Buildings, GSR Resources

House History Headstarts

Former home of Jacob Y. Shantz, Kitchener, 1966

P000846 Former home of Jacob Y. Shantz, Kitchener, 1966 (Waterloo Historical Society Collection)

With the cancellation of Jane’s Walks this year due to COVID-19, why not take this opportunity to do a bit of your own house history research?

Granted, not all of our Grace Schmidt Room resources are available on line, but you can plan your search using our handy house research guide here.  Getting your information in order is a great first step.

If you are eager, you can take a look at our online collection of city directories. You can use the directories online or download them for your research. A word of caution – the county directories prior to 1900 often did not include a lot of detailed information on city dwellers – only a list a residents and a city/town name. After 1900, directory publishers included more detailed information on residents and location.

A great place to start in the city directories is the street directory section. This section lists the homes/occupants along each side of the street. You can jump to the street directory section by searching with the keywords “street directory“. Your first hits should be the main directory index – which will give you the start page numbers for either Kitchener (Berlin) or Waterloo street directory sections.

In the street directory sections, crossroads are noted, giving you the ability to narrow down your search to specific city blocks along a street. As the years progress, you will see that the number of houses along a street increase, sometimes change numbers, and occasionally, the street names change.

You can find our street index here. It does not list every street and name change occurrence, but you can sometimes see trends that may give you an idea about the age of your neighbourhood and its development.

Once you have the name of a resident, you can search for their name in the directory. Depending upon the year of publication, you may see their occupation/workplace and the names of spouses and other adults living in the house. Please be aware that the resident shown in the directory might be a tenant and not the owner of the house. Having the name of the resident is another avenue of research – you can check out Ancestry Library Edition (you’ll need your KPL Library card and PIN) or Waterloo Region Generations to see if their family history is there.

Another place to look is in our online photograph collection.  You can search by street or family name. This collection is a small portion of our complete photograph collection. There’s also paper index in the GSR which can be consulted when the Library re-opens.

Why not check out the resources, my Information Services colleague, Kathryn, has suggested to determine the architectural style of your home on the Library’s Where the Community Connects blog? She’s got lots of other great ideas too.

Enjoy the journey!

Cheers, Karen





New Year

Happy New Year Wishes

P009991_300dpiCan you believe that a new decade is upon us? It seems as if we turned the page on 2019 just a moment ago.  And now, we are awaiting for 2020 to be rung in.  To everyone – I would like to wish you and yours all the best for a happy and healthy New Year!

It has been a year of change and challenge in the Grace Schmidt Room – the physical room layout has changed, collections have moved, and we’re now offering more digital services to enable you to convert your family memories and treasures. We also have a new digital research computer (about which I will tell you about in a future blog post – I promise!). Despite the changes in our outward appearance, we  remain committed to telling the stories of our commmunity and people. There is so much to share and discover – thank you for joining us on this journey!

I  wanted to thank the Waterloo Historical Society for supporting the Grace Schmidt Room in so many ways – from helping us to purchase a new digital ViewScan microfilm scanner, participating in the Genealogy Fair, to championing the Susan J. Hoffman Local History Fund. The Society is an integral part of our history, present, and future.

Thank you to the Ontario Genealogical Society/Ontario Ancestors for your continued support and permitting us to share your genealogy book collection with the community.

I also wanted to thank my colleagues: Ingrid, Valerie, Curtis, Joseph, Cynthia, and Ellie for their dedication to bringing the collections of the Grace Schmidt Room to life through their creative book displays and exhibits, posters, inventories and ideas. Without you, the Grace Schmidt Room would not shine.

To our researchers, volunteers, family historians and local history enthusiasts – thank your for your continued support and interest in the GSR. We look forward to meeting and engaging our community and to share the great resources and collections that are housed in the Grace Schmidt Room.

All the best.

Cheers, Karen

Buildings, Christmas

Happy Holiday Wishes

Night time view of Kitchener City Hall, ca. 1950s

P9964 WHS – Night time view of Kitchener City Hall (1924-1973) decorated for the holidays, ca. 1950s

As the holidays begin, I wanted to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful time. The image above is one my favourites – Kitchener’s old city hall, built in 1924, decorated for the Christmas season. I love the simplicity of the light display set against the graceful presence of the building and its elements. This quiet view of city hall reminds me of the stillness that we all need at this time of the year – to listen, reflect, and cherish all that is good in our busy lives.

Whatever you celebrate this season – may you have peace, happiness, and health.

Cheers, Karen






KPL Genealogy Fair 2019

Finding Family, Friends & Fun at the 7th Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair


Tree – Image by Bessi from Pixabay

Time flies, they say, when you are having fun. I must have been having a ball as the 7th  Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair is almost upon us!

The full program for the fair  is now available on our webpage. It is being held at Central Library on Saturday 2 November 2019, from 9am to 3:30pm. The Central Library is located at 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener. Doors open at 9am and our keynote speaker, Melanie McLennan, takes the stage at 9:30am in the Theatre. She’ll be sharing how DNA enabled her to solve an emigration mystery of  her Irish ancestors.

It’s a fun program with lots of interesting sessions and presenters. There’s something for everyone!

We’ll also have terrific door prizes from our exhibitors, including DNA test kits and subscriptions from, and, to give away.

So join us on Saturday!

Cheers, Karen

KPL Genealogy Fair 2019

Save the Date for the 7th KPL Genealogy Fair!

SavetheDate_Genealogy Fair

Do you need some inspiration for your family history research? Have you hit a brick wall? Are you not sure where to start? Looking for some expert advice?

Well, then save the date of Saturday 2 November 2019 for the 7th Annual Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair!

Join us for a day of genealogy exploration, collaboration, discovery and fun at the Central Library from 9am to 4pm. We’ll have our vendor market place, exhibits, workshops, research centre in the Grace Schmidt Room and much more!

Our keynote speaker will be Melanie McLennan of Ancestral Tapestry. She’ll be kicking off the day with her insight into genetic and Irish genealogy. Learn how she used DNA to break down an Irish brick wall and how you can apply the same principles to your research.

There is no registration required for this free event.

Full program details and schedule will be posted on the Genealogy Fair webpage in early October.

If you are interested in being a workshop presenter at the fair, please email us at for an application.

See you on Saturday November 2nd!

Cheers, Karen

Stories That Move You

ION Allen: Suds

Labatt's Brewery, Waterloo, ON

SL000264 Labatt’s Brewery, King Street South, Waterloo, ON (KPL Collection)

As ION approaches the Allen station, you will pass by a quiet park and residence at the corner of King and William Streets in Waterloo. The calm and stately presence of the retirement home on the site now, however, gives little clue to its sudsy past.

Located at 155 King Street South in Waterloo, the Labatt brewery dated back to 1844, when David Kuntz, a cooper and brewer from Germany, began selling beer in the Town of Waterloo from a wheelbarrow. In the 1860s, he launched the Spring Brewery, using water from a spring on the King and William street property to brew his beer. Kuntz, a man of many talents and trades, was said to have also made the bricks for his brewery.

Over time, it eventually came to be called the Kuntz Brewery and David Kuntz was succeeded by his son Louis, in the 1870s, who renamed it L. Kuntz’s Park Brewery. In 1929, the brewery was acquired by entrepreneur, E.P. Taylor, under his Canadian Breweries group.  By 1936, it was known as the Carling-Kuntz Brewery. The name Kuntz was dropped during the Second World War – as it was seen as being too ‘German’.

The property also included a retail store which faced King Street, and a park with a fountain. A rail spur line also ran to the brewery. In 1977, Carling Breweries was purchased by Labatt Breweries of London. When Labatt announced the closure of the brewery in 1992, almost 200 jobs were lost.  The Waterloo plant was closed by mid-1993 and later demolished.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 8 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.

Stories That Move You

ION Grand River Hospital: Caring on King

Kitchener and Waterloo Hospital, 1929

P004006 Kitchener and Waterloo Hospital and Nurses’ Home, 1929 (KPL Collection)

When ION rolls up to the Grand River Hospital station, take a look at the hospital and then the image above. Does it still look recognizable?

The coloured postcard above shows the Kitchener and Waterloo Hospital (on the right) and nurses residence (on the left) as they appeared in 1929. The expansive lawn in the front gives a sense of grandeur, as do the (altered) turrets and decorative windows of the main hospital building. The nurses’ residence, now known as the Kaufman Building, opened in 1921.

Located at 835 King Street West, Kitchener, Grand River Hospital serves Waterloo Region and surrounding communities through its two sites, this one here and Freeport Hospital. The Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital was built in 1895 on land donated by Joseph E. Seagram. In 1898, an isolation hospital was built on the south side of the property and was later used as a nurses’ residence from 1908 to 1921.

A three-story pavilion, which included a pediatric floor, was built in 1936 to the north of the hospital building shown in the postcard. The Y-shaped building was built in 1951. In 1995, Freeport Hospital and the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital, (also known as the K-W Health Centre), were merged to form the Grand River Hospital. The Grand River Regional Cancer Centre opened at this site in 2003.

And do you know where the helipad for the hospital is located? You can find it at the corner of Walter and Wellington Street South, a short distance a way.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 9 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.


Stories That Move You

ION Kitchener City Hall: Stitch by Stitch

Forsyth Shirt Co. Sewing Room

MC60 P1019 John Forsyth Shirt Co. Sewing Room (KPL Collection)

When ION pulls into the Kitchener City Hall station, can you hear the hum of the sewing machines?

This stop has history sewn into its location. The John Forsyth Shirt Company occupied the corner of Duke and Young Streets, across from the present location of Kitchener City Hall. Flooded with sunlight, the sewing room pictured above, likely in the mid 1940s, was claimed to be “Canada’s longest sewing room.” In 1937, an art deco addition to the factory was built facing Duke Street.

Founded in 1903 by John Derby Claude (J.D.C.) Forsyth, the John Forsyth Shirt Company took over the former Star White Wear factory building at 31 Young Street, Kitchener in 1917. Additional factories were located in Waterloo and St. Mary’s, Ontario. Under Forsyth’s management, branch offices were opened across Canada and in Manchester, England. By 1956, the Forsyth Co. had 600 and grew to 800 employees in the Waterloo Region by the mid-1960s.

Over the course of its life, the Forsyth company produced dress shirts, shirts with detachable collars, pyjamas, underwear, scarves and ties.

Beloved founder and owner, J.D.C. Forsyth, died on 23 June 1948.

In 1973, the company was sold to Dylex Ltd. of Toronto. After several ownership changes, the Kitchener plant was closed in 1992 and employees were moved to a Cambridge plant. After failed bids to find a buyer, the building fell into disrepair and was demolished in 2006.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 11 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.

Stories That Move You

ION Willis Way: Shades of Amber and Gold

Seagram's Distillery, Waterloo, ON

SL000269 Seagram’s Distillery (KPL Collection)

As ION goes south along Caroline Street and pulls into the Willis Way station, you’ll pass by the former compound of an iconic Canadian company and Waterloo County family – Seagram. No doubt, many will remember the beloved whiskeys that were synonymous with Waterloo – Crown Royal and Seagram V.O.

The image above shows the view down Caroline Street, long before ION, and the plant’s demolition in 1993. Seagram was originally founded in 1857 as Waterloo Distillery, by partners William Hespeler and George Randall. Joseph E. Seagram bought into the business in 1870 and later became sole owner in 1883.

An avid horse breeder and racehorse owner, Seagram operated a stable and farm at Weber and Bridgeport in Waterloo. His horse, Victorious, won the Queen’s Plate in 1891. He also donated the land for the Grand River Hospital. Joseph E. Seagram died in 1919 and his son, Edward, took over as company president.

The Joseph E. Seagram and Sons company distilled iconic whiskey brands such as Crown Royal and Seagram V.O. (Very Own), known throughout North America, along with other distilled spirits. In 1928, the Bronfman family of Montreal, owners of the Distillery Corporation, purchased Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Ltd. In 1975, company president, J. E. Frowde Seagram retired, marking the end of Seagram family involvement with the distillery.

In 1984, the Seagram Museum opened, showcasing the history of the company and whiskey making. With aging plant infrastructure and limited production capacity, Seagram’s parent company announced, in 1990, that the Waterloo distillery would be closing by 1992. In 1993, the distillery was demolished. A fire on 12 July 1993 destroyed most of the buildings under demolition. The museum closed in 1997.

The distillery’s original barrel houses have since been renovated into condominiums known as the Seagram Lofts.  Construction of the Centre for International Governance Innovation started in 2009, and it opened in 2010.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 7 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.

Stories That Move You

ION University of Waterloo: Growing Pains

Aerial view of University of Waterloo campus

MC60 P000251 University of Waterloo (KPL Collection) – aerial view of campus

As you roll into the University of Waterloo (UW) ION station, think about how much the campus has changed over the years. Since its founding in 1957, UW has grown by leaps and bounds. Hazard to guess the year that the above photograph was taken?

Formerly farmland, the UW campus has witnessed phenomenal growth and change over the years. UW was established on 1 July 1957 as part the Waterloo College, which was then an affiliate of the University of Western Ontario. Following its separation from Waterloo College, UW was incorporated as a university in 1959. Created to fill the need to train engineers and technicians for Canada’s growing postwar economy, it grew substantially over the next decade, adding a Faculty of Arts in 1960 and then Optometry in 1967.

The image above likely dates from 1966. Taken from the Westmount Road side of campus, it looks roughly east towards the Engineering Science buildings. Dana Porter Library is visible and just beyond it, you can see the Engineering Lecture Hall under construction. A 4 November 1965 Kitchener-Waterloo Record article stated that Ball Brothers had been awarded a $1.4 million contract to construct an underground amphitheatre and classrooms. Completion was estimated to happen in mid-October 1966.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 4 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.

Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.