Walter Leslie left mark in St. Marys architecture
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Oct 17, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Walter Leslie left mark in St. Marys architecture

St. Marys Journal Argus

In April 1899, this notice appeared in the St. Marys Argus: “Mr. Walter Leslie is building a white brick cottage on Thomas Street South. The corner lot has long been a blemish so the cottage will be an improvement.”

Walter Leslie, a contractor, had begun his working life as a stonemason. He was born on a farm near St. Marys in 1871 and attended St. Marys Collegiate. His obituary, June 1951, states that as a young man in 1888 he had cut stone for the Maxwell plant on James Street South. He would have been 17 years old at the time and still an apprentice.

By April 1899, Leslie was well established in his trade and soon to be married. His new house would have been completed in time to welcome his bride, Eleanor May Birtch of St. Marys. J.A. Humphris, a local architect and a neighbour on Thomas Street, was probably the designer.

The Leslies did not stay long in the Thomas Street house but sold it in 1901 to Richard and Barbara Watson. Walter Leslie built a successful masonry contracting business, interrupted by World War I. A reservist, he was called for active duty and went overseas with the 110th Battalion. After the war, he and his family lived in Toronto. Locally, he is best remembered as the general contractor for Central School.

Richard Watson died in 1910 and Barbara moved in with her sister. She rented the Thomas Street house to various tenants. In this photograph, taken ca. 1913, the occupants are the recently married Lorne and Grace Eedy. Lorne worked for his father, J. W. Eedy, publisher of the St. Marys Journal. Grace Wilson had been a teacher on the staff of the St. Marys Collegiate. They stayed in the Thomas Street house for several years. A note in the Eedy photograph album under this picture says: “The house Elizabeth (their oldest child) was born in.” In 1915, Lorne Eedy moved to Walkerton to publish a weekly newspaper there, returning to St. Marys in 1926 to take over management of the Journal Argus.

The house, 232 Thomas Street, is now the home of Ken and Fay Telfer. Its exterior is remarkably unchanged since Lorne and Grace Eedy relaxed on the front porch a century ago, enjoying their view across the Thames River.

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