A Visit to Stratford – Part 2

The evolution of the use of older church buildings is an interesting study topic. Originally built as places of worship during the early growth of towns and cities, churches were imposing structures funded and constructed by community members. Over time, as local congregations have moved on, and religion has lost some of its relevance, increasing numbers of church buildings have become surplus and may be re-purposed.

The church located at 70 Brunswick Street in Stratford is a good example. According to one source, it was originally named the Congregational Church when it was built in 1873-1874. Congregational churches comprised Protestant groups arising from Puritanism, and were organized on the principle that each congregation should be autonomous. Many congregational churches later joined with other churches in the creation of the United Church of Canada in 1925. At some point in time, this church was named the Mackenzie Memorial Gospel Church.

About 40 years ago, the church was re-purposed as The Church Restaurant, and offered fine dining to local residents and theatre goers. In 2015, the church and restaurant were sold to new owners, and the premises were renamed Revival House. There are three components: Revival, a street-level event space; Chapel, a second-floor gastro pub; and Confession, a small balcony VIP lounge. After the restaurant re-opened, a leak was discovered in the roof. A group of local musicians assisted the owners in organizing a fund-raising event to help pay for a new roof.

Community support to build the original church in the 1800’s has evolved into community funding for the repair of a restaurant and event space in the 21st Century! The new roof can be seen in the accompanying image.

The hinges on the front doors are also noteworthy. Apparently, the ironwork on the doors was crafted by workers at the Grand Trunk Railway, which later became the Canadian National Railway, at their shops based in Stratford.

d24-Revival House cw
Revival House

During our visit, we found a door oddity on Wellington Street in downtown Stratford. This image of a horse (at least I think it is a horse and not a mule) could be attributed to an aspect of the history of the city: either as an “iron horse,” to early railway buffs; or a role in a Shakespeare play, as there are references to horses in several of the bard’s plays. I chose the latter. I also found this Shakespeare quote about a painted horse, which may or may not be relevant.

Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion’d steed,
His art with nature’s workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone.

Perhaps another visit to Stratford is warranted to inquire into the origins of this door. For more encounters with doors, be sure to check out other contributions to Norm’s Thursday Doors.

d24-78 Wellington St cw
the painted horse

A visit to St. Jacob’s

It has been several months since I posted my last blog. This summer has beenĀ full of activities, with little time for photography and even less for blogging.

I recently visited the village of St. Jacob’s in south-western Ontario. The primary attraction was its big farmer’s market, but the highlight of the trip was a visit to a Mennonite farm, and an opportunity to learn more about the history of Mennonites in Canada.

Mennonites first began to settle in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in the 18th Century, migrating north from Pennsylvania, following the American Revolution. They were seeking cheaper land, an escape from conflict, and an opportunity to practice their religion freely.

There are many Mennonite farms in the region, and the farm we visited was a mixed farm. They grow corn, operate a small dairy, and harvest maple syrup. The Mennonites are not a homogeneous group, and there are many variations in life style among the Mennonite community. Some drive a horse and buggy, some drive cars – but only black ones – and others have adopted a more contemporary lifestyle.

To learn more about the Mennonites, a good place to start is by visiting The Mennonite Story in St. Jacob’s.

Here are a few photographs from our visit. Mennonites prefer not to have their photograph taken, so there are no recognizable images of people.

a field of dreams?
the corn silo
the dairy barn
a history of maple tree tapping
an old mechanical work horse
town and country by horse and buggy