Stories That Move You

ION Frederick: Civic Memories

King and Frederick Streets, 1925 (WHS Collection)

P1319 King and Frederick Streets, 1925 (WHS Collection)

As ION heads north, our time travel journey will take us back to 1925 and an iconic place in Kitchener history and in our hearts. Do you recognize the building in the centre of the image?

The panoramic photograph above shows the intersection of King and Frederick Streets in August 1925. In the centre, you will see the beloved and stately old City Hall, built in 1924.

Designed by architects, W.H.E. Schmalz and B.A. Jones, it replaced an aging 1869 town hall built on the same site. Described stylistically as modern Roman in the Ionic order, newspaper reports noted that the council chambers were judged worthy of a chamber in the palaces of Versailles or Potsdam.

It was officially opened on 15 November 1924. Frederick Street was closed to traffic for the ceremony. A reported crowd of 20,000 attendees danced until midnight to music played by the Kitchener Musical Society band.

Over the years, City Hall has been remembered for its Christmas lighting, public gatherings, graceful centre stairs, and hub as civic place. For many years, the Kitchener police department had their headquarters in the basement. The street railway and, later, trolley buses, had a stop with a comfort station on King Street, in front of City Hall. The cenotaph was also relocated from a traffic island on Frederick Street to the front lawn.

When plans for the revitalization of Kitchener’s downtown were discussed in the early 1970s, controversy raged over the proposal to tear down City Hall to make way for the Market Square development and to build a larger and modern municipal building. On 7 September 1973, the doors to City Hall closed and staff moved to a new leased facility. Demolition of the building followed.

Public outcry over the demolition of City Hall helped to ensure that the iconic clock tower was saved and stored for future reconstruction. On 1 July 1995, the clock tower came to life again at the entrance to Victoria Park following a public rededication ceremony.

Cheers, Karen

This is post 13 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.


Lest we forget

P9824 Kitchener Cenotaph at City Hall, 1954 (KPL Collection)

P9824 Kitchener Cenotaph at City Hall, 1954 (KPL Collection)

Remembrance Day is a quiet day of reflection, memory and gratitude for the many men and women who fought and defended our rights and freedoms in conflicts around the world.  We will gather at cenotaphs, ceremonies, homes and workplaces to mark a moment of silence during which we will remember those who answered the call of duty to serve Canada.  As Winston Churchill once said, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”.

The Kitchener Cenotaph, pictured above, designed by Kitchener architect, William H.E. Schmalz, was dedicated on 24 May 1929. It originally sat on a small traffic island on Frederick Street, near King Street. It was later moved to City Hall in 1949 and then to the corner of Frederick and Duke Streets, where it sits today, with the development of Market Square. It rededicated by Queen Elizabeth during a royal visit in 1973.

Today, I am remembering my great-uncle, James McPhee of Abbotsford, BC, who served in the Second World War as a Royal Air Force navigator, a war correspondent and later as a Canadian Armed Forces peacekeeper in the Suez. I will remember Captain Brinley Frederick Roberts Thomas, of Dinas Powys, Wales, husband of my grandfather’s cousin, who risked his life in both world wars to ensure that supplies, personnel and munitions reached Allied troops as a member of the British merchant marine.  And, I will remember David Harding, my first cousin once removed, who served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan and, thankfully, returned home safely.

Who will you remember today?