Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

a village needs 'un commerce'

A year ago I did a post about a trip to Castleton Ontario, to hear Peter John Stokes speak. Today as I was thinking about that wonderful visit, talk, person and village, I received my spring issue of ACO's fine publication Acorn, and PJS appeared again in my life, celebrating the saviours of Cobourg's built heritage. But I digress.

My friend Katherine, who blogs about her discoveries as the owner of her childhood home on Meanwhile, at the Manse, left a comment on the post about Castleton. I had noted that the bustling general store in Castleton resembled (architecturally) one of the former stores in her village of Queensborough. Katherine commented that what her village needed, was 'un commerce', a little store to animate the neighbourhood.


I recall a guided ACO walk through Belleville's Old East Hill a few years ago. President and tour director David Bentley pointed out an unassuming red brick house, and noted that it had once been a corner store. Hence the squared off corner of the building, with a sheltering roof over the porch. Walmart welcome. Wish I'd taken a photo, but I was captivated by one of George Pearce's yarns at the time.

corner of Sumach and Spruce

On my wanders through old Cabbagetown a few weeks ago, I noted several former corner stores on residential streets (with their domestic scale,  tell-tale large shop windows, and that characteristic corner entrance.) Not 10 minutes from today's eclectic business district of Parliament Street yet these little corner stores were viable at one time! Grubby- faced kids and weary moms would drop by for small purchases, to catch up with the news. I suppose it didn't take a lot of sales to keep the doors open in those days - especially when home was just upstairs.

The most intriguing 'commerce' is what appears to have been the offices of The Daily Herald. It's a bit of an awkward renovation, but I love that the owners left the name above the windows ...was there an entrance there as well? I'm glad I saw it in early spring; it will have disappeared behind greenery by now.

I can't find anything on The Daily Herald. Suffice to say it has caught the eye of a few folks with cameras, as I saw some Flickr images. But no info. Anyone know the story?


  1. There is another interesting former store at the south-east corner of Wellesley & Sackville Streets in Cabbagetown. A recent owner bought the building while still a convenience store complete with fluorescent signage and aluminum cladding. I think everyone in the neighbourhood was pleasantly surprised to see the late-Victorian storefront retained and restored as the building was converted back to a private residence.

    There is also Jack Nichols's former studio (also a former butcher shop) further south on Sackville Street which is now someone's home.

  2. Thanks for those additions to my little shopping district! I'll look for them next time. But, no ideas about The Daily Herald? Thanks for visiting. It's wonderful to see what you've done with your home, still one of my favourite brick houses in PEC.

  3. Thanks for the shoutout, Lindi! I put my best internet-search skills to use, and rarely do they fail me – but they did when it came to The Daily Herald. I did find mention in a history of the Toronto Star that when it was started Toronto already had half a dozen newspapers, but they weren't listed by name.

    Fascinating to see these former corner stores turned into handsome homes. I was thinking about whether I've seen that here in Montreal, and with one or two exceptions I have to say that I haven't. And I think the reason might be that Montreal is still – far more than Toronto, I think – a city of corner stores – dépanneurs, or deps, as we call them. There pretty much is one one every corner. I often wonder how they can all stay in business, but somehow they do. (The beer and wine sales must play a large part in that.)

  4. You see alot of the closed up corner stores in Toronto....they're quite numerous in the Annex.

    I know its a long shot, but there was a newspaper guy named James Fahey who ran (or worked for) the Daily Herald in Guelph. From the DCB Online: "Fahey then moved to the Guelph Daily Herald, where he probably worked with Alexander Fraser Pirie*, and he became editor of the newspaper in 1874 when Pirie moved on to Toronto."

    I'm going to Cabbagetown today....i'll see what I can dig up.

  5. Thanks to everyone for your additions to the corner store story!

  6. I should have added that both Fahey and Pirie moved to Toronto at some point, hence my earlier suggestion. Pirie lived as close as Jarvis St., perhaps closer, which makes it somewhat intriguing.

    The Cabbagetown Preservation Ass'n has a link to house-by-house descriptions, photos, etc....interestingly, it says the Daily Herald sign is not original. And at this point, I'm starting to question its origins. It could be something as silly as an old movie prop.....who knows ?? The early owners/inhabitants appear to be grocers, more than anything else. I asked one person who I knew had some knowledge of the area, and though he knew of the sign, he couldn't flesh out its story...

  7. Re: that Daily Herald sign, I have this from Stephen Yeates of the Cabbagetown Pres'n Soc'y:

    "A few years ago I heard that the sign had been part of a play or film that the home's owner was involved in and he installed the sign on an act of whimsy."