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.

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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.

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the painted horse

A Visit to Stratford – Part 1

Stratford is a city located on the Avon River in south-western Ontario. Sounds familiar? That’s because Stratford (and its river) were named after Stratford-upon-Avon in England when it was first settled in 1832.

Stratford is best known for hosting the Stratford Festival, which presents a variety of theatrical productions among four venues. The original Stratford Shakespeare Festival started in 1953 in an amphitheatre covered by a tent.

There are some published scenic walking routes in the city, including the Festival Walk, which wanders through some of the older residential areas. There are many fine homes – and doors – along this walk. I am presenting some of these doors today as my contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors. After taking these photos on a quiet Sunday morning, it has been interesting to discover some of the history of these buildings and their occupants while writing my blog.

The house at 115 Brunswick Street was built in 1874 in the Italianate style. It features a double door enclosed porch – I love the curved windows.

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115 Brunswick St.

Just down the street, at 91 Brunswick Street, is a house that didn’t make it onto the walking tour list. The house features a Palladian window on the second floor, but some exterior maintenance is long overdue.

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91 Brunswick St.

77 Brunswick Street is aptly named An Artist’s Cottage. It is the home and studio of Gerard Brender à Brandis, an artist who has been engraving small and detailed wood blocks for over fifty years. Brandis produces limited editions of his engravings in his home, including the printing and binding of his books.

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An Artist’s Cottage

The Aubergine Bed and Breakfast is located at 67 Brunswick Street. The sand-coloured brick, the round window and the green and white trim make this an attractive residence.

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67 Brunswick St.

The use of gold leaf on the carving in the heading above the door was the attraction at this house located at 30 Nile Street. Many houses in the neighbourhood have large verandahs, which often wrap around two sides when the house is on a corner lot.

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30 Nile St.