The “Stonetown” is an apt moniker for St. Marys, as the town is filled with unique architecture featuring locally-quarried limestone. The stone buildings reveal much about the town’s history, and in many cases, the development of the town can be witnessed in the architecture. Heritage St. Marys, a local conservancy group, has lead the way in preserving and maintaining the unique stone buildings found in St. Marys. Take some time to wander through the “Stonetown” enjoying the architecture!
Stories of the Stores
Available at various locations throughout town, including the Information Centre and Tourism Ambassador locations, this pocket-sized walking guide includes interesting facts about historic storefronts in the downtown core. Click the image below to view a PDF version of the guide.
Location: Glass Street
Original Owner: Grand Trunk Railway
Date of Construction: 1858
The Junction Station was constructed in 1858, under the supervision of the famous Canadian contractor Sir Casmir Gzowski, as a major station on the Toronto to Sarnia Branch of the Grand Trunk Railway. This station is believed to be the only remaining structure in Canada in which the famous inventor Thomas Edison worked while employed with the Grand Trunk. In 1933, the desk which Edison is purported to have worked at was removed from the Station and relocated to the Edison Institute in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1973, the Junction Station was declared to be of national historic and architectural significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board.
GRAND TRUNK/VIA STATION
Location: 5 James Street North
Original Owner: Grand Trunk Railway
Date of Construction: 1907
The Grand Trunk Railway depot was constructed in the summer of 1907, and was the third station on the line at St. Marys. It was built of a glazed brick of brownish tint known as Logan Brick. Originally the depot contained a main waiting room with a ticket and operating room at the rear, men’s and women’s toilets, a ladies’ retiring room, a smoking room for men and an express department located at the north end. The building was of individual design but according to The Argus of July 25, 1907, bore similarities to the Paris depot.
Location: 175 Queen Street East
Original Owner: Town of St. Marys
Date of Construction: 1891
This Romanesque Revival building, designed by George Wallace Gouinlock, Toronto architect, was built in 1901 of local limestone with red sandstone as the contrasting elements for window arches and checkerboard effects in the façade. The massive entrances on the south and west façades of the building and the two towers on the south, emphasize the wishes of Councilor Mathieson, a member of the building committee, who stated the following:
“We should not adopt a florid style of ornamentation, but yet we should not erect a painfully plain building simply because it is cheaper. The ornamentation should be of a lasting and permanent character. We are not building a hall or market for right now, but for years or generations to come. Let us build right.”
Due to its prominent location on the north side of the main street, and dominating as it does the sky-line of the Town, it plays an important role in the character of the downtown area.
Location: Queen Street across the Thames River
Original Owner: Town of St. Marys
Date of Construction: 1865
This pre-confederation stone four-arched structure spanning the Thames River is and has been the most important of the several bridges in the Town. Several log and timber bridges occupied the site until Town Council in August of 1864 authorized the signing of a contract with Alex McDonald “for the construction of a stone arched bridge across the Thames, on Queen Street, according to the plan submitted by Mr.. Niven, P. L. S. – cost $4 450– completion date September 1, 1865.” In 1981, Town Council repealed the historic designation of the Victoria Bridge.
ST. MARYS PUBLIC LIBRARY
Location: 15 Church Street North
Original Owner: St. Marys Public Library
Date of Construction: 1904
Reasons for Designation: This building was built in 1904 and 1905 using a $10 000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. It was designed following the accepted Carnegie Brick Temple plan, by architect J. A. Humphries. It is built of St. Marys limestone, the work being completed by Robert Clyde, local stonemason. This building was preserved because of its relationship to the Town Hall and its importance to the social development of the Town of St. Marys.
Location: corner of Queen Street and James Street
Original Owner: Town of St. Marys
Date of Construction: 1899
Reasons for Designation: The water tower was built in 1899 and is a solid stone structure which is representative of other stone buildings erected during this period within the Town of St. Marys. It is one of the best examples of industrial architecture constructed during the turn of the century in Southwestern Ontario.
TRACY HOUSE / ST. MARYS MUSEUM
Location: 177 Church Street South
Original Owner: George Tracy
Date of Construction: circa 1854
Reasons for Designation: Constructed in 1854 of smooth dressed St. Marys limestone, the Museum represents the earliest large stone residence in Town. The structure was built for the family of George Tracy, one of the Town’s earliest settlers. The builder and designer was Robert Barbour of New York, while the masonry was done by local stonemasons Frank Anderson, Andrew Know and John Whimster. Set in a prominent location atop the hill, the Museum served as an important residence for many years and for a time was the home of William Weir, the mayor of St. Marys from 1916-1917. The large blocks of limestone used in the building compliment the sturdy Georgian proportions, while the picturesque curling bargeboards and the unusual chimney groupings set on an angle in the roof, all add to the charm and uniqueness of the structure.
Location: Water Street South
Date of Construction: Mid-1800s
The Thames Quarry Company grew out of a number of small, independently owned quarries that had been opened along Water street in the mid - 1800s. Finally, one quarrying company developed and the two pits were joined by a tunnel under Water Street. The quarrying industry began by retrieving blocks of limestone with the use of dynamite, to be used in the construction of buildings. The industry also produced crushed stone and lime as construction needs changed. In 1914 the Thames Quarry Company sought to expand and petitioned the Town of St. Marys to close the Water Street route out of town so that limestone under the road could be extracted. Town council decided Water Street was too important and the proposal was rejected. The Thames Quarry Company ceased operations in 1930, although a stock pile of crushed stone continued to be used years afterward. All useful pieces of machinery including the pumps that had continually pumped the water from the springs out of the pit were removed and the two quarries filled with water. However, railway tracks once used to carry limestone out of the quarry still lie on the bottom. In 1945 the town purchased the quarries along with 50 acres of land for a nominal fee. In 1946 Don Fletcher was hired as lifeguard for the sum of $25 per week. Don's brother Doug ran the concessions and admissions. Either Don or Doug would sleep in the booth to safeguard its contents each night. In 1950 the decision to charge admission was made. Local children could purchase a season's pass for 25 cents.
Location: Grand Trunk Trail over the Thames River
Date of Construction: Mid 1850s
This community walkway started out as part of the historic Grand Trunk Railway. In 1858, the GTR reached the small village of St. Marys from Toronto and points further east. From here, the line went west to Sarnia and then, on the other side of the border, from Port Huron to Chicago. When the railway builders arrived in St. Marys in the mid-1850s, the major challenge for both structural engineers and contractors was the erection of two high railway bridges. One was needed to cross the Thames River. The other took a spur line to London across Trout Creek. Both required a row of massive stone pillars to support the girders and tracks. These immediately became landmarks in St. Marys and are still known as the Sarnia Bridge and the London Bridge. Today, VIA Rail continues to operate the line to London. However, it abandoned the line to Sarnia in 1989, placing the future of the wonderful Sarnia Bridge in doubt. In 1995, the Town of St. Marys was able to purchase the Sarnia Bridge from the Canadian National Railway, as well as the right of way within Town limits along the abandoned line. A citizens' committee was formed in June, 1996, to work towards transforming this old railway line into a trail for everyone to enjoy - residents and visitors alike.
JAMES CARTER HOUSE
Location: 67 Peel Street South
Original Owner: James Carter
Date of Construction: 1883
The James Carter House is one of four mansions built at the expense of George Carter for himself and members of his family. By 1868, George Carter had acquired the town block bounded by Jones, Peel, Elgin and King Streets and intended to build several homes for his family on this land. George Carter’s first home (the present 224 Jones Street East) was built as the “home place” in 1869; the house at 217 Jones Street East was erected around 1875 for his daughter Harriet and her husband Clarence Freeman; in 1881, the house at 236 Jones Street East was built for Charlotte Carter and her husband H. L. Rice; the fourth mansion at 67 Peel Street South was built for James Carter and his wife Mary Box in 1883. This family compound of four grand houses erected within a space of fifteen years owes its existence to the prosperity of the St. Marys’ grain market in the 1860s and 1870s, and of George Carter’s ability to capture that market. The James Carter house is the most advanced building of its time in St. Marys; with its elaborate detailing, the house would easily have been at home in the City of Toronto during the same period. This building is attributed stylistically to William Williams, the St. Marys Town Clerk during the 1880s and the designer of our provincial structures of that period.