Rare and perhaps unpublished King St. Views

This posting is devoted to a few terrific photographs that very few people may have seen before. They have turned up at various times and I have been fortunate enough to have been able to copy them for use sometime. Perhaps this is a good time.


ca. 1868

King St W, Brockville, ON - ca1868

One of the earliest street scenes taken in Brockville, perhaps in the late 1860s.   The photographer was Alexander C. McIntyre, who for may years was the pre-eminent photographer in Brockville.   His “International Gallery” was located at the corner of King St. and Market St.   This shot is looking east from the Court House Ave. intersection.   The photographer’s studio was located on the second and third floor of the Manuel-Fullerton Building (built about 1845), now the location of the National Rental-Purchase Centre at 2 King St. W.   Patients who visit Dr. John Arnott have sat in the area where A.C. McIntyre had his studio and gallery.

This photograph has captured all the busy activity of Brockville’s main street, showing shoppers and wagons.   The dirt road, a mud obstacle during the rainy season is skirted by wooden sidewalks and lighted by gas lamps, both commonplace features of any town.   Some of the visible buildings on both sides of the street might be found today.   Most notable is the bell tower of Victoria Hall, now the home of our City Hall.   The pictograph sign of the big black boot marks the location of the boot and shoe store of Robert Lipsett at 124 Main St.


ca. 1865


From the same period, but giving a closer view of the intersection of King & Market Square.   The new feature of this end of town was the Victoria Hall, built in the years 1862-64, to the designs of Kingston architect, Henry H. Horsey.   In the centre of the picture is the Willson House hotel ,which was first opened in November 1849 by William H. Willson.   Between 1868 and 1873 the hotel as known as the Campbell House while owned by John L. Campbell who was previously a hotelkeeper in Prescott.   Many people will remember this building as the Revere Hotel, until it suffered a mysterious and disastrous fire on November 6, 1974.   The smaller stone buildings on the right were built probably in the 1820s and ’30s, but were replaced over 80 years ago.


ca. 1890

King St. W north side ca1886

Several years had passed since the previous photographs were taken. Here is the same block on the north side of King St. W. on a summer day (note the awnings and noon time shadows) in the 1890s.   The new granolithic sidewalks are now constructed of modern concrete and the tall wooden poles have arrived on the main street to carry the latest in modern electrical wiring.   The first impressive building on the left is located exactly where the former Woolworth’s Store is now located.   This was the Merrill Building built in the 188os for Augustus H. Merrill, who operated a book and job printing business upstairs.   From there eastward, most of these buildings are still existing, with the exception of today’s one-storey gift emporium Dream Weaver, and the third floor addition on the Manuel-Fullerton Building. The first intersection, which is today’s Victoria Ave. was previously known as Market St. The first sloping-roofed building pictured in the middle was built for liquor merchant, George K. Houston, about 1869, and now houses Boboli Café. The sign on the next building indicates the dry goods business of O’Donahoe Bros.


ca. 1900

King St. north side 1890s

The same block was photographed about 10 years later during the winter. Look at the evidence for this: the snow on the road, horses pulling sleighs, and pig and chicken carcasses hanging and laying outdoors. The first store, in the Merrill Building, is that of Heman Shepherd, a dealer in dry goods. Next door was the butcher business of Thomas Burns. Then, by noting their sign, Alexander and William G. Baird have taken over the dry goods business previously carried on by the O’Donahoe Brothers.


May 25, 1892

Edwin P. Comstock Funeral May 25. 1892

This photograph was taken on the day of Edwin P. Comstock’s funeral and shows the south side of King St. W. as it looked in 1892.   Edwin was the son and heir of William H. Comstock, one of Brockville’s patent medicine business owners, and died when only 26 years old, while in the midst of a promising career. In the far background, beyond Victoria Hall, you can see the 3-storey round corner brick Weatherhead Building. On this side of the Revere House hotel are the oldest small stores for many years owned by the Richards family. The stripped barber pole is bound to get attention as are the over-signage on George E. McGlade’s CPR Telegraph and steamboat ticket office. The last store visible on the right is that of tobacconist Frank “Ike” Ritchie, who for some reason hung more than one sign with the spelling “Ritchey” or “Ritchey’s”.


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