Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

Denton Delayed

Ernest Denton

Ernest Denton – image from obituary in KW Record 11 Nov 1957

I wanted to let everyone know that my Denton update will be slightly delayed. Happily, I’ve recently made contact with a researcher in Manchester, who has very graciously provided some family information and we are in the process of confirming details, timelines and facts.  I hope to be able to post in mid-October with an update on Ernest Denton and his life in the UK.

If anyone has a photo of Ernest Denton, I’d love to hear from you! We do not have an image of Ernest in the collection, other than the image that appeared in the newspaper.

We are also interested in learning about Denton photographs that exist in the community. If you have a Denton (including Denton Brothers, Denton-Gifford , etc.) photograph (panoramic or otherwise), please drop me a line! We are not looking for donations (but if you are so inclined, we can talk!), but want to get a sense of the subject/title/description, size and date of the Denton that you have.  He was such a prolific photographer who documented Kitchener life that we’d like to set a sense of the history that he captured in our community.  There’s no obligation to share your name or address in connection to the image, but if you let us scan it for use in our collection, we’ll provide you with a copy of the digital scan as a thank you. Please contact me by email (using the Contact link below the blog title) or phone (519-743-0271, ext. 252) to arrange a time to bring in your Denton or to discuss the image to be included on our register. Please note that I’ll be away from the Library Sep 27-Oct 13, 2015.

Lastly, on the Denton front, Michel Labrecque and I will be presenting a session on Denton and his Panoramic Camera at the upcoming Canadian Science and Technology Historical Association annual conference. The conference will be held on 6-8 November 2015 at York University. I am looking forward to finally meeting Michel in person. I’ll be sure to post about our conference presentation.

Cheers, K.

Street Railways

All aboard the Berlin & Waterloo Street Railway! (Part I 1889-1894)

Horse drawn street car

P000636 WHS Horse drawn street car Click here for more information on image.

With summer comes construction. However, the spring and summer of 2015 has been memorable for the impact of construction of the LRT (light rail transit) in Kitchener and Waterloo. What makes this season of the detour particularly meaningful is discovery of old street railway track on King Street, buried beneath layer of asphalt. As we built a new transit system, the remnants of the Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Company system have a vibrant story to tell. In essence, light rail transit is not new to Waterloo Region. Its story is buried beneath our streets and beats in the hearts of local rail aficionados.

Track construction - King Street South

P000631 WHS Track laying on King Street South, Waterloo Click here for more information on image

The original 1886 charter holders of the Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Company included William Snider, John B. Snider, Simon Snyder, Daniel L. Bowman and Herbert J. Bowman. They sold their interests to an American organization in 1888, which included local capitalists, after several years in delays in getting the line built. Thomas M. Burt of Boston was sent to Berlin to oversee the construction of the line and manage the company.

In order to meet an amended Waterloo by-law for start of construction by 1 July 1888, the ceremonial first spikes were driven in Waterloo and Berlin by their respective mayors on 30 June 1888.  With a deferred completion date of 1 August 1889, Burt acquired the charter for the Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Company.

Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Bond

Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Bond

The history of the street railway operations began in 1889, when a railway line was laid down along King Street between Waterloo and Berlin. It ran along King between Cedar (now Bridgeport) in Waterloo and Scott Street in Berlin, with a turn out or passing track at the centre of the line. The line was built with “T” rails between Water (Berlin) and Allen (Waterloo) Streets, and flat or “L” rails in town centre areas. A car and horse barn, which eventually accommodated 8 cars and 17 horses, was built at King and Princess Streets in Waterloo. The syndicate operated the line as a horse drawn railway until 1894, when the switch was made to electric power.

Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway ticket

Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway ticket

On 13 June 1889, the first street car from Waterloo crossed the Grand Trunk tracks in Berlin and travelled as far as Scott Street, the eastern end of the line. Construction of a feeder or branch line from King along Water and Weber Streets to the Grand Trunk station followed. Cars bearing the bold letters “Royal Mail” carried the mail from the train station along this line and then down King Street to the Post Office.

Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway car

P000635 WHS Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway car Click here for more information on image

During the horse drawn rail days, driver Henry U. Clemens ferried the horses, two of which were known as Joe and Kate, (Kate was a grey mare), up and down King Street. Service started at 6:40am from the Waterloo car barns and continued every 1.5 hours. Two cars, journeyed up and down King Street during the day, carrying 10-15 passengers per car. The last car left Waterloo at 9pm and made the return journey at 9:40pm from Scott Street in Berlin, arriving in Waterloo at 10:20pm. Late night revelers had to listen carefully for the sound of the last ride bell which the horses wore for the final trip back to Waterloo – otherwise, they were left to their own devices for the long walk back home. It was estimated by Clemens that each of the two rail cars carried about 400 people per day.

Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway car in Waterloo, 1892

P008456 KPL Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway car in Waterloo, 1892 Click here for more information on image.

Stay tuned for more posts in the coming weeks about the Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Company.  Next time, we’ll look at the electrification and the growth of the system. As always, your comments are welcome!

Cheers, Karen.

People and places

Of Furniture, Hotels and Hardware

P271 WHS King St. W.

View of King Street West, at the corner of Young Street, looking east, ca. 1919

The end of another era will soon be upon us with the demolition of the Mayfair Hotel and Hymmen Hardware buildings.  While much has been said about the decision to demolish the Mayfair and the adjacent building, I thought that it would be nice to look back at what was there.

The Mayfair was built by Edward Lippert, son of Lippert Furniture factory owner, George Lippert. Edward was born in Preston, and later raised in Berlin. He attended St. Mary’s school, leaving at age 12 to learn the upholstery trade. He eventually moved to United States where he worked in various undertaking and furniture establishments.  Lippert returned to Berlin in 1905, to join his father’s furniture factory, which had been located on Louisa Street. During his lifetime, Edward owned several businesses and properties in Kitchener, Toronto, Calgary and Texas, served a short-time as a Kitchener city alderman, was a senior member of the undertaking firm, Lippert and Hunter, and chair of the Kitchener Public Utilities Commission.

Edward’s foray into real estate included the 1905 construction of a three-storey building, located on the southeast corner of King and Young Streets. He started a retail furniture and undertaking business in this location, the future home of the Mayfair Hotel. Interestingly, his 12 September 1935 obituary in the Kitchener Daily Record noted that “Mr. Lippert’s real estate purchases were always followed by improvements. It was always his policy not to allow his buildings to become dilapidated.”

Lippert closed the furniture store and undertaking business at King and Young and opened the Mayfair Hotel on 11 September 1929. During the 1920s, he had added three storeys to the building. He died on 11 September 1935, on the sixth year anniversary of the opening of the hotel. He was survived by his wife, the former Angelical Noll, and four sons and a daughter.

The Mayfair Hotel was sold by the Lippert family in August 1945 to Toronto investors, including former Metropolitan Toronto Chair, Fred Gardner (after whom the Gardiner Expressway is named). In late 1963, the hotel was sold to Harry Greenberg of Guelph and Louis Senkel of Toronto.

P2744 WHS King Street Mall

P2744 King Street Mall, ca. 1966-1968. Used with permission of the Waterloo Region Record. Image shows the Mayfair Hotel building on the left hand side.

The building was sold to Joseph Stanicak of Hamilton around 1973. Extensive renovations took place in 1975, but the business failed to relaunch after a fire and default on the mortgage. John Sylman purchased the hotel in 1977.  Rumours of its potential demolition swirled for years as the hotel struggled. It was sold to Cal Dicks of Cambridge in 1986, who operated it until May 2001. The Mayfair was then purchased by the City of Kitchener. Long-term residents of the Mayfair were eventually moved out by 2007. The building has since remained vacant.

Over the years, the Mayfair has had its share of financial troubles, neglect, ownership instability, and liquor licensing woes. Such a sad end for a hotel, advertised in 1929 as having “112 rooms, all modern”, which later grew to include a shoe shop, drug store and doormen wearing white coats and boutonnieres.

P. Hymmen Hardware

Image of the P. Hymmen Hardware store which appeared in the 31 October 1960 edition of the Kitchener Daily Record . The image is believed to be from 1900..

The P. Hymmen Hardware store was located next door to the Mayfair. In 1907, Berlin tinsmith, Peter Hymmen, and son, Peter, moved their hardware store across King to 158 King Street West. The elder Hymmen, who had been in business since the 1850s, was a skilled mechanic and craftsman. He reportedly created a suit of armour from tin for a local teen, who wanted to attend a masquerade ball at the German Club. The elder Peter died in 1930, but the business was continued by family members until October 1960 when it was sold to William D. Land.  The shop closed in early 1963.

Redevelopment plans, announced by the City of Kitchener and Andrin Homes in 2011, included a boutique hotel, restaurant and a whiskey bar, which incorporated the heritage exterior of the Mayfair and Hymmen buildings. Despite the City’s designation of the site under the Ontario Heritage Act, recent damage from a burst pipe and newly discovered structural deficiencies have rendered the buildings a public safety danger. Sadly, the demolition of these two structures is expected in the coming week.

Cheers, Karen.

KPL Genealogy Fair 2015

Well, that was a blast!

P8000 Falls-Brown Wedding party, 1916

P8000 WHS Falls-Brown Wedding party, 1916, on the front porch of Nith Grove (Brown family farm), south of Haysville, Wilmot Township.

I can hardly believe that the KPL Genealogy Fair has come and gone. After months of planning, meetings, emails, floor plans, run-throughs and last minute printing, the Genealogy Fair happened this past Saturday at Central Library. And what a day it was…

Lynn Palermo inspired and motivated us all to tell our family histories now before it’s too late. As I remarked after her keynote, I had the feeling that she had been watching my family history blog languish, untouched, for the past year. (Honestly, I’ve been busy!). But I have new resolve to get back to sharing my research, making each ancestor come alive.   Thank you, Lynne, for your wonderful words and inspiration.

To our speakers, a big thank you for sharing your knowledge, expertise and skills with our fair attendees. I know that each of you helped someone along in their genealogical journey that day. The smiles and laughter coming room each of the meeting rooms was a tell-tale sign!

The fair could not have come off without the support and generosity of our exhibitors and vendors. They were enthusiastic, friendly and energizing. To everyone who came out to support the Library, thank you!

And, thank you to everyone who took the time to come down to explore, learn, share and discover at the Genealogy Fair! Your kind words, friendliness and enthusiasm made my day.

And to my colleagues, Sheila, Dale, Charlotte, Stephanie, Bryan, Karen, Karen (yes, we come in multiples!), Ingrid, Valerie, Berkeley, Shawn – and the staff of Information Services, you all have my heart-felt gratitude. It could not have been done without you.

As this was our first year in a new space at the Central Library, we’d love to hear from you about ideas to improve and make the fair better. We are hoping that a new cafe will be opened in the coming year at Central, which will be a very welcome addition. Do you have suggestions for speakers or workshop topics? Please let us know! We’d love to hear from you via the Contact form!

Cheers, K.


Like a kid before Christmas…

I can’t believe that it is almost here.. the KPL Genealogy Fair that is! The programs are printed and we are busily gearing up to welcome everybody to our new Central Library.

KPL Genealogy Fair

Poster for KPL Genealogy Fair being held on 25 April 2015

The new GSR is ready and awaiting visitors and will be offering attendees use of the Ancestry and Find My Past databases. If you have research to do or just want to check out what our genealogy databases have to offer, please come up to Level 2 and staff will be available to give you a hand. I’m pleased to announce that has kindly given us a 6 month and 12 month subscription to give away as door prizes at the fair, so please remember to fill out a ballot when you get to the Library.

Doors open at 9am and our keynote speaker, Lynn Palermo, the Armchair Genealogist, will give her presentation at 10am in the Theatre. And this is just the start to a great day of learning, sharing and discovery!

Just a note to everyone that we are currently without a cafe at the Central Library, so grab some coffee on your way down to the Library and be sure to bring your lunch too.

Check out the Fair webpage for complete details here.

See you on Saturday!

Cheers, Karen

Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

Picture Perfect Panoramics

Denton Advertisement

Advertisement for Ernest Denton from the 1929 Vernon’s City Directory for Kitchener-Waterloo

With the Central Library project final push looming in early 2014, I received a query from Michel Labrecque, assistant curator at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, about Ernest Denton, a well-known Kitchener photographer.  His query was a welcome distraction from the construction, temporary work spaces, and packing and unpacking. In fact, Ernest Denton was a familiar name – his photographic work was scattered throughout our collection.

Michel’s query seemed an innocent query enough – did we have any information on Ernest Denton?  Little did I know, I was to embark on a real journey of discovery –  the existence of a possible link between the panoramic camera at Canadian Science and Technology Museum and the Grace Schmidt Room. My interest was hooked from our initial discussions over the phone regarding Denton’s life and work.

Michel’s questions had me elbow deep into a collection that was still on the move.  While I was not able to provide a list of all Denton images as our subject-based paper photo index was not searchable by photographer, I could quickly identify his panoramic images in the collection as they are stored by size.

We had just moved into our new space and were waiting for the completion of the GSR reading room – so I had a small window of time to do some research . As I dove into the oversized boxes, I came across several Denton panoramic images in the Waterloo Historical Society collection in the GSR of the 118th Battalion, a recruiting unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the north part of Waterloo County.

P2683 118th Battalion, A Company

A panoramic of the 118th Battalion, A Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

Given Michel’s specific query about Denton panoramics dated in the 1910s, these images seemed to be a perfect fit for the Cirkut camera that he was researching. Michel had me photograph, describe and measure the images and search for any imprints or markings on the mats (including reverse sides).  With great satisfaction, I received a tweet from Michel in July 2014 that the panoramics looked authentic to the Cirkut camera!

118th Battaliion, C Company, May 1916

Panoramic photo of 118th Battalion, C Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

Given that the Soldier Card Project was in full swing, I felt a great kinship to these images – many of the faces of the soldiers seemed so familiar. In particular, I was able to identify Captain Solon Albright, in the front row, centre, in the B Company portrait.

Solon Albright, 118th Battalion, B Company

Solon Albright , 118th Battalion, B Company, May 1916

Solon Albright, SIC Card (KPL)

KPL Soldier Information Card for Captain Solon Albright

As an unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, the 118th (North Waterloo) Battalion began recruiting in late 1915.  After sailing to England in January 1917, the battalion was absorbed into the 25th Reserve Battalion on February 6, 1917 and dispersed into other units as needed.

Denton photographed the 118th Battalion companies A-D in what seems to be an enclosed field or grandstand – perhaps Victoria Park in the tumultuous months leading up to the name change of Berlin to Kitchener or at the training grounds in London,Ontario.  Three of the four images had horizontal labels, giving the moniker “Denton Studio” below the image, while the B Company photo had no label and was marked “Denton Bros” in the lower left corner.

118th Battalion, B Company

Panoramic photo of 118th Battalion, B Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

On closer examination of the B Company photo,  my eye also caught sight of the dog being held by the young man third from the left  – a touching reminder of the bond between people and animals.


Lower left corner of P2682 118th Battalion, B Company

I’d love to hear from anyone if they have ideas or suggestions as to where the images were taken, the activities of the 118th Battalion at the time of the photographs or if you recognize any of the soldiers in the images.

118th Battalion, D Company

Panoramic photo of 118th Battalion, D Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

It’s amazing to ponder the convergence of so many factors in these images – young men about to head off to war, a (possibly) smuggled Cirkut panoramic camera, and Ernest Denton, the world traveled photographer all coming together on a spring day in May, 1916, isn’t it?

Part 5 – Canadian Contributions to Panoramic Photography

on Friday 27 March 2015

Collecting and Connecting blog

Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM)



1. Vernon’s City Directory for Kitchener and Waterloo, 1929 *

2. World War I Soldier Card Project. Kitchener Public Library.

3. rych mills. Kitchener (Berlin) 1880-1960. Charleston, SC : Arcadia Publishing, 2002.


Many thanks go to the following for their contributions:

Kim Grimes for her memories of Ernest Denton; Willy Nassau and Dolph Bogad for their visit to the GSR and memories of the Cirkut camera and knowledge of panoramic photography; rych mills for his insight on Denton and the 118th Battalion; and Michel Labrecque for explaining the intricacies of panoramic photography and camera technology.

* For those eagle eyed readers, you may have noticed that the 1929 Denton advertisement claims that they have been in business for 20 years, which would put the start of their business around 1909. While my research places the Denton Brothers in Kitchener around 1912-1914, I will continue researching their early life and post any new findings on the blog. If you have any information on their early years in Kitchener, I’d love to hear from you!

Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

Deciphering Denton: the Kitchener Connection

1916 Picnic in Berlin

A 1916 picnic in Berlin – image taken by Ernest Denton. (P2399 WHS). Please note that image was not taken with the Cirkut camera.

Thanks, Michel, for that fascinating introduction to Cirkut Panoramic camera and panoramic photography.  Having met with Willie Nassau and Dolph Bogad on Monday, I have a greater appreciation for the technical and artistic expertise that Ernest Denton had to operate this type of camera.

My first exposure to Denton was in exploring the rack of oversized, framed photographs in the Grace Schmidt Room.  The hand-printed and slightly skewed identifier “Denton Bros.,” “Denton Portrait Rooms,” or “Denton Photo” in the lower right hand corner was a frequent sight.  The more I saw of his work, the more I wanted to know about this man, who seems to have photographed every aspect of Kitchener life between 1913 and 1955.

P290 Visit of the Duke of Connaught to Berlin City Hall, 9 May 1914

Visit of the Duke of Connaught to Berlin City Hall, 9 May 1914 – image taken by Denton Bros. (P290 WHS). Please note that image was not taken with the Cirkut camera.

I have had much fun trying to fill in the blanks – but the details of Denton’s early life in England and abroad are still very sketchy.  I’ve been in contact with libraries and archives in Manchester, England, Wellington, New Zealand, Oakland, California and Waterloo, Ontario – in an effort to track down information about Ernest and his family.

What is known about Denton primarily comes from a cryptic first page of a 15 March 1956 letter written by Kitchener-Waterloo Record editor, Henry Koch, to Ralph Allen, editor of Maclean’s magazine and Denton’s 11 November 1957 obituary in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.  Koch tried to entice the Maclean’s editor into writing a story about Ernest, but according to their archivist, a Denton feature did not materialize.

Ernest Denton was born 31 August 1883 in Manchester, England.  He started his photography career at the age of 16, on bicycle rigged to carry a camera and portable darkroom.  He travelled throughout the whole of England and later around the world by ship, by photographing ship crews, collecting money upfront and mailing the images later.  It’s rumoured that Denton travelled twice around the world, working in places such as Fiji, Ceylon, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Gibraltar, and Egypt.

In New Zealand, Denton operated photographic businesses in Invercargill (1907), Wellington (1907-1909) and Palmerston North (1909-1912). Koch claimed that Denton freelanced for illustrated weeklies for five years in New Zealand, which saw him photographing everything from the House of Commons, the 1906 International Industrial Exhibition to earthquakes and floods.  A report in the 23 April 1910 edition of the Wairarapa Age noted that Denton had been fined 1 shilling plus costs for working on a Sunday.  His Palmerston North studio was destroyed by fire on 17 March 1911. In June of the same year, Denton returned briefly to England for health reasons. His business last appears in the 1912 Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory in Palmerston North and then the trail goes cold, that is, until April 1913.

1912 Wise's Directory Advertisement

Ernest Denton’s advertisement from the 1912 Wise’s Directory (New Zealand). Image courtesy of the Dunedin (NZ) Public Library.

Ernest Denton and his brother, Samuel, arrived in New York City, aboard the Adriatic on 19 April 1913, with the declared destination of Montreal. How and why they chose to come to Berlin is not known.  Local directories in the Grace Schmidt Room first catch their presence in 1915, but it likely that they arrived in 1913 or early 1914, based on some of the early Denton images in our collection.  Their first business venture, Denton Brothers Photographers, was located at 62 King Street, Berlin.

Of particular interest was a cryptic note that Koch made in his 1956 letter to Ralph Allan, mentioning that Denton owned one of two known panoramic cameras in Canada.  Koch went onto say that Denton had the camera smuggled across the border from the US.  Why would he smuggle a camera into Canada? And how would he have done it? These are questions yet to be answered.

P2683 118th Battalion, A Company

A panoramic of the A Company, 118th Battalion, taken by Ernest Denton, May 1916 (P2683 WHS) We believe that this image was likely taken with the Cirkut Panoramic Camera at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Following brother Samuel’s departure from Kitchener, Ernest worked with another photographer in a studio named “Denton & Gifford” between 1924-1925, and then, on his own, operating a studio at 163 King Street West.  His advertising byline was “Photos made anytime, anywhere”.  He was also very active in business interests outside of photography. In the 1930’s, Denton owned an apartment building at the corner of Victoria and Weber Streets and an indoor mini putt golf course in downtown Kitchener.  However, photography remained his mainstay and he continued to photograph schools, picnics, companies and businesses throughout Waterloo and surrounding counties. He remained at the 163 King Street West location until 1955, when his studio was destroyed by fire on the evening of 11 December.  Everything was lost – except, his panoramic camera which now resides at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Ernest Denton

Image of Ernest Denton from his obituary, which appeared in the 11 November 1957 edition of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record

Denton died on 10 November 1957 at his home at 55 Samuel Street, Kitchener, after a lengthy illness.  He was survived by his wife, Louisa, stepchildren Fred, William and Rose Manning and Vera (Manning) Bennett, his brother Samuel, 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Koch estimated that Denton had taken over a million photographs over his career, ranging from Waterloo County school classes, factory workers and military troops to coronation of King George V, prime ministers Robert Borden, R.B. Bennett, Mackenzie King and Winston Churchill.

A very interesting life and man, don’t you think? If you have comments, questions or information to share, please let me know!

  Part 3 – The Challenge of Accurately Dating Denton’s Cirkut Camera

on 11 March 2015

Collecting and Connecting blog

Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM)



  1. Photographer of Prominent Persons Dies (obituary – Ernest Denton). Kitchener –Waterloo Record, 11 November 1957.
  2. Koch, Henry. Letter to Ralph Allen, editor, Maclean’s Magazine (photocopy). 15 March 1956.
  3. National Library of New Zealand. PapersPast (database:
  4. Vernon’s Kitchener and Waterloo City Directory.


Many thanks go to the following for their contributions:

Jane Britton, former Head, Special Collections and Archives, University of Waterloo, for her thoughtful insights on Ernest Denton, Kirsten Baldock, Oakland Public Library, Dale Taylor, Archives and Local History -Manchester Central Library; Jenni Chrisstoffels, National Library of New Zealand, Malcolm Deans, Dunedin (NZ) Library, Heather Glasgow, Palmerston North (NZ) City Library, Jared Marconi, Cal State University – East Bay Library, Patricia Treble, Maclean’s Magazine and Rod Frketich, Photo/Graphics Editor, Waterloo Region Record for their assistance with locating information about the Denton brothers; rych mills for his Denton citations; Charlotte Prong, Kitchener Public Library, for her love of good story; and Michel Labrecque for his knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for photography and a panoramic camera owned by Ernest Denton.