RHODES: Burrows Block was home to a variety of tenants

The northwest corner of King and Fourth streets, 1880. John Rhodes photo

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In the July 23, 2014 issue of Chatham Kent This Week I wrote about the history of the Centre Theatre.

In this article I’d like to tell you about what stood on this large property before the Centre Theatre was built there.

I have included a line drawing of that corner which appeared in the 1880 Belden Atlas. The illustration is accurate.

The building at left, fronting on King Street, is what I call the Burrows Block. I’ll explain that a little further on in the story.

The barn-like structure, to the right, is a horse and buggy rental firm known as the Mammoth Livery.

I can trace its history to 1876 when it was operated by the partnership of Israel Evans and Jonas Jackson.

Israel Evans had been in the livery business since he was a young man and by the mid-1870s he would have been about 50 years old and ready for a change. He would eventually leave the business and become the town licence inspector.

Evans was a former mayor of the town and warden of Kent County, the only man ever to hold both posts. He, obviously, had made some friends

By 1880 the Mammoth Livery was being operated by Henry Gustin and Z. J. Patterson.

There was in that era good business for livery operators as most townsmen could not afford to own a horse and rig, and were they of a desire to visit relatives in the county, renting a rig was a popular option.

I am not sure when the stables were removed, but I do know that they were there as late as 1910. The business block, fronting on King, was there much longer.

I am not sure when the building was erected but I have traced it to 1876 and it is probably older. Two and one half floors in height, it was a wide structure featuring three store fronts one of which I have learned was employed as a barber shop by Frank Turgaon with the street numbers being (old system) No. 141, No. 143, and No. 145.

At some point the third floor was removed, which is not unusual, as levels beyond the second floor were often difficult to rent but still had to be maintained.

By 1900 the tenant picture becomes clearer with the building being equipped with a steam engine and operated as the Parisian Steam Laundry The operation was run by a man known as Chiera and another known as Vier. I could not find any directory listing for them, so I will assume it was a branch operation for an out of town firm.

After 1908 the street numbers change to No. 187, No. 189 and No. 191.

It remained under this tenant mode until 1915 when W. G Burrows and his sons George N. Burrows and William H. Burrows established an undertaking business here. They shared the street frontage with The Great Northwest Telegraph Company and the barbershop. The largest signage was for the Burrows concern and I have often seen it referenced as the Burrows Block, thus that designation.

In the mid-1920s the Burrows formed a partnership with the Campbell family and made the acquisition of “Summerlands”, which was the estate home of John McKeough. This firm still exists and is now known as Alexander and Houle. Summerlands burned down about nine years ago and has been replaced by a new structure.

There were interim tenants of the Burrows Block but a unique change came in 1928  when George Richards converted the most easterly cubicle to the function of a restaurant. A year later, Gus Liberty took over the restaurant and gave it a new name, The Tasty Lunch. I am not sure when, but this dining establishment eventually moved to Fourth Street. This firm still functions, albeit, in the Nichol Block, about opposite the old Market Square.

At this time, the Burrows Block also hosted the Kent Pharmacy and the Watt Electrical Supply Store.

In 1939 the movie business, in spite of the Depression, was thriving and there was the feeling that an additional movie house could prosper and it was at that point that the Burrows Block was removed and replaced by the Centre Theatre which functioned until 1991. The Centre Theatre still stands.

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