In the early 1980s, Randall Speller, a colleague of Larry Pfaff from the Art Gallery of Ontario, took a series of photographs of older houses in St. Marys. Three decades later, these images, now scanned and organized digitally at the St. Marys Museum, are a valuable record of both permanence and change. The stone cottage at 345 Wellington Street South across from Teddy’s Field was one of the houses photographed at that time.
The exterior of this house is much as it was when it was built in the 1860s by James Elliott, a master stonemason from Selkirkshire, Scotland. Set beside his extensive working quarries, Elliott’s own home served to advertise his skills and also to demonstrate the quality of his quarried stone. Its north, west and south walls — the ones most visible to passersby — have smooth-faced, fairly regular courses of limestone. Strong features — even to a casual observer — are the impressive lintels and the large limestone blocks set flush into all four corners — quoins to strengthen the walls.
James Elliott’s skill is apparent elsewhere in St. Marys, most notably in the Opera House. He secured the masonry contract for this elaborate building in 1879 and it remains today the most striking in St. Marys. His quarries also provided the limestone for many other local construction projects in the last half of the 19th century.
This 1980s photograph shows several small trees planted between the house and Wellington Street. They may have been intended as a privacy screen, some protection in summer evenings from the lights and occasionally boisterous fans at ball games at Teddy’s Field. But as the years passed, the trees grew until their spreading branches almost completely obscured the house. Very recently, new owners have had some of the larger ones removed and the details of James Elliott’s stone cottage can once again be seen.
For a century and a half, this property has been home to a succession of owners. But this beautiful cottage also enriches the entire community. Its value lies in its design and workmanship and in its historic association with James Elliott, his quarries and the structures he built. Its location is a reminder of the working quarries that used to operate on both sides of Water Street South and the intense industrial activity that once took place in an area that is now primarily recreational.