photographs


CIBC in October 2012 (from Google Streetview)

Deseronto CIBC in October 2012 (from Google Streetview)

The CIBC branch in Deseronto will be closing its doors for good this summer, bringing to an end more than 120 years of banking history in the town.

The Bank of Montreal was the first firm to open a bank in Deseronto: Herbert Osborne took this photograph of its original Main Street branch in around 1895:

Bank of Montreal, c.1895

Bank of Montreal, c.1895

In 1904 the Bank of Montreal built a new structure at Centre and Main on the corner of the park lot.

DESCOM-06-23

DESCOM-06-23

Shortly after the Bank of Montreal opened its new building, the Standard Bank opened a branch in Deseronto, in September 1905. Seventeen years later, a new brick building, the current CIBC branch, was constructed on the south side of Main Street. Here is the bank under construction:

2009.26 CIBC-09-02

2009.26 CIBC-09-02

And here is the finished building in the 1920s:

2009.26 CIBC-09-15

2009.26 CIBC-09-15

In 1928 the Standard Bank was taken over by the Canadian Bank of Commerce. During the Great Depression it was common practice for banks to rationalize their branches and transfer customers to another firm. The Bank of Montreal closed down in 1932 and its customers were moved to the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

This is how the building looked in 1933:

2009.26 CIBC-09-17

2009.26 CIBC-09-17

The Bank of Montreal building was taken over by the Town of Deseronto and became the Town Hall in 1945, with Council holding its first meeting there on November 15th of that year. In 1961 the Canadian Bank of Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada to become the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The CIBC Deseronto branch celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005.

The Deseronto Public Library and Deseronto Archives were delighted to welcome Frances Itani back to town to mark the culmination of the Tri-County Reads events for 2015. Tri-County Reads is a joint program of the Public Libraries of Northumberland, Hastings and Prince Edward County and this year the book chosen was Frances Itani’s Deafening, a First World War novel which is partly based in Deseronto.

Guided tour walkers at the Dockside Tavern, Deseronto

The Deseronto event on October 17th began with a guided walk for around 45 people around Mill and Main Streets. The photograph shows the tour group as it passed what is now the Dockside Tavern. This building was originally the Empress Hotel, owned by William Jamieson. Jamieson’s widow sold the lot to John Freeman, Frances Itani’s great-grandfather, who ran it as the Arlington Hotel. Itani’s grandmother, Gertie Freeman,  was born in the house adjoining the hotel in 1898. Gertie became deaf at 18 months and her life experiences formed the inspiration for Grania, the main character in Deafening. Like Grania, Gertie attended the Ontario Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (now the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf) in Belleville.

The house where Gertie Freeman was born can be seen in this late nineteenth century photograph of the property, taken by Herbert A. Osborne:

The Empress (later Arlington) Hotel, c.1895

At the time the Freemans owned the hotel, Deseronto was at its industrial peak. This picture was taken from an upstairs window, and shows the mills and factories of Mill Street:

View from Arlington Hotel, c.1895

The walking tour also stopped outside the Post Office and Naylor’s Theatre, both of which featured in Deafening and its sequel, Tell. Afterwards, the group convened for lunch at the Legion, followed by a fascinating talk from Frances Itani on the inspiration and process of writing the novel Deafening and Tell.

Frances Itani

Frances Itani

Fans of the novelist will be pleased to hear that Frances is currently working on the third novel  in the Deseronto trilogy.  This one will take a particular interest in the experiences of people who are adopted and Frances is keen to interview individuals who are adopted and who are willing to share their thoughts with the author. Please email the Archives at deseronto.archives@gmail.com if you were adopted and would be happy to be interviewed by Frances for her next Deseronto-based book.

If you missed the history talk on the nineteenth century development of Deseronto this weekend, there’s a chance to catch it again on YouTube:

Due to a technical hitch on the day, the visuals weren’t available, but this version includes the slides!

2015.09 two pairs of glasses made by Canada Optical

After the iron we featured a few weeks ago, here are two more examples of Deseronto-made items. These glasses frames were manufactured at the Canada Optical Company’s factory on Main Street in Deseronto, the building which was until recently the Deseronto Fleamarket and which originally contained drying kilns for the Rathbun Company’s lumber business. It is marked number 15 on the detail of the 1895 map below:

Dry kilns and sash factory. c.1895

According to an article in the Quinte Scanner newspaper of October 4th, 1972 this building had several other uses between these two:

The building which is occupied by Canada Optical at present housed a match factory in the 1920’s, a meat packing plant in the early ’30’s and a cheese factory after that. Canada Optical started operations in 1946; in 1947 an extension was added to the factory, this consisted of an old hanger from the nearby wartime airfield.

At this time the firm was called the Canada Zyl Company, (it is still known by this name to local residents) and was producing four or five different types of spectacle frames in only two colours. They were made of a highly inflammable material and had to be stored in thick walled buildings well away from the main plant.

Here is how the building looked in 1972:

The factory moved from this location in 1996 to a building at the airport on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. It closed down in 2002.

Thanks to Andrea Hinz for the donation of these frames, another piece of Deseronto’s manufacturing past.

Aerial photograph of Deseronto in winter, c.1920

Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-213876

This aerial photograph is a reproduction of an image held at Library and Archives Canada. It is undated, but was probably taken around 1920, judging from the visible buildings. Right at the bottom of the picture is the chimney of the Big Mill, and on the right is the sash and door factory which took up the western side of the bayshore end of Mill Street. The two roads stretching away from the photographer are Green Street and Mill Street, both of which were lined with trees. The Arlington Hotel can be seen on the middle right of the image, with the Canadian National Railway station just in front of it, on the other side of Main Street.

The Archives will be closed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but will be open again on January 7th. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy and peaceful midwinter break!

Estella Burkett was a teacher at the Deseronto Public School. She was born in Maynooth, Ontario in 1913 to Agnes Shields and Patrick Burkett. The picture below shows her with her class of children in 1949, outside the old Public School building. Estella retired in 1974 and lived in Belleville until her death in 2010 at the age of 97.

2010.27(6)

Estella did a considerable amount of travelling in her vacations and she donated some of her photographic materials and notes about her excursions to the Deseronto Archives in 2004. These materials include some photographs taken on a trip to Berlin in 1955, ten years after the end of World War II and six years before the city was divided by the construction of the Berlin Wall. Estella took photographs of the monuments her tour group visited, including this image of a statue of Joseph Stalin, which was removed in 1961 and melted down.

Statue of Stalin

She also photographed the Brandenburg Gate, which would be isolated by the Berlin Wall six years later and impassable until the Wall’s destruction in 1989. The damage caused to the Gate during the Second World War is visible in this image.

Brandenburg Gate 1955

These photos are good examples of the way that small local collections can be unexpected sources of information about entirely different parts of the world. It’s not until we dig into the boxes and do the work of describing the materials, that it becomes possible for everyone else to see what is in them.

August 4th 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Canada’s entry into the First World War. Organizations and communities around the world are marking this occasion by examining the effect the war had on their local area. We’ll be doing this in Deseronto, too.

In the Archives we started by researching the 34 names of the First World War casualties named on the town’s war memorial. In the process we found out some interesting facts about the monument itself.

 

War memorial in Deseronto, April 2014

The memorial, which stands on the South side of Main Street, opposite Rathbun Park, was unveiled in a ceremony on Labour Day (September 3rd) 1923. The event was attended by many of the townspeople, as the photograph below (one of several taken on the day) shows. A piece of land forty feet square was purchased by the Town of Deseronto from the Rathbun Company for the monument’s site, at a cost of $100.

Unveiling ceremony for the Deseronto war memorial

The memorial itself was donated to the town by a former Deseronto resident named Thomas Carson Brown. Thomas was born on 21 April 1870, the son of Thomas Brown and Emily Varty and one of 10 children. His mother died in childbirth in Lennox and Addington County (where the family had a farm) when Thomas was seven years old and by 1881 the family had moved to Mill Point (Deseronto). In the 1891 census, when he was 21, Thomas’s trade is given as bricklayer. His father died just six weeks after the census was taken.

It was through the bricklaying trade that Thomas C. Brown would go on to earn his fortune in New York State, where his firm constructed a number of public buildings, including the Plattsburgh Normal School, pictured here, and a large section of the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora. Deseronto’s newspaper, The Tribune, reported Brown’s marriage in August 1899 to Hattie B. Humphrey, noting that “the groom is well and favourably known in Deseronto, where he passed his boyhood days. He is now engaged in the contracting business in Little Falls. He is a brother of Mrs. Jas. Sexsmith.” Thomas’s sister, Jane Brown, married James Sexsmith in Deseronto in January 1884. She died of pneumonia in 1910.

Plattsburgh Normal School

Brown went on to serve as a Senator in the New York Senate between 1925 and 1930, where he took a keen interest in prison reform issues. He clearly never forgot his home town of Deseronto, as the generous gift of a war memorial demonstrates. It is not just a war memorial, however, as Thomas C. Brown ensured that his parents and five of his sisters (Jane, Ida, Etta, Emma and Annie) were also commemorated on the structure, as you can see in this detail.

Detail of war memorial

Thomas himself died on May 24th, 1952 at his home at 1174 Lowell Road, Schenectady, New York: you can read his obituary in the Schenectady Gazette (PDF made available through the Fulton History site).

Over the next four years we will be marking the 100th anniversaries of local people’s involvement in the First World War here on the blog. There are a lot of stories to be told and we are always keen to hear new ones, so if you have any local World War One information which you would like to share with the world, please let us know!

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