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Historic Sites Committee

122 Carling Street



122 Carling Street, London, Ontario (present site of the Marienbad Restaurant) London, ON
42° 59' 2.6196" N, 81° 15' 6.1344" W
2 October 1990

122 Carling Street was one of many commercial structures built in the 1850s in London.

The coming of the railway had turned the village into a city almost overnight. A major land speculation boom followed, with some predicting the city’s population would reach one million by 1900. The 1870 financial panic of 1857 destroyed these hopes, and three-quarters of the city’s businesses went bankrupt over the next three years.

Of the several newspapers published in London in 1855, only the London Free Press had survived by 1859.

The American Civil War had a major impact on the city and the newspaper. Spies, foreign journalists, and Pinkerton’s agents moved in and out of the city’s hotels. British soldiers were ever present, as the local garrison had been reinforced in case of possible invasion by Union troops seeking retribution for perceived British support of the Confederacy. Several Free Press reporters were dispatched to cover the conflict and later reported on the battles of the Fenian Raids. Free Press reporter Malcolm Bremner slept in the field before the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866, to be sure not to miss the action.

By 1871, the Free Press moved to Richmond Street and 122 Carling Street became the Queen’s Hotel, later one of London’s leading hostelries, with 28 neatly furnished guest rooms and an elegant dining room.

In 1921, this building housed The Farmer’s Advocate, an agricultural journal founded by William Weld in 1866. It was the country’s longest published agricultural paper, circulating throughout Canada and the U. S. for 99 years. One of its editors, Watson Porter, also became the broadcast chairman for the influential radio program, National Farm Radio Forum.

In 1974, the Marienbad Restaurant opened in the building.

Carling Breweries



At the bottom of Ann Street, near the banks of the Thames River, London, Ontario London, ON
42° 59' 31.2108" N, 81° 15' 33.246" W
7 October 1995

Carling Breweries was established in London in 1843 by Thomas Carling, a native of Yorkshire, England, who had settled in London Township in 1819.

He married Margaret Routledge in 1820, and they moved to London in 1843 with their sons William, Isaac, and John. Thomas established a small brewery on Waterloo Street, an ideal location directly c. 1875 opposite the British military garrison, which quartered thirsty soldiers.

In 1850, Thomas passed control of the brewery to his son William, and John was made a partner. John Carling later served in Prime Minister Macdonald’s cabinet, was knighted, and appointed to the Senate.

The business expanded rapidly, with a new brewery in Montreal and agencies across the country. Products were shipped throughout Canada and the United States.

Between 1873 and 1875, a new brewery was built on Ann Street near the Thames River, the site having been chosen for its proximity to a large spring-water pond. In 1879, a spectacular fire destroyed the building and seriously wounded William Carling, who had attempted to save some files from the burning building. Weakened by exhaustion and exposure, he died of pneumonia two weeks later.

The Carlings rebuilt the brewery which was 300 feet long and five and a half stories high, with a seven-story malting tower, and surrounded by a complex of outbuildings and warehouses.

After John Carling’s death in 1911, his son T. Harry Carling assumed the company presidency. Wartime restrictions and prohibition reduced the brewery’s output and it closed temporarily in 1920.

In 1924, the business became a joint stock company, Carling Breweries Limited. In 1930 it was purchased by E.P. Taylor and closed in 1936 when amalgamated with the Kuntz Brewery of Waterloo.

Buchan House



566 Dundas Street, London, Ontario London, ON
42° 59' 18.6504" N, 81° 13' 59.9304" W
2 June 1973

The area to the west of Adelaide Street was once the eastern outskirts of London and a residential location for the well-to-do.

Buchan House, formerly Oakhurst, was built in 1871 of white brick in the Italianate style for Thomas Aspden.

In 1887, Thomas Baker Escott bought the house and added the magnificent towered front. Escott established a major grocery wholesale company, with his local operation in a warehouse on York Street where he sold a large variety of foods and spices.

In 1919, the house was sold to Albert D. Jordan and became the London Institute of Musical Arts (later the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music). The attic was transformed into an assembly hall, with a platform for piano and instruments which were played at weekly recitals. Jordan was the organist and choir master at First Methodist Church and a major figure in the Musical Arts Society. In this capacity he also organized concerts. One such event in 1916 was a performance of Handel's "Messiah" by a chorus of 400 and a symphony orchestra which included Guy Lombardo. Other concerts featured such groups as the New York Symphony and the Russian Symphony Orchestra.

In 1945, Branch 279 of the Canadian Legion purchased the building. The branch had been founded in 1936 by a group of First World War veterans.

While preliminary meetings were being held it was learned that John Buchan, the first Baron Tweedsmuir, had been appointed Governor General of Canada. Buchan allowed the use of his name for the branch and became its Honorary President. His coat of arms and his sunflower crest were also adopted by the branch.

The building has since been renovated many times, and had one of the finest clubrooms in Canada. The Tweedsmuir Branch was active in aiding veterans, and contributed to many organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Appeal.  The building now houses My Sister's Place. 

Brick Street Methodist Church



362 Commissioners Road West, London, Ontario London, ON
42° 57' 21.7908" N, 81° 16' 37.344" W
16 August 1977

The northern concessions of Westminster Township, through which Commissioners Road passes, were first surveyed in 1809 by an American, Simon Zelotes Watson. After a land dispute with Colonel Thomas Talbot, during which Watson challenged Talbot to a duel (a challenge which Talbot contemptuously rejected), Watson returned to the United States.

In preparation for war with the United States, a road was driven through the bush from Burlington Bay to the Detroit River. Locally, Commissioners Road soon served its purpose as a retreat route for British General Henry Proctor after his defeat at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813. The retreating column is thought to have engaged in a skirmish with pursuing Kentucky riflemen on what is now Reservoir Hill. During the engagement, local settler Phoebe McNames is said to have passed out ammunition and assisted with the wounded under fire.

Early settlers, Phoebe McNames and her husband Peter, once owned Lot 34, Concession 1, Westminster Township on which this church and its cemetery are now located.

The first burials occurred about 1813, making this one of the oldest cemeteries in the area.

American Methodist circuit riders travelling along Commissioners Road preached to local settlers and a Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1816. The congregation erected their first church on this site shortly thereafter.

They replaced it in 1852 with the present church using brick supplied by one of the many brickyards that gave Commissioners Road its local name, Brick Street.

In 1925, the congregation became part of the United Church of Canada. The church was stuccoed in the early 1930’s and was sold in 1962 to the Free Christian Reformed Church.

It is the second oldest church building in London, and currently houses a Montessori School.

Harriet Anne Boomer 1835-1921, 513 Dundas Street



525 Dundas Street, London, Ontario (present site of H.B. Beal Secondary School) London, ON
42° 59' 12.0948" N, 81° 14' 4.3584" W
3 June 1999

Harriet Anne Mills, born in Somerset, England in 1835, came with her mother and sister to Red River, near Winnipeg, in 1851. After returning to England in 1856, Harriet married Alfred Roche, a businessman who was involved with the Hudson’s Bay Company. In the 1870s, she travelled with her husband to South Africa, but Alfred died on the return voyage in 1876 and was buried at sea.


Harriet Anne Mills, born in Somerset, England in 1835, came with her mother and sister to Red River, near Winnipeg, in 1851. After returning to England in 1856, Harriet married Alfred Roche, a businessman who was involved with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In the 1870s, she travelled with her husband to South Africa, but Alfred died on the return voyage in 1876 and was buried at sea. Two years later, Harriet married the Reverend Michael Boomer, Dean of the Anglican Diocese of Huron, Principal of Huron College, and a signer of the charter of the Western University of London, Ontario.

Harriet devoted her life to service for the community and played a major role in establishing a number of women’s societies in London. She helped found the London Local Council of Women in 1893, serving for twenty years as its president.

She was particularly active in the field of education, becoming the first woman trustee on the London Board of Education in 1898, and a tireless advocate of training in business and domestic science for girls and technical training for boys. She helped establish the local Red Cross branch, which was initially set up to assist Canadian soldiers serving in the Boer War and was a member of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) which later named a chapter in her honour.

In 1903 Harriet became vice-president of the National Council of Women and was the first president of the local Victorian Order of Nurses from 1906 to 1912. She was also active with the Canadian Club, the Mothers’ Union, the St. John Ambulance Association and the Women’s Christian Association.

Upon her death in 1921, the Free Press called her “perhaps London’s most philanthropic and patriotic worker.” Given Harriet’s life-long interest in education, it is perhaps fitting that her home was demolished to make way for H.B. Beal Technical and Commercial High School in 1916.

Grace and Susan Blackburn



652 Talbot Street, London, Ontario London, ON
42° 59' 25.6992" N, 0° 0' 0" E
2 October 1974

Josiah Blackburn (1823-1890) emigrated to Upper Canada in 1851 and the following year purchased a London newspaper, the Canadian Free Press, for $500, renaming it the London Free Press.

Of the eight children of Josiah and his wife, Emma Jane, four served at the newspaper: Walter and Arthur as publishers; and Grace and Susan as writers.

Grace and Susan were born in 1865 and 1871 respectively. They attended public and high schools in London, and Grace went on to Hellmuth Ladies College. Susan attended the Western University of London, Ontario and in 1900 was its first woman graduate.  In 1894, Grace went to Minnesota to teach dramatic reading and English, later becoming principal of a school in Indiana, while continuing to send home articles. In 1903, the sisters were sent by the Free Press to New York as art and drama critics. During this period, Grace became one of Canada’s best theatre critics.

In 1906, they went overseas. Susan spent a year in both Germany and Japan, teaching and writing travel articles, while Grace furthered her theatrical education in Europe. Grace wrote much poetry, and her novel set during the First World War, The Man Child, was published in 1930. She helped establish the London Drama League, and was president of the London Women’s Mess Club and the Women’s Canadian Club. Susan was a director of both the Community Concert Association and the Women’s Music Club. She was active in the Western Art League and the London Drama League.

From 1894 until 1928, Grace, under the penname Fanfan, wrote a weekend column of travel narratives, poetry, and essays. Susan wrote editorials and some travel narratives. They were so well regarded as journalists that notables in the world of art, music, and drama would visit them while in London.

Both sisters died in this house, Grace in 1928, and Susan in 1946.




80 Ridout Street South, London, Ontario London, ON
42° 58' 23.0268" N, 81° 14' 50.1864" W
10 December 1970

One of London’s finest nineteenth century estates, Beechwood once contained a fine grove of beech and sugar maples.

John Birrell, who built the house in 1854, was born in the Shetland Islands in 1815. He arrived in London in 1840 and became a leading dry goods wholesaler (his business being valued at $150,000 at his death in 1875). He was a director of the London and Port Stanley Railway, president of the London, Huron, and Bruce Railway, and founder of the Board of Trade. He helped in the construction of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, was president of the local Conservative Association, and a founder of the Huron and Erie Savings and Loan Society.

With his wife, Maria Louisa Sunley, he raised ten children. Birrell died of heart disease in 1875. As evidence of his popularity, there were 167 carriages in the funeral procession.

In 1891, the house was purchased by Colonel William Moir Gartshore, who came to London in 1873 as manager of the London Car Wheel Company. In 1876, he married Catharine McClary, whose family’s stove company played a major role in London’s development as a manufacturing centre. Gartshore was the longtime manager and later president of the McClary Manufacturing 1970 Company.

Gartshore was also an officer in the Queen’s Own Regiment, served in the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, and was later Commander of the First Regiment of Cavalry (later the First Hussars). A director of the Western Fair and chairman of the Victoria Hospital Trust, Gartshore was also briefly mayor of London in 1916, until a vote recount indicated a tie, which was broken in his opponent’s favour.

In 1951, Beechwood passed to Gartshore’s widowed daughter, Edna Cleghorn, and in 1967 the property was left to Victoria Hospital. The house was demolished in 1972.

The Gartshore Estate Apartments now occupy the site.

Banting House



442 Adelaide Street North, London, Ontario London, ON
42° 59' 24.0288" N, 81° 13' 54.804" W
30 October 1970

The son of a Methodist farmer, Frederick Banting was born on November 14, 1891, in Alliston, Ontario. He developed an interest in diabetes at a young age after witnessing a friend’s lingering death from the disease.

In 1916, Banting received his medical degree from the University of Toronto. He then served as a doctor during the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross for tending patients in the field, while himself wounded.

Upon returning to Canada, Banting moved to London and opened a small practice at 442 Adelaide Street while continuing to study diabetes. In October 1920, he was asked to lecture at Western University’s Medical School on the subject of the pancreas.

On the night of October 30, he had gone to bed thinking about pancreatic spots which he had been investigating. At 2:30 a.m. he got up and wrote, “Ligate pancreatic ducts of dogs. Wait 6 - 8 weeks.... Remove residue and extract.” 

He appealed unsuccessfully to the Western University of London, Ontario to grant him research facilities, but obtained a lab and an assistant, Dr. Charles H. Best, at the University of Toronto.

After much research, on July 30, 1921, Banting achieved a medical breakthrough by bringing a dog out of a diabetic coma with his pancreatic extract, insulin. On July 11, 1922, it was first used on a person with diabetes, resuscitating him from near death to health. Insulin became a universal treatment for diabetes.

Sir Frederick Banting, who won the Nobel Prize in 1923 and received more honours than any Canadian before him, remained extremely humble, giving away much of his prize money to research.

During the Second World War, he was involved in many areas of research including cancer, seasickness, and silicosis. In 1941 Banting died in an airplane crash in Newfoundland while on his way to Britain.

African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1848-1869



275 Thames Street, London, Ontario (original location) London, ON
42° 58' 40.5768" N, 81° 15' 14.8392" W
11 August 1986

This is the site of the first church of the Black community in London, Upper Canada (now Ontario). This church, however, existed in a much wider historical context.

All European empires which began their expansion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used some kind of slavery in their imperial territories, with most slaves shipped from the west coast of Africa. The British Empire shipped hundreds of thousands of slaves to labour in the British American colonies.

The first legislature of Upper Canada, under Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, passed a statute on July 9, 1793, that ended the importation of further slaves into the province. The abolition of slavery throughout the Empire received Royal Assent from King William IV on August 28, 1833 , after passage by the Imperial Parliament.

Subsequently, Upper Canada became a sanctuary for Black slaves from the U.S., and the London area had a sizeable colony of Black refugees by the 1840s.

In 1847, land was bought for the African Methodist Episcopal Church (also referred to as the Fugitive Slave Chapel). It became the British Methodist Episcopal Church in 1856.

It is believed that the American orator and Harper’s Ferry revolt leader John Brown spoke at the church in the summer of 1858, a gathering to which only those who knew the password were admitted. Reports suggest that Brown’s plan was the formation of a Black military company which would join with other units in St. Catharines, Chatham, and Windsor to aid in his planned revolution. This objective was never realized.

In 1869, the congregation moved to Grey Street where it built a new church, Beth Emmanuel, which remains today at No. 430. The congregation’s tenure here is a testament to the importance of religion to Black settlers and the deep faith which gave them hope during a long period of oppression.