A service offered by the St. Marys Museum is preparation of history reports for local properties. Clients who want to learn more about their homes make a contribution to the Museum in return for the work. As the research is completed, a file on the property is built and kept for future reference.
Ken Telfer leads the research using records found in abstracts of property transactions from the registry office and lists of occupants reported in annual municipal assessment rolls. These facts are supplemented by personal information found in sources such as newspaper obituaries, providing some insight into the people who lived in a house through the years. Other regular Museum researchers join in and may be able to enhance this material through contacts, previous research and background knowledge of the community.
Sometimes material turns up that extends beyond the property in question. For instance, while working on a history for Rod Betteridge’s house at 60 Robinson Street, researchers were given access to a great resource: family photographs in the possession of the two granddaughters of Berton Fox (B.F.) and May Lancaster, owners of this property from 1917 until 1965. Their daughter and son-in-law, Burnie and George McLay, then owned it until 1979. The photograph collection consists of approximately 50 snapshots showing not only the house itself and members of the Lancaster family but also the streetscape and other houses in the neighbourhood.
This week’s column shows Wib (Wilbert) Lancaster, son of B.F. and May Lancaster, with his new bicycle. Wib was born in 1918 and is probably about 12 years old in this picture. He is posing with the bike on the sidewalk on the south side of the Lancaster home at 60 Robinson Street. Part of the veranda can be seen at the left. The intersection of the unpaved Maiden Lane and Robinson Street are on the right. His mother May and her friend to the right, Mrs. Sutherland, are the two women with him on the sidewalk.
A bonus is the background view across the Thames River to the Flats and the houses, steeples and smokestacks of St. Marys at that time. The back of the old grandstand is visible although partially blocked by Wib and the trunk of the large tree on the lawn.
Thanks to Joyce Lancaster and Debra Chappel for permission to use this photograph.