Who would have thought that a once stately home would be the front office of a rubber factory? ION’s Central station location – and its past – have the clue.
On the corner of King Street West and Victoria Street South, where the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy stands, you would have found the Canadian Goodrich Company. The front offices were in a house called “Bowhill” which was the former home of Ward Hamilton (W.H.) Bowlby, a Berlin lawyer, politician, and Waterloo County Crown attorney for 50 years before his death in 1917.
At this expansive plant, Goodrich, later known as BF Goodrich Canada, produced a wide array of products – from tires, car parts, and shoes to golf balls.
How did Bowlby’s house become the front office of the Goodrich plant? It was once a quiet 11-acre estate at King and Victoria (then Wilmot) Street, near the CNR railway line. After Bowlby’s death in 1917, his wife sold the property to the Ames-Holden Tire Co. The company made tires and shoes in a new building on the property, but used the Bowlby home, built in 1861, as its office. Ames-Holden was acquired by B.F. Goodrich of Akron, Ohio in 1922. The name was then changed to Canadian Goodrich as seen in the photo. The Bowlby home was used until 1929, when it was torn down.
In its heyday in the early 1950’s, this B.F. Goodrich plant employed 1200 people. In the late 1950s, Goodrich built facilities at 409 Weber St. West and a large tire plant in south Kitchener in the 1960s.
In 1983, the King and Victoria plant, which was B.F. Goodrich’s engineered products division, was sold to Epton Industries. Epton was demolished in 1997, after the company went bankrupt.
This is post 10 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.