150 Years of Brockville History – 1892-1916

In honour of Canada150, the Brockville Museum will be starting a special project.  For the 150 days leading up to Canada Day (beginning February 1st), we will post to Facebook something that happened in the Brockville area every year from 1867-2017.  These posts will include excerpts from the newspapers, photographs and artifacts from the Brockville Museum’s collection. After they have been posted to Facebook, we will add them to this site in 25-year increments.  

Day 26 - 1892

In 1892 the Canada Carriage Company (CCC) moved to Brockville from Gananoque.

The CCC became one of the largest carriage-works in the country; at one point producing around 40 buggy styles and 15 cutters/sleighs. Tragedy struck in 1905 when the factory was lost to a fire. But they rebuilt and by 1906 they employed 400 people.

Buggy on display at the museum.

Day 27 - 1893

1893 marked a grim milestone in the history of Brockville and the Counties Court House. At 8:06 on a cold December morning, the last man hanged in Brockville was declared dead. His name was Charlie Luckey. He had been found guilty of killing 3 members of his family the year before. Luckey claimed his innocence right up to the end.

Shared here is a view of the Court House from a post card (circa 1906).

Day 28 - 1894

In 1894, one of the area’s most iconic landmarks, “The Eastern Hospital for the Insane” officially opened. At the time, the 100 acre site could accommodate 240 patients.

The site has changed names, ownership and mandates over the years, but remains best known as the “Brockville Psychiatric Hospital” (so named in 1969). Many different organisations now call the sprawling site home and the future of the site is often covered in the local news.

Image is a colour post card of the facility.

Day 30 - 1896

From The Recorder, February 5, 1896:

“[Brockville’s] location on the St. Lawrence, at the foot of the Thousand Islands, its possession of modern up-to-date improvements including waterworks, sewers, electric fire alarm system etc. speak sufficiently of its desirability as a place of residence. ”

Photo of sewer construction at the waterworks (c1962).

Day 31 - 1897

The CPR Wharf, along the eastern edge of Blockhouse Island, was the arrival and departure location for a variety of ships over the years. In this postcard image, we see some of these vessels photographed in 1897.

The international ferry that ran to Morristown also docked at the Wharf. Local hotels would offer carriage services to pick people up at the wharf and bring them to the hotels – sometimes only a couple blocks away!

Day 32 - 1898

Much talk in the newspaper in 1898 was the building of the canal down at Cardinal. Work had been ongoing there for many years, but 1898 marked particular interest for Brockvillians.

In fact there was so much interest, the Steamer Brockville ran a special trip there on September 23rd, 1898.

Pictured here is a stereoscopic image identified as ‘St. Lawrence Canal Cardinal’ (date unrecorded)

Day 33 - 1899

In 1899 one of the most recognisable homes in Brockville was under construction – Fulford Place – built for one of the wealthiest men Brockville has ever known.

George T. Fulford had been a pharmacist when he bought a formula from a Dr. Jackson. That formula would be turned into ‘Dr. William’s Pink Pills for Pale People’- a patent medicine that Fulford successfully sold world-wide. Much of the success of the ‘Pink Pills’ was due to the massive advertising campaign, famous for its testimonials.

Day 34 - 1900

Located on Brock St, between William St and Tunnel Ave, was once the factory owned by the Cossitt family. Germain Cossitt moved the factory – which produced agricultural tools and machinery – to Brockville from Smiths Falls in 1872. It became the largest manufacturer of its kind in the British Commonwealth.

On July 1st, 1900 a huge fire destroyed the factory. Portions of the factory were rebuilt, but the factory closed for good in 1906.

Pictured is an advertisement c.1900.

Day 35 - 1901

Brockville received some royal visitors in 1901. That year, the Duke and Duchess of York came to town. The royal couple – soon to become George V and Queen Mary – were accompanied by Governor General Lord Minto, Lady Minto and Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

There have been many other royal visitors to Brockville over the years; unfortunately, the Brockville Museum does not have any photos of the 1901 visit. Pictured is a window display commemorating the passing of George V in 1936.

Day 36 - 1902

Lured by a $20,000 contribution from the town, the Union Hat Factory moved to Brockville in 1902. The factory, located south of the railway tracks between Park and Hamilton Streets, had previously operated in Quebec.

In 1904 the company was bought by Wolthausen Hat Corporation. The plant was enlarged and modernized. In 1935, the company was sold to J.B. Stetson (Canada) Co.

Pictured is a selection of hats (made in Brockville) currently on display at the Brockville Museum.

Day 37 - 1903

Following a merger with the Metropolitan Bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia opened in the Fulford Block (on Court House Square) in 1903. Over the years, it has moved throughout the downtown and had branches in the northern part of the City. The bank is now better known as Scotiabank and still has a presence in Brockville.

Pictured is a photo of the bank on the corner of Broad and King as captured by professional photographer George Eland (date unrecorded).

Day 38 - 1904

Installation of the clock on Victoria Hall (City Hall) took place in the fall of 1904, although the bell was not in operation for another year. In 1905 a new bylaw set a curfew for town youngsters who were required to return home at the first ringing of the curfew bell. Because the bell at Victoria Hall was not yet ready, the fire bell on the Court House would sound to mark curfew instead.

Victoria Hall also received new tenants in 1904: the police department.

Day 39 - 1905

The St. Lawrence Engine Company opened its doors in 1905. Manufacturers of two-cycle engines, they were located on St. Andrew Street. The engines produced in Brockville were shipped world-wide by the 1940s.

By the 1980s, the business changed hands and stopped manufacturing engines. Instead, boats and outboard motors were sold. The property was sold one final time before the buildings were demolished to make room for waterfront development.

Day 40 - 1906

In 1906 a golf course was established in Brockville. The course later became the Brockville Country Club in 1914. Originally, the clubhouse and 2 holes were located along the water’s edge – the other 7 were on the other side of Highway 2. The original clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1937, but was rebuilt.

The present clubhouse (on the north side of County Road 2) was built in 1976.

Pictured is a post card of the Country Club (circa 1935).

Day 41 - 1907

In 1907 The Board of Trade was focused on the “unused and untidy” land on Blockhouse Island, asking that it be made into an area that could be of benefit. After lengthy talks, the Canadian Pacific Railway and town made plans to move operations from the man-made point of land in return for a belt-line to be built along Buell’s Creek. Tracks were removed, a flag pole erected, grass planted, and walkways and driveways were made. It was the latest in the many facelifts of Blockhouse Island.

Day 42 - 1908

One of Brockville’s favourite public parks came into its own in 1908. An area known as the Malloch property came up for sale. The mayor, C.S. Cossitt, urged that “there was practically no town in Canada where natural location would prove so powerful a magnet in the way of inducing a large tourist trade to come to Brockville annually.” Not without controversy, a majority vote favouring the park passed in July, with St. Lawrence Park – as it became known – becoming official in April of 1909.

Day 43 - 1909

Pictured is a 1909 post card of ‘Fair Haven’ (also written as Fairhaven). Once a familiar landmark on the waterfront west of Brockville, it was built in 1881. This was the summer home of Brockvillian Robert H. Smart.

The estate included what a windmill, shaped like a lighthouse, that was used to pump water to the house. It was connected to the mainland by a suspended bridge.

Fair Haven was torn down in 1965.

Day 44 - 1910

In 1910 a branch of the Ontario Historical Society was formed in Brockville. This group of local historians was the beginning of an organisation that would be known by many names. These included: the Brockville-Leeds Historical Society, the Brockville Historical Society and the Leeds-Grenville Historical Society. In 1930, the group reorganised and decided to concentrate on erecting historical plaques and gathering artifacts.

Pictured is the group unveiling the William Buell Plaque in 1956.

Day 45 - 1911

With seating for 1250 people, room for an orchestra, 2 balconies and 4 boxes the “New Theatre” opened in 1911.

In 1858 the building housed a market, town hall and fire station. In 1880, it became the Opera House. In 1937 it was damaged by arson. After it was rebuilt, it reopened as the Regent Theatre and began showing movies. The doors were closed in 1958 and reopened in 1960 as Brockville’s Civic Auditorium. It became the Arts Centre in 1990.

Pictured: Regent Theatre

Day 46 - 1912

Former Mayor John A. Fulford promised that if Court House Avenue was beautified and landscaped, he would have a fountain installed. Unfortunately, the city wasn’t able to do it at the time. Instead, the fountain was installed in the small park south of City Hall. Known as the ‘Little Fulford Fountain,’ it was unveiled in 1912. This fountain is not to be confused with ‘Fulford Fountain’ on Court House Avenue or the small pool that was once in Little Fulford Park.

Day 47 - 1913

Back in 1910, you could catch a vaudeville act or watch a moving picture at the Brock Theatre on Buell Street.

In 1913 the theatre moved to its new home on the southwest corner of Home and King Streets. The lot had been the site of the Strathcona Hotel that was destroyed by fire in 1911. At opening, the new Brock Theatre could seat 1000 people. In 1928, its name was changed to the Capitol Theatre with a huge sign spelling out ‘CAPITOL’ in electric lights. The building was demolished in 1987.

Day 48 - 1914

By 1914, the Brockville Business College had been around for over thirty years. It occupied the 2nd & 3rd floors of the Fulford Block on Court House Ave. In 1889 subjects included: bookkeeping, business forms, penmanship, arithmetic, business correspondence, grammar, spelling, composition, commercial law, banking, formation and management of partnerships and joint stock companies. The school closed around 1970.

Pictured is a post card likely sent to a prospective student in 1914.

Day 49 - 1915

By April of 1915, many local soldiers had made their way to the front lines in the Great War. Documenting their experiences was local soldier and pharmaceutical chemist, F.C. Curry.

As an officer at the beginning of the war, Curry was granted special permission to bring his camera to the front. These photographs were made into plate glass slides that he used after the war to illustrate his many talks on the subject.

Pictured is one of Curry’s plate glass slides from the front, dated 1915.

Day 50 - 1916

Sent in 1916, this post card from Lieut. F. R. Gilbert leads us to the story of another local business: the Gilbert Boat Company.

In 1904, Nelson Gilbert opened a boat works on Jessie Street. Despite a devastating fire in 1923, the business continued. Nelson’s sons Fred R. and Merril ran it for a time. The third generation to run the business is Fred N. Gilbert. Now known as Gilbert Marine Ltd., they rent and sell boats of all types.

Pictured here is the 1916 post card sent by F.R. Gilbert.