Businesses Destroyed by 1947 Fire

The December 24, 1947 fire destroyed a number of businesses on Pitt Street between First and Second streets.

business47fire0005Originally opened as a photography studio in 1876 by Henry Weber, it became a stationary store in the Liddell Block. It was located at 106 Pitt St.

business47fire0006The original store front before the fire.

business47fire0003Weber & Co. after the fire.

business47fire0007Weber & Co. after the fire, left, and Singer Sewing Centre on the right.

business47fire0001Owners Henry Sliter and his wife Thelma, left, and two employees.

business47fire0010A sales receipt from Gadbois Jewellers, located at 108 Pitt St.

business47fire0018A sales receipt from Mayfair Ladies Wear, located at 112 Pitt St.

business47fire0012An ad from the Mayfair ca. 1934.

business47fire0013A sales receipt from Viau’s Dress Shop, located at 116 Pitt St.

business47fire0014A sales receipt from McIntyre & Campbell, located at 166-118 Pitt St.

business47fire0017McIntyre & Campbell’s Block, established in 1879.

business47fire0015The original store front in 1879.

business47fire0016Interior of the store ca. 1913.

©Cornwall Community Museum

Pitt St. fire, Christmas Eve, 1947


On December 24, 1947, fire once again tore through the west side of Pitt Street, this time between First and Second streets. Twelve businesses were destroyed and the damage was estimated at one million dollars.


Firefighters did their best to contain the blaze but the weather conditions, extreme cold and high winds, made it very difficult. The “Standard-Freeholder” reported that the firefighters’ uniforms were almost completely frozen. “At times, firemen looked like robots as they walked from one side of the street to the other. Legs functioned but within half an hour… they just couldn’t move their arms. They were ushered inside to thaw before returning.”


The inferno gutted the entire block between 100 and 136 Pitt., making it the largest fire in Cornwall’s history. The businesses that were destroyed: Gadbois Jewellers, Singer Sewing Centre, Mayfair Ladies Wear, Viau’s Dress Shop, McIntyre and Campbell, Lowe Brothers Paint Shop, People’s Store, Weber and Co. Book Store, Loblaws Food Market, Nyman’s Shoe Store, Vanity Ladies Wear, and Carsley’s Ladies Wear. Some second floor offices and apartments were also destroyed.

©Cornwall Community Museum

Pitt St., Great Fire of 1933

pitt fire0001On August 7, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, a fire tore through the heart of Cornwall between Second and Third streets.

pitt fire0002The fire started along a fence behind Fursey’s Garage at the centre of the west side of the block, likely by some schoolboys, and quickly spread.

pitt fire0003

pitt fire0004The “Standard-Freeholder” described the destruction of the fire: “Despite all efforts, the fire wiped out all buildings between the Royal Bank and A.C. Jardine’s furniture store on the west side of Pitt Street between Second and Third streets, 10 business places and five dwellings on Third Street and a store and apartment block on the east side of Pitt Street.”

pitt fire0005

pitt fire0006This was the largest fire in Cornwall’s history up to that point.

pitt fire0007

©Cornwall Community Museum

Pitt Street looking north from 1st, April 1896.


The April 26, 1896 edition of the Cornwall “Freeholder” reported:

On Tuesday morning…the big ploughs were driven into the macadam in the centre of Pitt street at 9th, and in a short time a bed was made for the ties (for the Cornwall Street Railway). Tearing up the road bed that had been pounded down by years of heavy traffic is no light job.  For the purpose a huge four horse digger is used, with a man or two sitting on it to weight it down.  After this implement has loosened the stones a little, another plough follows, then the scrapers, and after them the pick and shovel brigade.  Then the ties go down and the rails are laid.

street car0001

This coloured postcard shows the same scene as above, a few steps north of 1st St., with the street car in operation.  The card also depicts other popular forms of transportation with bicycles and horse and buggy.

streetp0002This postcard looking north from 1st Street, shows the “Standard-Freeholder”, on the right, at 109 Pitt St.  As the ‘Standard” and the “Freeholder” did not merge until 1932, this card dates between 1932 and circa 1936 when they moved into their new building at 44 Pitt St.


Pitt Street looking north from 1st during the early 1950s, as evidenced by the cars and the fact that the Post Office, with the tower on the upper left, is still standing.  The Post Office was torn down in 1955.


Pitt Street looking north from 1st Street, 1967.  The old Gothic stone Post Office was torn down in the name of modernity and replaced with Cornwall’s first and only “skyscraper” the Seaway Building.  Today many people look at the destruction of the Post Office as a tragic mistake.  However, at the time, the Seaway building represented the height of modernity and the future.  The architect and engineers were apparently not aware of the Canadian climate, as the building’s original siding was pried loose from the structure by unrelenting Canadian ice and had to be replaced.

When the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Ontario Hydro Project was announced, local citizens held spontaneous street dances.  Hopes were high, it was projected that by the year 2000 that Cornwall would have a population of 100,000 and would be a Canadian transportation centre.  People seemed to forget that the Seaway passed Cornwall and did not end here.

streetp0008Pitt Street looking north from 1st during the building of the Pitt Street Mall in the summer of 1978.  Some local business people thought that if Ottawa had a downtown pedestrian Mall, that Pitt Street could be modernized with our own Mall.

The Cornwall “Standard-Freeholder” reported:   “The two-block area in the heart of the downtown business district (would) now take on a park-like environment complete with reflecting pools, a waterfall, numerous flower and tree beds and contemporary lighting fixtures.


The Pitt Street Mall, looking north between the 1st and 2nd Streets in 1984.  Unfortunately the Mall did not live-up to expectations.  The Wall with the waterfalls, became known as Cornwall’s “Berlin Wall,” and shoppers flocked to the Cornwall Square.


As the Pitt Street Mall had not met expectations, it was decided to reopen the street to traffic and rename it the Pitt St. Promenade.  This photograph was taken during the official reopening on November 9, 1991.  Businessman George Assaly, (Jay-Gee Shoes) on the left in the red car, an original proponent of the Mall, is seen with Cornwall Mayor Phil Poirier, on the right, celebrating the reopening of the street he lobbied to close.

©Cornwall Community Museum


Welcome to the Cornwall Community Museum‘s blog about the streets of Cornwall. We will be posting photos and stories about the building, events, and people on the numerous streets in Cornwall. From Pitt Street to Cumberland Street, Montreal Road to Tollgate, and everything in between and beyond. Take a stroll down memory lane with us.


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In The Wood House at the waterfront, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada