still must have been many details to be completed even then.

To be continued……


Victoria Hall engraving ca1879

The Canadian Illustrated News, published out of Montreal, devoted two pictorial feature pages to Brockville in April and May of 1879. This was one of the drawings included and shows Victoria Hall in its early days.



copyright DG cards MAY 2009

Word Press

The Wheelmen of Brockville

Members of the first Brockville Cycling Club



Alex. L. Murray  and  Crawford McClean

This is a studio photograph of two of the founding members of the Brockville Cycling Club posed on their new “High-Wheel Bicycles.” Alex Murray was the junior partner with his father, George B. Murray in the company, Murray & Son, photographers. Crawford McClean was the son of the late Judge Worship B. McClean, and lived at 35 Hartley St. in his father’s brick home.  Besides taking part in country tours, the racers of the local clubs were known to race around the track at the Driving Park, near Ormond St. and Central Ave. where the annual Agricultural Fair was held.

Bicycle development led to further improvements, including a high-wheel tricycle, and placing the small wheel in the front, but soon chain-drives, triangular configured frames and equal sized pneumatic-tired wheels arrived on the scene. This was when young women abandoned their bustles and corsets, and joined the bicycle revolution which forced women to adapt to more “common sense dressing.”



Young sportsmen around the world were quick to embrace the new sport of cycling in the early 1880s. Brockville was no exception. The new “High-Wheel” bicycles were being built of metal because of the advance of steel metallurgy in the late 1870s. With a large front wheel, solid-rubber tires, a high saddle and handle bars, followed by a smaller trailing wheel, it required a new kind of skill and athleticism to peddle these cycles.

Because the motive power on these cycles was a pair of peddles connected directly to the front wheel, the oversized wheel contributed to more distance traveled and speed with one rotation of the peddles.

The high-wheelers cost a small fortune to purchase. They could cost an average worker six month’s pay, but gained a great popularity among young men of means. In towns like Brockville, Lyn, Prescott, and Cardinal, small groups of bicyclists formed clubs to share their passion for riding. According to records kept by the Canadian Cycling Association, the Brockville Cycling Club was the first registered club in Canada.

The roads of the day were rough, often causing accidental falls and tumbles. Any small rut or stone could send a balanced rider over the handlebars and down to the ground in what was known as “taking a header.”

The local bicycle clubs took part in touring and racing in the 1890s, at times working toward building special cinder-paved bike trails alongside the existing roads. Periodically articles found in the local newspapers reported on efforts to raise money for these bicycle tracks such as one from Brockville to Lyn (1896), or from the “Dew Drop Inn” (on the Kingston Rd at Lyn Road) westwardly (1898).

Other Brockville wheelmen mentioned in local reports, in addition to the two in the photo, included: Capt. Ernie Bissett, Dr. Robert A. Bowie, brothers, Charles S. and Fremont B. Cossitt, Edwin Weatherhead, and Harry Going, the secretary of the club.

In May of 1897 a small item in the newspaper reported that a locally-made bicycle could be purchased at Dobbie’s Hardware Store for $60. It was the product of a young mechanic named Fred Ruetsch, who previously had worked at Stearn’s Bicycle Co. in Syracuse



Sources: Most of the bits of information about the local bicycle club has been collected by the Brockville Museum, but no detailed history of the Brockville Bicycle Club has been found yet. This photograph was one of two given to the museum 1981 by W. Stanley Adams, who owned a jewellery store on King Street.



St. Alban’s School for Boys in Brockville (1896-1949)

40-50 Crawford St.




Until about 58 years ago the presence of St. Alban’s School for Boys was an integral part of east-end Brockville. It was a private boarding school for young men patterned after the style of English public schools which emphasized traditional British values of sportsmanship, fair play and character building.

It’s history goes back to the story of it’s founder Rev. Dr. Charles J. Boulden D.D. (1857-1909). Dr. Boulden first came to Canada in 1883, a year after his graduation in 1882 from Cambridge, to be the mathematics master at Lincoln College in Sorel, Quebec. After a return to England between 1886 and 1888 when he became headmaster at Dana Hill School in Margate, he returned to Canada in 1893 to be curate at St. James Cathedral of Toronto, and then was appointed rector of Berthier, Que., across the St. Lawrence from Sorel. In 1896 he decided to started his own school in Berthier which he named St. Alban’s, after the first British martyr.

Five years later in 1901 he moved St. Alban’s to Brockville where he had acquired the former John Page property on the eastern outskirts of the town on Crawford St. which contained the large brick house built by William H. Willson in 18xx. He also arranged to rent the neighbouring property, owned by the Chaffey family which was known as “Somerset”. Both of these buildings still exist.

about 1903


The largest building at St. Albans was the Willson-Page House built by William H. Willson in 185x for his family. Before being acquired in 1900 for the school it had been the home of John Page, the chief engineer of canals for Canada. This photograph shows the staff and students in front of the building. As part of the school, it contained some classrooms and the bedchambers for the junior students. It still exists as a family home in this location on Crawford St.


In its new location St. Alban’s became exclusively a boarding school, with accommodation for a maximum of sixty boys. Classes were small allowing each a opportunity of individual attention. Enrollment was encouraged at an early age, boys of 8 or 9 being outfitted in the cap and blazer sporting the orange and black crest and staying until they completed their secondary education at sixteen or seventeen.

The school changed hands in 1906, when Dr. Boulden accepted an appointment as Headmaster to King’s College in Windsor, Nova Scotia. The property in Brockville was leased to the new senior headmaster, Rev. Francis Graham Orchard, M.A. (Camb.) (1873-1943). Rev. Orchard came direct from the position of Chaplain and Assistant Master of Bromsgrove School in England. In his tenure he worked hard to improve all aspects of the school and introduced a number of customs which became cherished traditions. In 1913 Rev. Orchard moved to Port Hope to accept the post of headmaster at Trinity College School.

The lease to St. Alban’s was then taken over by A. G. M. (”Max”) Mainwaring, M.A. [1884-1958], the senior Mathematics Master. Mainwaring had joined the staff in 1909, and had with him a capable staff of Assistant Masters, highly educated graduates of English Universities. In 1913,-0 it is known that the teaching staff included J.J. Stephens, M.A (1851-1925), E.M. Sutton, B.A., Glynne L.B. James, B.A. (1892-1917) as well as Max Mainwaring as Headmaster.

about 1913


Here is a typical group of 31 St. Alban’s students, juniors in the front and seniors in the rear. They are dressed mostly in their blazers and caps. The photograph was taken somewhere on the school grounds.


about 1913

em-sutton-glynne-james-jj-stephens-max-mainwaring-1913In 1913 the teaching masters at St. Albans were (left to right) E.M. Sutton, Gwynne L.B. James, J.J. Stephens, House Master, and A.G. Max Mainwaring, Headmaster.


The flat grounds in front were used as tennis courts in the warm weather, and for skating rinks in the winter. The school grounds contained approx.18 acres with large playing fields in the rear for running and team sports like rugby.


st-albans-small-stone-buildingsThese are the auxiliary buildings in the middle of the school grounds. On the right is the handsome chapel where short services were held each morning and evening on weekdays, and full services on Sunday, conducted by the Headmaster. This building was converted from a coach house on the former Chaffey property. The chapel windows were of stained glass and depicted in the troubadour style a number of mediaeval figures holding the implements of their professions.



The later history of St. Albans remains to be researched and written.

St. Alban’s School for Boys closed it’s doors in 1949. Principal Max Mainwaring died in 1958.


Source: The material for this story of the early days of St. Albans was pieced together from important material that was loaned to me by the son of Max Mainwaring, the late Robert G.L. “Bertie” Mainwaring. Bertie Mainwaring was very proud of the history of the property which he inherited from his father, and kept a large collection of documents and memories of the history of St. Alban’s School. He died more than 3 years ago, aged 88 on 21 September 2005. In his collection was a small but very unique photographic album, originally owned by Gynne Lewis Broadhurst James, one of the young teaching masters at the school before World War One. These small snapshots have provided some of the illustrations used here.

Gwynne James, born at Warmersley, Yorkshire, England about 1891 or 1892, came to Brockville in about 1909 or 1910 to teach at St. Alban’s. After the war broke out he returned to England in 1915 and secured a commission as a lieutenant in the Irish Guards. He was wounded in July 1916, and was for a year at his home suffering from “shell-shock”. He returned to the trenches in July 1917, and on the 18th of that month was instantly killed by the explosion of a shell. That obviously ended his career as a teacher, but his photographs somehow remained in Brockville.

James L. James, joined his brother in Brockville in 1912. He then secured a job at the Brockville branch of the Bank of Montreal. James was known as the husband of Eleanor M. (REYNOLDS) James, who some Brockvillians may remember because of her family stories.

Other photos and notes came from other various sources.


Gwynne L.B. James, taken on the porch of the Headmasters House at 50 Crawford St, while he was a teacher at St. Albans. This photograph was one of a number that were found in his personal album of snapshots, and saved by the Mainwaring family.


Copyright: January 2009, Doug Grant, Brockville.

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