A step back: Main street meets memory lane

There are few traces left of the first buildings in Woolwich and Wellesley townships, which were simple log homes. As the population of the townships grew, the first entrepreneurs built stores, mills and hotels. Early wooden buildings were replaced by more substantial structures of brick and stone.

Last updated on May 04, 23

Posted on Feb 19, 10

5 min read

There are few traces left of the first buildings in Woolwich and Wellesley townships, which were simple log homes. As the population of the townships grew, the first entrepreneurs built stores, mills and hotels. Early wooden buildings were replaced by more substantial structures of brick and stone. Old stores closed and new ones opened, and the buildings that housed them at times fell down, burned down or were torn down to make way for something ne

Still, many of those early buildings are standing today. Often they are disguised by new signs and paint, but a second look reveals the familiar shapes and rooflines. These photographs offer a glimpse into the past and reveal the evolution of the main streets and prominent buildings in Woolwich and Wellesley townships.


Arthur Street looking north

The top photo was taken sometime before 1918, when the wooden O’Donnell House on the far left (where the Central Tavern is now) burned to the ground. The large sign on the left, near the present Brown’s clothing store, reads “Fischer Bros Pool Room. Cigars and Tobacco.” On the right, the present day Sip ‘n Bite was Grey’s Grocery. Upstairs was the telephone exchange and the ticket agency for the Grand Trunk Railway.


Arthur Street looking south

The top photo was taken in Elmira sometime between 1899, when the boardwalks were paved, and 1915, when the spire of St. James Lutheran Church, visible in the distance, was taken down. Given the number of horses and wagons in the street, it was likely taken on fair day or pig fair day. The Kitchen Kuttings building on the corner has a vertical sign reading “Ruppel & Co.” George Ruppel operated White Groceries and his wife sold fine china in the back of the store. Above, the view from Church Street as it appears today.


Wellesley mill

Heading into Wellesley Village on Nafziger Road, the landscape is dominated by the mill built in 1856 by Christopher Doering. This photo was taken some time after the mill was enlarged to its present size in 1910. The small dark-coloured house beside the mill is gone, but the brick building north of it was John George Reiner’s general store, now the Schmittsville Restaurant. Across Maple Leaf Street, the brick building on the corner was a woolen mill where Reiner employed 50 people for weaving, carding, spinning and dyeing.


Queen’s Bush looking east

The brick building on the left was the Royal Hotel, started by Peter Berdux in 1857. The distinctive mansard roof was added in 1880, and the livery was next to the hotel. The small fieldstone house east of the hotel was built in 1858 by John Schneider. At the end of the block is a two-storey brick building with three chimneys, which originally housed the Wellesley Hotel and General Store. It was destroyed in a fire a number of years ago.


Queen’s Bush looking west

The Kelterborn store on the left was originally the Doering General Store, built in the 1860s. William Kelterborn worked for George Doering and bought out his stock in 1896. Across the street, the frame house was replaced by the two-storey brick Bank of Commerce. The small beige house is still there, but next two homes have been replaced by the CIBC.


Wellesley’s centre light

Taken around the 1930s, this top photo shows Queen’s Bush Road, looking west. The Royal Hotel is on the right, with gas pumps and the stage coach steps in front of it. The next building on the right was the Bank of Commerce, now the pharmacy. At Christmastime, a large tree was set up next to the light post in the centre of the intersection, and the village gathered to listen to a band. Inset, the view today.


St. Clements

The postcard at right, postmarked Aug. 31, 1907, shows the main street of St. Clements, with the St. Clements store (now a café) on the right. The flat-roofed building with the boomtown front three houses up was Peter Schummer’s store. Schummer lived in the Edwardian home beside it, built in 1905. Above, the facade changes visible today.


Heidelberg Hotel

The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant started life as Henry Miller’s Great Western Hotel. Built in the 1840s, it served as a stage coach stop between Kitchener-Waterloo and Glen Allan and is one of the oldest remaining hotels in Waterloo Region. Miller also owned the store across the road, which was connected to the hotel by a tunnel. Legend has it that during Prohibition, liquor was smuggled from the store to the hotel through the tunnel.


King Street, St. Jacobs

Of the towns in Woolwich and Wellesley, St. Jacobs has undergone the most radical transformation. Looking north on King Street, the only buildings that remain from this photograph from around the turn of the century are the W. and A. Snyder commercial block at the corner of Front and King Streets and the Dominion Hotel just visible opposite them. The Snyder Flour Mill at the foot of the street was destroyed by fire in 1921.


Naugatuck Chemicals

The ivy-covered building at the foot of Erb Street started life in 1900 as the Elmira Felt Company. When Elmira Felt went out of business, it became the Fleet Foot factory, producing tennis shoes for export. The building sat empty from 1930 to 1941, when Naugatuck Chemicals was founded. The company, which has produced DDT, 2,4-D and Agent Orange among other chemicals, became Uniroyal, then Crompton and Chemtura. The CNR station is now a parking lot, and the water tower was taken down in the 1980s.

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