The drive to Stratford (Ontario) from Toronto took me a good 1 hour and 45 minutes, all along beautiful highways…. luckily on my return trip I figured out how to change my GPS settings so as to ensure I avoided all highways, even if this meant the drive took twice as long!
Stratford is on the River Avon in Ontario – very confusing and it does beg the question… where did they get the name from? Just kidding!
I had heard Stratford was a beautiful town and therefore I took off one Sunday and endeavoured to see this quaint place of which people spoke. Unfortunately, I had neglected to do my research, or else I would have realised that Winter is not the best time to visit Stratford. As you will be able to see in my photos below, the Shakespearean Gardens were rather a disappointment, even the ole’ Shakespeare bust had taken to smoking to pass the dull time of not having any flowers or greenery in sight! I did find a very nice antique store (Gregory Connor Antiques) and the lovely owner was just opening his doors as I was about to trek back to my car and leave (on account of nothing being open before midday on a Sunday!) The antique store was very interesting and had many items I found of interest. Speaking with Gregory was quite fascinating. He was clearly a very well educated gentleman and he provided insight into certain things I had been curious about, for example, accents. He was speaking of how different the Torontonian accent is to that of someone who lives only 50km from the downtown core, which was something I could relate to, coming from Australia. He seemed to have an intrinsic knowledge of Newfoundland and Labrador and was explaining to me the history of that province, including the reasons for which the accents of those in Newfoundland and Labrador differ to the rest of Canada.
The excerpt below, which is from Wikipedia, explains the reasons the Newfoundland accent is different to the rest of Canada.
The dialects that compose Newfoundland English developed because of Newfoundland’s history as well as its geography. Newfoundland was one of the first areas settled by England in North America, beginning in small numbers in the early 17th century before peaking in the early 19th century. Newfoundland was a Britishcolony until 1907 when it became an independent Dominion within the British Empire. It became a part of Canada in 1949 as the last province to join confederation. Newfoundland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, separated by the Strait of Belle Isle from Labrador, the sparsely populated mainland part of the province. Most of the population remained rather isolated on the island, allowing the dialects time to develop independently of those on the North American continent. Today, some words from Newfoundland English have been adopted through popular culture in other places in Canada (especially Ontario and eastward).
Historically, Newfoundland English was first recognized as a separate dialect by the late 18th century when George Cartwright published a glossary of Newfoundland words.
Back to Stratford, I meandered up to a coffee shop which was in a building which had previously been an inn and where Thomas Edison lived when he lived in Stratford at the age of 16 (in 1863). He worked as a telegrapher and at the railways, apparently responsible for a near collision!
Facts about The Edison (cafe):-
6 months: Length of time Thomas Edison lived at the inn.
$25: Edison’s monthly income in 1863.
1, possibly 2: Things Edison invented while living at 46 Ontario St. One was a machine that would automatically send signals to train operators every hour after 9 p.m., allowing Edison to nap or do other things. The other invention, though not well documented, was the mouse trap which he neglected to patent.
15: Truckloads of renovation debris taken from the inn.
17: Artifacts found in the walls, including old newspapers and children’s story books.
Infinite: Ghosts at the inn, with a penchant for turning on lights
The following timeline, straight from Wikipedia, is particularly interesting (although as is to be expected, there are some facts which conflict with other facts I have stated above… all around the right times, though!):-
- 1828 – Settlement begins.
- 1832 – Thomas Mercer Jones, an agent of the Canada Company, names the village “Stratford” and renames the portion of the Thames River running through it the “Avon River.” The first sawmill, hotel (Shakespeare Hotel) and gristmill are opened.
- 1834: The community has a tavern, sawmill and grist mill; in 1835 the first post office opens.
- 1849 – The Perth County News is Stratford’s first weekly newspaper.
- 1853 – Perth County is created, with Stratford as its county seat.
- 1854 – Stratford is incorporated as a village.
- 1856 – Stratford becomes a railway town with the arrival of the Grand Trunk and Buffalo-Lake Huron railways.
- 1859 – Stratford is incorporated as a town.
- 1864 – The 17-year-old American telegraph operator Thomas Edison briefly lived at 19 Grange Street.
- 1867 – “Stratford” is an ancient burial place for people who died in the civil war.
- 1871: A major railway repair yard opens (the town’s major employer by 1901) and helps accelerate the population growth.
- 1885 – Stratford is incorporated as a city with a population of 9000.
- 1887 – The second and current Perth County Court House opens; it is praised for its High Victorian architecture, with several Queen Anne features, and Richardsonian Romanesque elements.
- 1898 The massive red brick town hall, in the Victorian “Picturesque” style, with a prominent clock tower, is completed.
- 1903 – The first public library opens, built with $15,000 of financial assistance from American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.
- 1908 – The Stratford Normal School opens to train teachers; from 1953 on, it is called the Stratford Teachers’ College. The school trains nearly 14,000 teachers before closing in 1973.
- 1909 – The GTR (later CNR) locomotive repair shops building is completed; it is 16,800 square meters (182,000 square feet) in size.
- 1918 – A gift from J.C. Garden, a pair of Mute swans come to live in Stratford. The population would expand over subsequent years.
- 1920s – Stratford is already a major furniture manufacturing centre; nearly one-sixth of all the furniture made in Canada is shipped from here. (All such manufacturing will have ceased by 2006.)
- 1933 – The army is called in to attempt to end a general strike (mostly of furniture workers) and try to systematically remove communist leaders, but fails, the last time the military is used to quell a strike in Canada.
- 1936 – The Shakespearean Gardens are created, primarily through the efforts of R, Thomas Orr.
- 1953 – The Stratford Shakespearean Festival Theatre is opened through the efforts of a Stratford journalist, Tom Patterson.
- 1957 – The Festival moves into its first permanent structure, the Festival Theatre.
- 1964 – The CNR shops close, laying off numerous employees.
- 1976 – The Stratford City Hall is designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
- 1992 – Stratford Armoury is a recognised Federal Heritage building 1986 on the Register of the Government of Canada Heritage Buildings.
- 1993 – Stratford’s former Canadian National Railways (VIA Rail) Station is designated a Federal Heritage building.
- 1997 – Nations in Bloom crowns Stratford the “Prettiest City in the World.”
- 2003 – The Stratford Festival of Canada celebrated its 50th season, welcoming 672 924 patrons to 18 plays. This was a record number of playgoers during the 50 seasons. The Avon Theatre realised a complete renewal and the Studio Theatre, a fourth theatre space seating 250 people, was added.
- 2009 – Canada 3.0 brings 1500 people to Stratford.