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Stratford Walk 2: history and houses

Like my Stratford Walk 1: the lake, this walk begins at the County Court House. It was built in the Queen Anne Revival style in the late 1880s. The same architect was responsible for the nearby Stratford Jail — or Gaol, as it appears on the building itself.

Still serving its original purpose as a jail.

Between the court house and river lie the Shakespearean Gardens (I posted about them here). The gardens are dominated by the chimney of a mill destroyed by fire in 1910; the ornate chimney top is a giant bird house with 24 dwellings (“des res” indeed!). In the background is the spire of St Joseph’s church across the river.

St Joseph’s church and Dufton Mill chimney.

Still on the theme of tall pointy buildings, this is the City Hall peeking above the trees. Doesn’t it just radiate civic pride?

This is Stratford’s second City Hall, built in 1900. The first ws destroyed by fire.

The street in front of the court house and gardens leads to the Huron Street bridge (the feature image at top), which is the only double-arched aqueduct road bridge in North America still used for vehicle traffic. It gives a good view west along the river to part of the Shakespearean Gardens and an island linked with a bridge.

Turn west once you’ve crossed the bridge and meander along the bank for a different view of the Gardens.

Shakespearean Gardens

Farther along the river, a rail bridge appears between trees. “CN” stands for Canadian National [Railways].

“CN” is easier to see in the reflection.

Turn around and come back east, passing the stone bridge. From the river bank you can see the island bridge framed by an arch of the stone bridge.

Wander a bit farther and you’ll come to this white pergola at the west end of Lake Victoria (the lake was created by damming the river). The first pergola on this site was built in the early 1930s, and was swept away in 1937 when the Avon and Thames Rivers flooded. I think this one was built as recently as 2010.

Just past the pergola you can glimpse a sign telling you the lake path is “unavailable” at this point.

You are not welcome beyond this point.

Near the pergola is this plaque detailing the history of the city.

Much younger than its namesake in England, but with a solid Canadian history.

Time to cross the river again, past the court house and down the residential streets. It may seem strange to find a railway running behind the houses, but as you read in the founding plaque, the railways played an important part in Stratford’s economy and growth. They are less prominent now but you can still hear the long echoing note of an engine’s horn as the trains wind their ways past houses and across streets. I always get the train between Toronto and Stratford.

You’d never know this was the middle of a city of 30,000 people.

I have always loved old houses. To me, they have so much more character and charm than modern buildings. The notable houses in streets to the southwest of the court house were built in the second half of the 1800s, in a range of styles such as Queen Anne, Italianate, Gothic — even Ontario and something called Neo‐Classical Salt Box House. I followed two self-guided walks downloaded from the city’s tourism website (the source of my descriptions), and stood in front of houses trying to spot details such as “bay window with a neo‐classical pediment on the porch” and “stained glass transom window and sandstone lintels”, bargeboards and corbels and pilasters. Many of these beautiful houses are designated Heritage Homes.

Verandahs are a common feature, and these ones all look like lovely spots to while away an hour or two.


Doors and gateways offer glimpses of hidden gardens.

Statues are popular.

The sad-looking building below is known locally as the White House. In my younger years it was rundown and faded yet nonetheless retained traces of its former glory. Then a few years ago when I visited I was amazed to find it restored and gorgeous, operating as possibly a B&B. According to the walk notes, “Built in 1866 as a Regency Cottage; the second storey was added, as was the large portico, by the Walsh family. It remained in the family for several generations and was recently restored.” The text must date from the few years the building enjoyed its restoration, because it looks pretty grim right now.

A beautiful building in desperate need of love.

This Gothic triple‐gabled house (now a duplex) is clearly loved and well cared for. It dates to 1867.

And finally, an 1892 Queen Anne building made in buff brick.

No ice cream to finish off this walk, I’m afraid!

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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