People and places

Movember ‘Stache


P476 WHS H.J. Bowman

In honour of Movember, the campaign for men’s health,  I give you Herbert J. Bowman, who certainly knew how to wear a moustache with grace and style.

Herbert Joseph Bowman was born on 18 June 1865 in Berlin, Ontario, the son of Israel D. Bowman and Angeline Louisa Tyson. He studied at the University of Toronto and graduated in Civil Engineering in 1885. During his final year of university, Bowman joined the Queen’s Own Rifles and took part in the suppression of the Riel Rebellion. He later became a member of the 29th Regiment of Waterloo County, and served as its Commanding Officer.

Herbert apprenticed as a land surveyor with Peter Silas Gibson and passed his final exam on 7 January 1887. He qualified as a Dominion Land Surveyor and practiced as a land surveyor and civil engineer in Berlin, Ontario. He was responsible for the design of Berlin’s sewer system, including sewage disposal works. He was also interested in the Good Roads Movement. Elected in 1899 as a City Waterworks Commissioner, Herbert also served as County Clerk from 1896 to 1916, in the footsteps of his father, Israel Bowman. He was also the Inspector of County Roads and the House of Refuge.

Upon the outbreak of World War One, Col. Bowman organized the 108th Militia Regiment and was its Commanding Officer. This regiment supplied most of the officers and over two hundred and fifty men to the 118th Overseas Battalion.

A Liberal in politics, Bowman was also a member of First Church of Christ Scientist. He was married to Edith Walker in 1889 and they raised four children: Hope, Ruth, Victor and Ernest. He died on 19 June 1916 after a prolonged illness and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.

A dapper man with a fine record public service.

Cheers, K.


Morbid Curiosities

2014-054 WHS Casket

2014-054 WHS – Image of a man kneeling in front of a casket

Ok, I will admit it – I have a fascination with death. Perhaps, it is a hazard of being a genealogist and local history librarian, but I think that it comes from a deep and visceral level. We all die. It’s a fate that we cannot escape. The myriad of rituals and beliefs tied up with death and dying makes the obsession that much more intriguing.

I am a regular obituary reader. Daily, I’ll scan over the obituaries online to see if I recognize a name, a face or family. While I may not personally know the departed, I often recognize distant and former neighbours, co-workers, or casual acquaintances. As I grow older, the recognition of names, sadly, becomes more frequent.

Funerals are another curiosity of mine. The ceremony, rituals, beliefs and practices of death and its commemoration are fascinating – especially when seen over time. And I’ve always wondered about the special breed of people that choose or find themselves in this field of work.

Marion Roes knows much about funeral home history in Waterloo Region. Her family founded the Dreisinger Funeral Home in Elmira. Come join me on Monday November 16th @ 7pm at Country Hills Community Library, 1500 Block Line Road, Kitchener to hear Marion’s updated talk on funeral home history in Kitchener. She is sharing her vast knowledge and research on local funeral homes, particularly that of Schreiter-Sandrock, the oldest in our area. I’m told, that she has lots of new images to share, too.

The Country Hills branch is attached to St. Mary’s High School  (see map). The library is on the end of the complex closest to Homer Watson. There’s lots of free parking and no registration is required for the event.

Do you have a favourite Waterloo County funeral in your family history?

Cheers, Karen


When Time Stands Still

Remembrance Day wreath - view from back

Remembrance Day. Image credit: Jeff Wallace ( Used under Creative Commons License.

I’ve always loved the poignant moment when the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th occurs, marking the beginning of the end of the First World War. We become still to remember those who have served our country in war and peace, unharnessed of all the busy-ness of modern life, alone with our thoughts and remembrances. It is a quiet moment of reflection, gratitude and respect for all those who have served us in war and in peace.

Conversely, sound can evoke many emotions. I, for one, always choke up when the Last Post is played at Remembrance Day ceremonies. Voices of the past take us back in time too. This year, the Grace Schmidt Room is honoured to have worked with Joe Pavia of 570 News on a Remembrance Day project to help bring the voices of “Women in War” to life. Using the oral history tapes of military personnel and war subjects in our collection, Joe has produced a series of audio clips being aired up to and including Remembrance Day. Be sure to be tuned to 570 News to hear the voices of Margaret Schreiter, Ann Schreiber, Dr. Deborah Glaister-Hannay, Darlene McClennan, and Catherine Wilkes Thomson as they talk about their war experiences. As the links go live, I’ll update them in this post. Joe’s feature will air every 30 minutes on Remembrance Day. Joe, by the way, is our oral history volunteer in the GSR, and is helping us to digitize the cassette collection. It’s been a real pleasure to work with him.

In conjunction with Joe’s project, the Library has uploaded the full oral history tape interviews for the women noted above. The link to our oral history page is here. Each interview has two parts, about a hour’s length each.

Please feel free to browse our Soldier Information Card collection indexes for both wars. You can view our online Soldier Information Card Collection for World War One here. We welcome your comments, stories and information for our soldier card collection.

I’ll be talking about the Soldier Information Card Project at the Grand River – Stanley Park branch on Wednesday evening at 7pm. Join me if you can. No registration is required and details can be found here.

If you are in the Grace Schmidt Room, please stop by to see our exhibits – one honouring the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Kitchener-Waterloo Branch of the Red Cross Society and their work in war and at home, and the other looking back at nursing sisters from World War One.

We will remember them.

Cheers, Karen.

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.