McArthur Block

The McArthur Block was owned by Joseph McArthur. When residents used the term “McArthur Block” they usually referred to any of the buildings owned by McArthur on the west side of Colborne Street, north of what was the McArthur House Hotel. The buildings were a fixture of the main street and well known to everyone as a good business address.

The first “McArthur’s Block” was destroyed by fire at 4 am on March 29th 1876 [Dickson Papers]. There is no record of when it was built, but nine shops and one dwelling house were destroyed.

By April, a contract was awarded to “Mr. D. Argue” to dig the cellar of the new Block, which was to contain four stores, two-storeys high and finished in first class style [CP 21 April 1876; 3]. The walls of the “new brick block” were up by July, only to be blown down by heavy winds on July 5th [CP 7 July 1876; 3]. By November the “new block was so far completed that at least two of the stores will be occupied this week, one by Mr. John Nugent, druggist, and the other by Mr. John Austin, grocer and provision dealer; while Mr. Robert Rutherford has a considerable portion of his opening stock here and ready to open as soon as his shop is ready for him… [CP 3 Nov 1876; 3]. These stores were open by December. Mr. [Remi?] Turcott is said to have rented the remaining store [CP 1 Dec 1876; 1].

A 30 foot extension was added to each of the stores during 1882 [FFG 1 Sept 1882; 2 ; 16 Sept 1882; 2 : VW 27 Oct 1882; 1].

A section of “old wooden buildings” survived from the earlier period as there is mention that they “are much lower than is requisite … having escaped the fires that raged on both sides of them” [FFG 15 Sep 1883; 2]. These buildings may also have been referred to as the McArthur Block. In 1884 it was announced that “…Mr. McArthur is very anxious to pull down the row of combustible little wooden structures north of his hotel and build a brick block in their place …” [FFG 3 May 1884; 2] The paper called them “objectionable little structures…” In September 1886 a fire “cleared” the “old style wooden buildings”, and new construction began [CP 27 Sept 1886; 6].

There are confusing accounts of what was constructed; some accounts imply a third storey was added to an existing row of stores immediately adjacent to the hotel while others state the whole building was new. In any event the new brick block (66 x 75 feet) was to be three stories high and, again, contain four stores. The third floor was to be used by the McArthur House Hotel for more bedrooms and sitting rooms [CP 27 Sept 1886; 6]. All four of the new stores were rented by November [CP 5 Nov 1886; 6]. These stores were each fitted with plate glass imported from Glasgow, Scotland [CP 19 Nov 1886; 6]. The building must have been completed by the end of the year, having arguably the most attractive store fronts in the village.

This important range of stores remained a vital part of the business community for many years afterwards. In spite of some changes, the building(s) still stand.

490 The Block may have dated from 1874 when the Quebec and Ottawa House Hotel and the Astor House hotel were burned.

491 The shops were: John Austin’s grocery, Henry Austin’s butcher shop, E.B. Borland’s drug store, C.W. Moore’s general store, W.L. Robson’s grocery, John Nugent druggist, C.S. Culp, jewellery, and Grise & St. Michael’s butcher and grocery shop [CP 31 March 1876; 2].

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