Grace Schmidt Room, People and places

Remembering Mr. Matthews’ legacy


P007010 KPL – Susan Hoffman left) and Lynn Matthews (right) on the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the Grace Schmidt Room, 14 October 1987. The framed portrait of Grace Schmidt can be seen between them on the wall.

Yesterday, we received the sad news of the passing of Lynn Matthews, former Kitchener Public Library Chief Librarian. While I did not know ‘Mr. Matthews’, as he was known to staff, he, along with Susan Hoffman and Grace Schmidt, will always hold a special place in my librarian heart.

During his tenure as Chief Librarian at KPL from 1973-1993, he was instrumental in the founding of the Grace Schmidt Room in 1984.  Mr. Matthews worked with the Library’s partners, the Waterloo Historical Society and Ontario Genealogical Society (then Waterloo-Wellington, now Waterloo Region Branch) in developing the GSR as a destination for local history and genealogy.  He spearheaded the Library’s commitment and vision for the room to protect and make available the legacy and local history collection curated by Grace Schmidt.

Looking back at the excitement of the GSR’s opening on 14 October 1984, I can’t help but think that Mr. Matthews believed in the value of local history and heritage for the community. The GSR opened with Susan Hoffman as KPL’s first local history librarian. She headed a small and dedicated staff complement that worked in the GSR, providing reference and research services.

While there have been many changes since then, it is in Lynn Matthews’ belief in the value of local history and the Grace Schmidt Room to the community, that we continue.

RIP Mr. Matthews.



People and places

The Grace Schmidt Room Is Now Complete

Susan Hoffman portrait in the Grace Schmidt Room

Portrait of Susan Hoffman in the Grace Schmidt Room

When we moved into our new Grace Schmidt Room (GSR) in May 2014, I always knew that the room never felt complete. With the frequent construction related moves, unpacking, re-organizing, new projects, new equipment and technologies to incorporate, staff, customers and general library life, there was one thing that was missing – a portrait of Susan Hoffman.

Susan was the first Grace Schmidt Room Librarian at the Kitchener Public Library. She is responsible for the collection and services we offer today.  She worked tirelessly developing the local history and genealogy collection and related services, which were launched on 14 October 1984 and continued that work until her retirement in late July 2006.

She was my mentor and role model. Happily, we have remained friends since her retirement in 2006 and keep in touch.  I miss her dearly – her humour, insights, encyclopedic knowledge of the collection, and quick wit made working together in my early days as a librarian so very special.

It`s taken me a while, but I`m pleased to announce that Susan Hoffman`s portrait is in the Grace Schmidt Room. While a framed portrait will never replace the time we spent working together, it reminds me daily of her professionalism, dedication and legacy – which is evident in all that we do and strive to achieve.

Susan is back in the GSR. And the Grace Schmidt Room is complete.

Portraits in the Grace Schmidt Room - Mabel Dunham, Grace Schmidt and Susan Hoffman

Portraits in the Grace Schmidt Room  (left to right) Mabel Dunham, Grace Schmidt and Susan Hoffman

Cheers, Karen

Christmas, People and places

Holiday wishes from the Jonas family

Jonas Christmas card, ca. 1920

Christmas Card from Henry and Elisa Jonas, ca. 1920 (2016-061 KPL)

They say great things arrive in small packages. Back in August, a padded envelope arrived via the regular mail. I was delighted to find a short note from a Grace Schmidt Room blog follower and a donation of a wedding invitation and two Christmas cards.

Intrigued by the donation, I dove into some research which I’d like to share with you.

The Christmas card, likely sent in the 1920s, was from Henry and Elisa Jonas of 112 Waterloo Street, Kitchener, ON. The simple elegance of this card, which is missing the bottom of the gold letter J in the lower half, harkens back to a quieter time and age.

Jonas Christmas message

Christmas message from Henry and Elisa Jonas, Kitchener, ON (2016-061 KPL)

I love the simplicity and cheerfulness of their holiday message – well wishes for happiness, friendship, and Christmas cheer – who could want more?

So who were the Jonases? Henry was born Hermann Heinrich Jonas on 23 June 1881 in Berlin to Hermann Jonas and Caroline (later recorded as Henrietta) Schultz. According to the 1901 Census of Canada, Henry was a machinist, living with his family in Berlin. Elisa Schwartz, according to the 1901 Census of Canada and her marriage registration, was born 15 December 1884, in Waterloo.  Her parents were August Bernard Schwartz and Catherine Berdux. By the age of 16, Elisa was working in a laundry, while living with her family.

This is the 23 April 1907 wedding invitation of  Henry and Elisa.

Wedding details - Henry Jonas and Elisa Schwartz

Wedding invitation – Henry Jonas and Elisa Schwartz, 23 April 1907, Berlin, ON

At the time of his marriage to Elisa (also known as Elizabeth), Henry was working as a machinist and lived at 114 Waterloo Street in Berlin.

By the time of the 1921 census, Henry was working at the Wunder Furniture Company. His home address was given as 112 Waterloo Street, Kitchener.

Henry and Elizabeth had several children: Irene (born 1909), Milton (born 1910), Gertrude (born 1911), Edward (born 1913, a twin to Edna who passed away at the age of 5 months), Harry (born 1915), and Robert (born 1918).

Henry passed away on 4 February 1936, as a result of a heart attack brought about by overexertion while shoveling snow. Elizabeth died on 17 June 1967 in Waterloo. They are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener.

A belated Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us in the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History!

And all the best for the New Year!

Cheers, Karen.


People and places

Happy Easter!

P009648 KPL Easter postcard

P009648 KPL Easter Greetings postcard, postmarked 26 March 1910, Berlin, Ontario

As spring finally makes (or rather, another) appearance, I thought that I would share this Easter postcard, which I found in the Kitchener Public Library collection in the Grace Schmidt Room. The simplicity and serenity of the images harkens back to a quieter day and age.

The reverse of the postcard also expresses simple wishes from Gertrude Totzke to Miss Enetta Stolz, who was living on Peter Street in Berlin in the spring of 1910. Enetta Stolz (or Stoltz) was likely Susannah Enetta Stoltz, born in 1 January 1882 in Wilmot. She was the daughter of Jacob F. Stoltz and Wilhelmine Gerbig. Following Jacob’s death in 1888, her mother married George Heimpel.  According to the 1911 Census of Canada, Annetta Stoltz was working as a servant in the home of Alvin and Elizabeth Cressman in Waterloo.

P009648 KPL - Reverse of postcard

P009648 KPL – Reverse of postcard

According to the Ontario Cemetery Project, Gertrude Totzke is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Kitchener. Her gravestone lists her life years as 1894-1911, making her almost 17 years old at the time of her death. Gertrude Elizabeth Totzke was born on 21 June 1894 in Berlin and died on 13 April 1911 at her parents’ home at 83 Church Street, of a blood disorder. Her parents were Carl Totzke and Louisa Frank.

However you celebrate this holiday weekend, we’d like to extend our best wishes for peace, health and happiness!

Cheers, Karen

People and places

Our First Building Birthday

Berlin Public Library Building

P000288 WHS Berlin Public Library building

On this evening, 112 years ago, the new Berlin Public Library building at Queen  and Weber had its opening reception . It was a grand and dignified evening affair, by invitation only. Professor McGregor Young of the University of Toronto gave a talk on the “Monroe Doctrine”,  the foreign policy of the US regarding domination of the American continent.  His academic and rational examination of the subject won admiration from the Berlin News Record in their 9 February 1904 edition. Following the evening’s program, a Waterloo orchestra played while guests explored the Library’s rooms. The News Record reported that the reading room would be open to the public  on the following Monday, but that  the books would not be ready for circulation for a few weeks.

The Library was founded on 4 February 1884 under  By-law 310 passed by the Berlin Town Council. Mabel Dunham, in her 1934 history of the Kitchener Public Library, noted that the books of the Mechanics Institute, housed  under the stairway of the first floor of the old Town Hall, became the nucleus of the Berlin Public Library. The reading room opened to the public on 14 April 1884.  As the Library outgrew its space in the Town Hall, a lot at Queen and Weber was purchased for future development in 1897. It was not until 1902, when funding from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation was secured for the building of a new library building, was work commenced on a new facility. Although the building was ready for occupancy by the summer of 1903, the library did not open until 8 January 1904 – as books and collections were ordered and prepared according to modern library standards.

In 1908, Dunham noted that industrial managers and foremen of the town’s factories were invited to a special reception, as a means of advertising the Library to the city’s industrial workers. Library board members hosted the evening and cigars were provided in the smoking room.

Within five years of its opening, the building was to receive a glass floor, a second story added to the stack room, a fireplace was added to smoking room and the entrance was enhanced with a new flight of stone steps. Over the years, several additions and renovations took place in order to meet the growing demands for collections and services. The Waterloo Historical Society’s museum was also housed in the basement of the Library.

The Library “Now, like the ark of the covenant, it has found a permanent restingplace [sic]” proclaimed Rev. W.A. Bailey, the chair of the Berlin Free Library Board, in his remarks at the building’s opening on 8 January 1904.

And it did until 23 May 1962, when the new Kitchener Public Library opened at 85 Queen Street North.

Happy Birthday to Berlin’s dear old Carnegie Library! Gone, but not forgotten.

Be sure to visit our Berlin Public Library display in the GSR for a trip down memory lane.

Cheers, K.

People and places

New Year Wishes

New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

P009989 KPL New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

I recently came across this New Year postcard in the collection and wanted to share it with you. I think that I am feeling nostalgic for the white Christmas that we missed this year.

The postcard was postmarked 31 December 1914. It was addressed to Miss Ina Eby, Chapel Street, Berlin. It had been sent by “Lulu”.

Reverse of New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

P009989r KPL – Reverse of New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

Ina Eby was the daughter of Ezra Eby and Mary Ann Clemmer. She was born in Bridgeport on 24 January 1884.  She had 4 brothers, Ira, Ion, Leo and Odo. According to the 1911 Census of Canada, she lived at 41 Chapel Street, Berlin with her mother and worked as a sample maker in the White Wear factory. Ina died at the age of 72, on 18 February 1956, and was buried at First Mennonite Cemetery in Kitchener.

From all of us in the Grace Schmidt Room, Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!

Cheers, K.

People and places

Merry Christmas Wishes

Christmas Card

Christmas card from the GSR Christmas Card exhibit, December 2015

I have a soft spot for old greeting cards. The simplicity of their designs and the cheerful and simple messages make them reminders of an age, where people actually wrote letters and recipients anxiously awaited for the arrival of the mail each day. There was always something special about receiving a letter or card in the mail from a loved one.

Xmas Display 2015

GSR Christmas Card exhibit – December 2015

Currently, we have a display of old Christmas cards in the Grace Schmidt Room and there’s one that has always struck me as particularly charming. Although it is missing a ‘personal’ message, the simple formality of the design and wording drew me to it.

Faber Christmas card, 1928

Christmas card from Mr. & Mrs. C.A. Faber, Kitchener from the GSR Christmas Card exhibit

I did a bit of digging to find “Mr. & Mrs. C.A. Faber” of 361 Wellington Street, Kitchener. From the city directories, I was able to find that Clarence Andrew Faber and his wife, Ruth Marguerite (nee Robson), lived at this address 1928-1929. The 1929 directory lists another Wellington Street address for them – making this card likely from Christmas 1928.

Clarence was born 11 January 1904 in Berlin, Ontario. He and Ruth were married on 27 May 1926 in Kitchener. According to the city directory of 1928-1929, Clarence worked as a clerk at George Faber’s grocery store at 108 Weber Street West. By 1935, the Fabers had moved to Brantford.  Ruth passed away in 1981 and Clarence died in 1986. They are buried at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Brantford.

From all of us in the Grace Schmidt Room, we wish you a very “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”.  May 2016 bring peace, health and happiness to you.

Cheers, K.

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.

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.