The St. Marys Museum’s historic photograph collection contains many images of the downtown. The clearer, brighter pictures show the north side of Queen Street. This, of course, is the sunny side of the street. It is harder to find good pictures of the shadowed, south side.
The photograph in this week’s column showing Queen Street, looking east from the Wellington Street intersection, was taken in 1917. It has been cropped to draw attention to the buildings on the south side, just as intriguing as their counterparts across the street.
At the lower right, the first building is the St. Marys Journal, now The Chocolate Factory. In 1920, the Journal combined with the Argus and the sign changed to St. Marys Journal Argus. This is a clue to help confirm the date of the photograph. To the east is the impressive brick building with its name on the sign band: The Molson’s Bank. This building replaced an earlier limestone commercial block in 1904. The bank did business in St. Marys until 1925 when the Bank of Montreal bought out Molson’s Bank and all its assets.
The balcony of the Grand Central Hotel can be seen next door to the Molson’s building but by this time, the hotel had closed. Its ground floor contained retail outlets. Maxwell’s Ltd, manufactures of farm implements, owned the next building, using it as a downtown showroom and sales outlet. It would soon be acquired by J.M. Adam, a hardware merchant, and would remain a hardware store for many decades. Next to it with an ornate roofline is the Brandon block. N.L. Brandon, a funeral director and furniture merchant, did business in St. Marys from 1902.
The two-storey limestone building to the east dates from the 1850s and was the location for Timothy Eaton’s store in St. Marys before he relocated to Toronto. In 1917, it was a movie theatre. Dominant in the photograph is a gigantic sign advertising W.R. Butcher, Groceries. This sign is on the west side of the brick building on the southeast corner of Queen and Church Streets and would not be acceptable under the town’s current sign bylaw.
Various flags, banners and posters are visible in the photograph but not quite legible. They are likely promoting some sort of rally in support of the war effort.