|| 1860 - 2008|
||7 Arthur Street N., Elmira, Ontario
||7 Arthur Street N., Elmira, Ontario
|store - brick |
||Buildings and Organizations
||8 Dec 2012 |
- No Ghosts: History of the Wachsmuth Block / Dreisinger Building,
7 Arthur Street North, Elmira
by Marion Roes
Published in the Waterloo Historical Society Volume 91 - 2003, pp. 20-29 .
Excerpts printed with permission from the author.
The building was sold and demolished early in 2008. Shoppers Drug Mart built a new store on the corner which opened in October 2008.
William Wachsmuth was an early Elmira entrepreneur. He arrived in 1860, built a small frame building on the corner of Church and Arthur Streets, opened a shoe shop, then added a grocery. Some years later, he was able to build a large, square, two-storey yellow brick "block" with a warehouse on the back.
Divided into three sections, the Wachsmuth block housed many businesses before 1906 when Christian Dreisinger moved his undertaking business into the center section of the building. Some of those businesses were: Wachsmuth Printing, the Traders Bank, Miss Edmund's millinery shop, Weichel Hardware, City Shoe Store (owned appropriately by Mr. Schumaker), Massey Harris Co. Of Toronto, Ford and Liesemer Farm Implements, Otto Wachsmuth's boot and shoe business (which advertised McPherson's Lightening Hitch Hockey Shoe).
Dreisinger added retail furniture later in 1906 and by 1912 more space was needed. The warehouse came down and a large two-storey addition with a second entrance on Church Street went up. So that furniture could be moved to and from the new display area on the second floor, a manual pulley elevator was installed.
When Pentland's Millinery's lease ended in 1921, C. Dreisinger Furniture and Undertaking expanded into that north section and combined the two entrances into one. The local newspaper noted that the upstairs, previously set apart for furniture, would be the casket department of the undertaking business. In the same year the Royal Bank, which had merged with the Traders Bank in 1912, moved across the street.
Arthur Ullyot, druggist from Toronto leased the corner section and changed the windows and entrance. Freddie Miller, owner of the electrical business across the street on Church Street, installed a motor for the manual elevator.
Funeral practises were changing. During the early 1930s people started asking for funerals to be carried out at parlors instead of in their homes. No longer was the deceased's body prepared at home, or visitations held there. Except for wintertime, cars had replaced horse-drawn hearses. A 1937 fire map shows a garage added to the rear of the building with room for hearses and cars for two complete funerals.
Then, in 1940, Ullyot's Rexall Drug Store moved down the street and that corner section became a funeral chapel, reportedly the first in the district. Renovations to the rest of the building included a properly appointed morgue, visitation rooms and casket showroom. In the basement were a radio repair shop and the building's air conditioning and automatic heating systems.
Another use for the elevator shaft was drying the 12 x 15 foot tent which sheltered mourners at graveside services. After a rain it was a struggle, standing on the main floor to push the heavy wet canvas with a pole to the second floor so the rings on the top hooked onto the top of the elevator shaft. It took at least 36 hours for the tent to dry, hanging three stories through the open top of the elevator stationed in the basement.
In 1977 the furniture and funeral businesses were separated. Dreisinger Funeral Home moved to 62 Arthur Street South and with it went the pews, stained glass windows and the Hammond electric organ. Furniture displays expanded to new space opened when visitation and preparation rooms were removed.
"Are there ghosts?" people often asked. Ghost stories are usually about how a person dies. People had already died when they were brought here. So no, no ghosts!1a
1aInformation for the article was taken from personal records, newspapers and local history books. They are listed in the Waterloo Historical Society Volume 91 - 2003 which is available in libraries.
Excerpts from Elmira: Three Walking Tours
Dreisinger Furniture Store - 7 Arthur St. North
The intersection of Church and Arthur Streets has been the core of Elmira's business district since the early days. Some of the early commercial buildings still remain. The Italianate building on the northeast corner that now houses the Dreisinger Furniture Store was built during Elmira's 1850 - 1860 growth period. In 1875, Jacob Dunke, who became one of Elmira's leading businessmen, set up a general store in the corner section of the building. The Trader's Bank took over this portion of the building in 1885, and a safe presently in the basement is believed to be the bank safe. A 1903 photo shows a Massey Harris dealership occupying the central portion of the building. Although the ground floor storefront portion has been altered many times, the original corbelled brickwork under the eaves, and the segmented headings and brick drip moldings around the second storey windows preserve the spirit of the last century. The old six-pane over six-pane windows remain under the shutters. Notice too the traces of red stain evident in the yellow brick. A turn of the century photo shows the whole building covered with a protective red stain, as yellow brick buildings often were at the time. A close look at the south wall shows a vertical "seam" in the brickwork which suggests the last three bays were added to the original sometime late in the nineteenth century. But the seam is the only clue, since the features of the addition so precisely match those of the original.[The addition was constructed in 1912. The building was not square, to accommodate the angle of the intersection.] 2a
2aElmira Three Walking Tours, compiled by Susan Bryant and Bertha Thompson for the Township of Woolwich LACAC (Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee), December, 1985 - submitted by Marion Roes with permission of the authors 2011