There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted February 6th, 2014
A Meaford postcard

One more historic home to add to our recent collection.

HC Knight postcard, Meaford 1907

Came into possession of this recently… a custom postcard dated from 1907 from H. C.(?) Knight. Have yet to research where Mr. Knight fits into the Knight dynasty in Meaford, but will follow up. His grand home, recently built at the time he sent the card, still stands at the corner of Berry and Cook Streets. The porch and balcony railing were as yet uncompleted when the earlier photo was taken.

In the recent shot from Google Streetview, you can see that the home, like many in historic Meaford, has been lovingly maintained.

HC Knight house today

Mr. Knight sent the postcard to Mr. Harry H. Bent in Belleisle, Nova Scotia.

posted January 31st, 2014
More historic homes of Meaford

86 Trowbridge Street at the turn of the century

86 Trowbridge Street West today (Google Streetview)

86 Trowbridge Street West

The house was built circa 1900 by either the Finleys or the Littles, but was owned for 50 years by Dr. Francis Louis Eberhart, who purchased it in 1920. In “How Firm A Foundation – Historic Houses of Grey County”, Ruth Cathcart writes that the house epitomized his status in town “It is a rambling, picturesque brick edifice of some character. Count the rooflines, the bays, the chimneys. Admire the cornice and winged brackets, the brickwork, the parade balcony above the curved porch… This is Ontario in all its rock-ribbed stability and prosperity.” (You can see the original square-cornered porch in the historical photo.)

The home was recently extensively renovated and restored.

27 Boucher Street West

27 Boucher Street West

(Note… if you’re from Meaford, you pronounce that “Bow-cher”.) This unique gambrel-roofed home was built in 1907 for Frank Kent – one of the two founders of the Seaman Kent Co. in Meaford. Seaman Kent built the hardwood flooring factory on Boucher Street East in Meaford, and sold their products under the brand name “Beaver Brand”. Fittingly, the house features brass doorknobs embossed with beavers. The main floor features a unique floor plan with three rooms surrounding a triangular hearth, open to each room.

To learn more about Meaford’s historical architecture, visit:
Heritage Meaford
Meaford Museum, which has walking tours available.
Building Stories

posted January 25th, 2014
Historical buildings of Meaford

Meaford postcard

One of the first things you notice when you drive into Meaford is the large number of historical buildings on the main street. Meaford is currently in the process of designating a large section of downtown as a Heritage Conservation District.

Here’s a bit of background on just a few of the buildings you’ll as you explore the town.

Cleland - Clarke House Me

At the southeast corner of Trowbridge and Cook Streets you’ll find the Cleland-Clarke house. It was built in the late 1870s by James Cleland, who was Reeve of Meaford at the time and later became Mayor. In 1889 Dr. John G. Clarke bought the house, and lived there till his death in 1930. More recently it has been home to Meaford’s 100 Mile Market, and currently offers apartments and a retail space.

According to Ruth Cathcart in “How Firm A Foundation – Historic Houses of Grey County”, it’s
a “jewel in the crown of the historic houses of Meaford… This example of [Second Empire style] is truly outstanding…it stands in all its original elaborate, high-style dignity… anchored by two towers capped by shallow hipped roofs…”

The original hitching post remains in front of the building.

Meaford Hall

Until recently, Meaford Hall actually did serve as the Town Hall offices and council chambers. Built in 1908, it would be the largest municipal building in the County of Grey, according to Meaford’s Mayor. “Its massive and graceful outlines will stand as a monument to prosperity and progress.. .and doubtless will be for many generations one of its prominent landmarks.”

The building housed the council chambers (which doubled as a courtroom), town offices, two small jail cells, and the Meaford Public Library. Farmers used the basement on market day, and in time this space served as ballroom, meeting area, and Boy Scout hall. Later divided into smaller rooms, it housed the Women’s Institute, the Meaford Quilters, a Senior Citizen’s club, and the Senior Men’s Euchre Club.

The second-floor Opera House featured a broad stage beneath a proscenium arch, rows of wooden seats (fitted with wire racks for gentlemen’s hats), and a balcony embellished with raised plasterwork acanthus leaves. It played host to travelling entertainers, the Meaford Citizens Band, live theatre, and local events in a theatre known for its exceptional acoustics.

In the last decade, the building has been magnificently restored, with a modern addition to house elevators and additional rooms built in a style that echoes the original.

Meaford Firehall

Next door to Meaford Hall, you’ll find the old Meaford Fire Hall, which served in that capacity as recently as the 1990s. It was designed by a locally-born architect, and built in 1887. Both functional and beautiful, it featured tall, wide doors for the apparatus, and a tall, slender tower for drawing up the canvas hoses to dry. (The upper stage of the tower was rebuilt in its present form in 1908.)

“The use of especially-large, round-arched openings is characteristic of the late 1880s and the 1890s. The fully-developed Romanesque Revival, with massive trim in carved stone and moulded brick, is rare outside Toronto, but is approached here in the overall effect of juxtaposed large and small openings and even in detailing like the arcaded corbelling in the parapet. The whole design is well co-ordinated and has a modest dignity.”

From “Ontario Towns”, by Ralph Greenhill, Ken Macpherson, Douglas Richardson. Published by Oberon.

More next time.

posted June 16th, 2012
The Ghost of the Meaford Museum, Part 2

Footsteps on the floorboards of the upper room when no one was there. An inexplicable chill that moved around the room on the hottest of summer days. Objects mysteriously moved by an unseen hand. And visitors who sensed a ghostly feminine presence in an upstairs room.

Ghost of the Meaford Museum

These manifestations had long led people to believe the ghost of a young woman haunted the second floor of the Meaford Museum. But clues to her identity were as evanescent as her presence.

When a gentleman claimed to have spoken to the ghost for hours, Curator Pam Woolner was too shocked to press him for details that might have contained hints about her identity.

She seemed to have a special affinity for an antique rope bed, an old cradle, and a child’s doll. But none of the items were connected; indeed, they came from different families and different eras.

But the items suggested the ghost was perhaps the spirit of a young mother who had died in childbirth – a common enough occurrence in the 1800s. The bed and cradle had come from two old Meaford families, the Sings and the Whitelaws, so perhaps there was a clue hiding in the families’ histories.

Pam searched through the Whitelaw history, and was unable to find a female who had died in her late teens or early 20s. Clues in the Sing family history proved similarly absent. “I got stumped,” says Pam.

Then a volunteer at the museum said she’d had an impression that the woman wasn’t a member of the family; her name was Louise, and she was a governess for the Sing family who’d actually died of an illness in the old roll bed.

Pam returned to the records for the 1880s and found a tantalizing clue. One year’s census showed a young woman named Louisa, of the right age, living with the Sings as a servant – though her position wasn’t specified. The next year, she was no longer listed. And around the same time, a child of two in the family had died of an illness.

Swarthmore Hall

Swarthmore Hall was the home of the Sing family of Meaford

Pam admits the evidence is sketchy. “There’s any number of reasons she disappeared. She could have married. She could have moved. Unfortunately, we can’t find any more information on her. I have no way of tracing it or proving it.”

She also points out that it would have been unusual for a servant to have used such a nice, large bed. “On the other hand, if she had been quite close to the family, they may have felt that nursing her in that bed would have been more humane than in the small cot she would have had,” she says.

Pam never felt afraid of the ghost, but she’d been irritated by the way she moved objects and by her other games. She’d begun giving the spirit a piece of her mind. “I started to talk to her. I was hoping that she’d stop some of her antics, and it seemed to work.”

Things seemed to quiet down. During the 2003 renovation, the significant artifacts were put in storage, and currently none are on display. “The bed had been up for 20 to 30 years, and they had stuffed the mattress with straw,” says Pam. “Unfortunately, that made great nesting grounds, and we had things living in it, so we decided to take it down. And the cradle hasn’t been that relevant to exhibits lately.”

Accessibility requirements meant the upstairs room could no longer be used for exhibit space or even office space, so fewer people climbed the narrow stairway. And with the museum’s renovation, the floor was firmed up, making noises from above barely noticeable in the rooms below.

Has the ghost departed?

“I’d originally thought maybe she had moved out,” says Pam. “But we’ve had some people who claim to be sensitive who’ve been upstairs in the last year or so who have felt her presence. The lady who gave us her name said that she’s not as active now because she’s quite happy with her new home and how it looks. So she doesn’t feel the need to do things.”

Visit the Meaford Museum

posted June 7th, 2012
The Ghost of the Meaford Museum, Part 1

Ghost of the Meaford Museum

The upstairs exhibit room beneath the gables of the hundred-year-old building gathers the heat on a summer day. And with no table or desk to work at, the young volunteer prefers to lie on the floor, the text panels she’s preparing spread in front of her, pencils and pens close at hand. A 14-year-old with a passion for history, Pam loves her summer volunteer job at the Meaford Museum, and she’s soon lost in her work.

She reaches for the blue marker to underline a title, but it’s gone. Of course! She knows it hasn’t simply rolled off or been accidentally kicked to the side. She’ll have better luck looking around a corner or underneath one of the exhibits – a place the marker would have no place being on its own. She prowls the room with some irritation, lifting items and peering behind furniture, until she locates the missing pen behind the wooden rocker of the old baby cradle. The ghost has been at it again!

Pam Woolner first heard about the ghost of the Meaford Museum in 1994, from the curator who hired her on in her first volunteer position. Today, Pam is herself the museum’s curator, and the ensuing 18 years have left her with a host of stories of the woman who walks the upstairs room.

“It used to sound like someone with boots on,” says Pam. “She got a big kick out of walking around, because I think she knew we could hear her footsteps downstairs.”

Before the renovation of the museum in 2003, the building – which was built to house the town’s pump house in 1895 – had not been much modified. Dark rooms crowded with antique curios led visitors to a winding narrow stairway up to the small exhibit room under the eaves. Former museum curator Fred MacDonnell once called the building a “dark, dank hole”.

The upstairs flooring was the original wood, and the thumps and creaks it gave off when someone (or something) crossed it told of their passing.

With no insulation, the upper room trapped summer heat, and Pam says it could regularly reach 120 degrees F. So the presence of the spirit was that much more noticeable. “That particular space would get hot very quickly,” says Pam, “But it wasn’t unusual to be walking around and all of a sudden have the temperature plummet 15 degrees in a spot maybe 2 feet square.”

Visitors would comment on “the cold spot”.

“There was no rational reason for it,” says Pam. “And it would move around; it was never in the same spot. Sensitive people would mention it and ask if we had a ghost.”

Her actions, and the ghost was a “she” as far as everyone was concerned, seemed centered around three artifacts in the upstairs exhibit: a century-old rope bed, an antique cradle, and a child’s doll. “She didn’t like it when we changed the way they were set up or put different things in them,” says Pam. “She would let us know she wasn’t too impressed.”

A few years back, a Meaford woman asked Pam if she’d come across some items her family had donated years before. Pam discovered a few pieces of weaving that fit the description, and tucked them in the cradle. When the woman arrived the next day to see the items, they were nowhere to be found. “She decided to move them on me,” says Pam with a sigh. “She made me look like a complete idiot in front of the lady who’d come in.”

It was months before the items surfaced – on a shelf in the attic behind a locked door. To this day, no one who would have had access to the key has admitted to moving them.

Another time, the morning after setting up a display case of men’s grooming supplies in the upstairs room, staff discovered it had been completely rearranged. “It looked better,” says Pam. “We left it that way.”

Even as a teen, when Pam had to crawl around looking for pencils that had mysteriously disappeared, she never felt afraid of the spirit. “She isn’t malevolent. I’ve never felt threatened by her or scared by her,” she says. “I’ve been frustrated by her jokes, irritated, duped by thinking there was someone walking around upstairs, but I’ve never had any fear.”

The gentleman climbs the narrow stairway heavily, and soon he can be heard moving around upstairs as he examines the exhibit. Pam has a lot of work to do, and visitors pop in throughout the day, so the shadows have grown long before she notices that the upstairs visitor hasn’t yet come down. Nearly three hours have passed, and the exhibit is small. She realizes suddenly that she hasn’t heard his footsteps in some time. He was somewhat heavyset, she remembers, and a tingle of worry crosses her spine. What if he’s fallen over, or had a heart attack, even? It’s only when she heads for the stairs to check that she hears the man descending.

“He told me he’d talked to her for quite an extensive period of time,” says Pam. But, taken aback by the idea that the spirit had actually spoken, she didn’t press the man for details. “I remember asking what she looked like, but I was a little too shocked to ask exactly what they talked about. I wish I had now.”

So who is the ghostly figure who haunts the Meaford Museum? Some have suggested her story lies in a tragic past. More on that in Part 2.

posted February 25th, 2012
Meaford church windows restore beauty from the rubble of war

Among the casualties of the Second World War was the architecture of Europe. Countless magnificent, ancient structures crumbled under the blasts of bombs and shells. Churches suffered as well; centuries of craftsmanship and painstaking, devotion to craft were reduced to rubble in seconds.

But in Meaford, fragments of European ecclesiastical history are preserved in the stained glass windows of Christ Church Anglican. Broken glass from 125 English and European cathedrals and churches have gained new life in the beautiful Gothic windows, and while the stone church itself is more than a century old, its windows contain glass once gazed upon by clergy and churchgoers during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Christ Church Anglican stained glass windows

Christ Church Anglican stained glass windows

The first Anglican service in Meaford was conducted in Stephenson’s Inn in 1856, and six years later, the parish built a frame building on the south side of the Bighead River. In 1876, a more substantial stone church welcomed the congregation, and within 14 years, the stone building had expanded to include a bell tower and a larger building which has now become the parish hall.

In 1938, a young rector arrived at the church, and Reverend Harold Appleyard quickly plunged into working with the congregation, the community, and the building, spearheading the difficult task of excavating under the original church to create a basement with a passage under the cloister to link it with the parish hall basement

But when war broke out in Europe, it wasn’t long before Reverend Appleyard heard the call. He joined the Grey and Simcoe Foresters in 1941as Chaplain, and on Sunday, March 22, 1942 preached his farewell sermon before leaving to join the Canadian Chaplain Service.

The destruction in England struck him as appalling nearly as soon as he landed. He quickly began to collect shards of stained glass from the shattered windows of damaged churches, and soon began to envision using them for a memorial window at his parish church. On volunteer fire duty one night in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, he met an architect responsible for London’s ancient churches, who referred him to the Cox and Barnard Stained Glass Works in Hove, Sussex. The firm offered to design and re-lead the glass into windows to fit Appleyard’s Meaford church – free of charge in gratitude for the Canadian war effort.

Rev. Harold Appleyard in 1946

Rev. Harold Appleyard in 1946

After being shipped to Europe, Appleyard continued his collection, retrieving glass from churches in France, Belgium and Holland, and a year after the war ended, the church unveiled them as memorials to the parishioners and townspeople who had been killed or wounded during the years of fighting.

“During my first few moments in England, the appalling destruction of homes and churches alike, along with the courage of the British people, made it desirable to link their sacrifice with ours,” said Appleyard at the service dedicating the memorial windows, his words heard in a broadcast across Canada and Britain.

The church, which became a Centre for Prayer for World Peace in 1999, is celebrating its 150 year anniversary this year. You may visit Christ Church and see the windows on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. For information on the windows or booking tours, call Sharleen Schefter at (519) 538-3365.

posted January 27th, 2012
An Ontario retirement community with a small town look

With many of our virtual focus groups in, we’re starting to get a clear picture of what the Meaford Haven retirement neighbourhood will look like. In keeping with the genuine small-town Ontario heritage appearance that Meaford has naturally acquired over the last century and a half, our prospective residents have voted resoundingly for a “small town Ontario” look for this Southern Georgian Bay retirement community.

The initial survey described that style this way. “This bears a close family resemblance to small towns and villages all around Ontario, such as Meaford. It’s made from modern-day materials and is clearly not 100+ years old, but the buildings make clear reference to the indigenous historic architecture of the area.”

So it seems prospective residents of Meaford Haven want to have it feel and look like an extension of the beautiful town of Meaford.

The other options respondents could choose from generated much less enthusiasm. While a rural look – rustic Ontario farmhouses typical of the surrounding countryside – did get some votes, the Muskoka cottage look and the modern community got a couple of big collective thumbs down. Seems people think that’s been way overdone in other communities in the Southern Georgian Bay area.

Here are a few comments that came in along with the surveys.

Have a look at the Maple Meadows project in Meaford. A very nice looking development. Whatever you do, please don’t go Muskoka Cottage. It will end up looking like all the other Collingwood/Thornbury area developments.

Small town feel, relaxed lifestyle, have lived the big city life and when retired we only want to enjoy the rest of our years in comfort.

The most important thing for me, would be to ensure that the building are adapted towards seniors; no/very few steps, ensuring all properties are built with safety and comfort in mind and opportunities to socialize with other people. For example, slip free floors, possibly cupboards and shelves that rotate, less bending, etc.

I like the look of the old Ontario farmhouses and Georgian manors with zipper edge brickwork, keystone arches, gingerbread trim, oak doors with brass kickplates, stained glass accent windows. An old world exterior but with a modern interior. Like taking an old farm house and stripping it to the clapboards, putting up new stud walls with modern insulation, wiring, plumbing, internet network, entertainment and security wiring, with chair rails and cornice mouldings thrown in for good measure.

See the full results here.

And you can still be part of the design of Meaford Haven by joining in the virtual focus groups.

posted August 11th, 2011
Meaford’s retirement community and Meaford architecture

At Meaford Haven’s meeting with businesspeople and municipal representatives on Tuesday, Meaford Councillor Barb Clumpus brought up an important issue. “Will Meaford Haven’s buildings reflect the beautiful architectural heritage we have in Meaford?” she asked. Clumpus is a heritage advocate and a proponent of preserving the architectural styles that make Meaford a beautiful example of historical small town Ontario. She worked with the group that helped develop Meaford’s Community Improvement Plan, which sets out guidelines to help retain the qualities that attract many people to the community.

Paul agreed that drawing on Meaford’s architectural vernacular was important. “The last thing we need is another ski chalet,” he said, to chuckles ’round the room.

A Meaford heritage streetscape.

A Meaford heritage streetscape.

With the initial architect’s conceptions getting under way soon, interested people have an opportunity to offer their input on what the Meaford Haven retirement bungalows and retirement condominium apartments will look like – even on layouts and floor plans. If you’re interested in participating in Meaford Haven’s virtual focus groups, sign up and get your ideas heard.