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Duffield Block

Duffield Block
Plaque no. 27
Date of plaque unveiling
3 May 1984
Speakers
William Hitchins
Location
215 Dundas Street, London, Ontario

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History

oseph Spettigue, a native of Cornwall, England, came to the Canadas in the 1840s and opened a store on the corner of Dundas and Clarence Streets in 1855.

In 1871, he built Spettigue Hall (later the Duffield Block) which contained an elegant 663-seat concert hall on the second floor. Designed in the Second Empire Style, the structure was 197 feet long, 63 feet high, and cost $12,000 to construct.

On September 19, 1871, the London Philharmonic Society gave the first concert in the hall, a cantata entitled “The May Queen” , featuring several vocalists and a lead singer from Detroit. For the performance the stage was decorated with a May tree, flags, Corinthian pillars, evergreens, and flowers. According to the London Free Press, the occasion “was a source of great gratification”, and the hall was “crammed” for the concert.

By 1878, the building had several occupants, one of whom was art teacher William Lees Judson. It is believed that artist Paul Peel received his first art lesson in a room on the building’s first floor.

James Duffield bought the building in 1891. He closed the theatre, dividing its space into a third storey, thereby altering the facade. Among the many tenants were J. Gammage and Sons, florists; Arthur Wismer, jeweller; Charles Wismer, druggist; and the Knights of Pythias.

The building also housed the Women’s Morning Music Club. Its president was Mrs. John Labatt (née Sophia Amelia Browne) and its secretary, Mrs. T. H. Carling (née Nina M. Innes).