Growing up in Stratford you take for granted its charm and character. You don't realize what was done to create and save the city's large park system. You wonder why everybody swoons over what you think is an average downtown. And you assume most places are full of such nice, colourful and interesting people. It wasn't until I was a little older, developing a sense of place and history that I became fascinated with my city's past. Stratford has been a town where resisting planning trends in the name of community history has often been the norm. This foresight and respect for the past has allowed Stratford to develop into a unique and successful city.
The City of Memory
Leonie Sandercock points out in the article Towards Cosmopolis: Utopia as Construction Site the importance of cities as memory repositories . Our cities are filled with places where our ancestors lived and struggled - whether it was in their homes, parks, or neighbourhoods, these past efforts have invested our community with meaning and significance . Walking through a traditional neighbourhood, with turn-of-the-century factories, or strolling through a historical downtown, we get the feeling that we are part of something bigger. These buildings transcend our place in time and imprint the past work of our community on future generations.
Our built environment is also an articulation of social relations. In Bricks, Mortar, Memories: Neighbourhood and Networks in Collective Acts of Remembering, Talja Blokland maintains people identify with places and these places have multiple, shifting identities for many people . Social interaction in and around places gives them their identity. This explains why neighbourhoods take on and shed personalities, such as working class, upper class or crime-ridden. Places are made in social interactions and "particular moments in such intersecting social relations, nets of which have over time been constructed, laid down, interacted with another, decayed and renewed." But, while a neighbourhood may gentrify, it always has that past - people will comment on how the neighbourhood has gotten better than it used to be, or visa versa.
This memory of past can be used not only as articulations of social relationships, but also as vehicles that can be used to create, renew and restructure relationships. In Blokland's research she interviews 144 former residents Hillesluis, which is a neighbourhood in the city of Rotterdam. In one situation she describes a park adjacent to a housing complex for the elderly - the park provided for informal social interaction and many elderly citizens often met there and chatted about old times. She describes a conversation where two men talked about the reconstruction of one of the neighbourhood's streets and the shops that used to be there. While they had never met before, they realized they had gotten their first pair of long trousers at the same shop, where you could "buy a suit for a song." This example shows how the built environment and its memories can be powerful tools in bringing people together.
There were also circumstances where shop owners allowed their stores to become carriers of memories - a butcher who continued to prepare traditional recipes by hand and a parlour owner who referred to the interior of his shop as "an untouched painting." By preserving their past and not modernizing, these shops became carriers of memories and derived part of their clientele from sustaining the past.
People enjoy the past - many seeing it as much more positive than the present . This is why we visit the home we grew up in, take a girlfriend to a park that as a child we played in, or visit historical buildings and enjoy museums.
Of course we shouldn't be totally caught up in the past, there is a need for change. However, communities should acknowledge the importance the past has played on the development of their communities - both in the built perspective, but also in social relations. There can be choices in redevelopment - bulldoze or restore, separate or layer, replace or add. And, "If we need to destroy," Sandercock argues, "as part of our city-building, we also need to heal."
Modernist planning has often become the thief of this memory, as it attempts to impose development at the expense of bulldozing our collective past . This has been done with the clearing of slums for housing projects like Regent Park, or downtown revitalization schemes, such as the City of Kitchener's bulldozing of old City Hall. When these things happen, a link to our communities past is lost, making it harder to share the rich histories our communities have overcome with future generations.
A Brief History of Stratford
The Huron Tract was a settlement scheme instigated by John Galt in the 1820s that provided for roads, towns, bridges and churches, while the land was sold to would-be settlers . The Canada Company had set up an administrative office in Guelph and commissioned Dr. William "Tiger" Dunlop to build the Huron Road to the new port located on Lake Huron at Goderich .
While Goderich lay west, Dunlop faced a problem - as he moved west, he confronted impassable swampland, thus he travelled south alongside what would become the Avon River . Surveyed in 1927, Dunlop and his crew found a point where they could cross the marshy lands to head west for Goderich; this point would later become Stratford . At first called Little Thames, it was a place for settlers to rest while making the trek from Guelph to Goderich .
Stratford Takes Shape
Stratford began to take shape in 1832 when Thomas Mercer Jones, a Canada Company director, gave a picture of William Shakespeare to William Sargint, the owner of the Shakespeare Hotel. The Shakespeare was the first permanent building in Stratford; built in 1832 it was used as an inn, school, church and community hall. A stone marks the site of the hotel at 70 Ontario Street.
Jones named the village 'Stratford and the creek'; the creek had been known as Little Thames, and later renamed the Avon River . The namesake came from the English town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, which was built by Romans when they wanted to cross the river - straeta meaning road and ford translating into crossing .
Surveyor John MacDonald was commissioned by the Canada Company to plan Stratford, as well as Guelph and Goderich, in 1834 . He placed the geographic centre of town at the point where four townships met, not far from today's Wade's Flower Shop. He then created four main roads radiating from the centre. Three of these roads were named for the Great Lakes to which they lead - Huron, Erie and Ontario . Though there were only 39 settlers in town, MacDonald planned for a city of 35,000 .
The early settlers tended to be English, Irish, Scots, Welshman and Germans. Once in Stratford they turned to John Corry Wilson Daly for most of their needs. He was a quick-tempered Ulsterman of 37 when he arrived in 1833. He not only became Stratford's first mayor but also the postmaster, medical authority, banker, officer of the militia, Justice of the Peace, land officer and ran the Canada Company's mills . Daly also built the first permanent residence on the site of what is now the Perth County Courthouse and would be prominent throughout the political history of the town .
Daly would meet his Scottish foe in John James Edmonstoune Linton. Linton would be the settlements' first teacher and would take a stormy, self-selected road to a place among Stratford's forefathers. Daly and Linton mistrusted each other immensely - Daly had the power to grant jobs and stonewalled Linton's attempt to become the magistrate; Linton replied by contacting Robert Baldwin's Reformist government, complaining Daly was misappropriating funds .
A local writer, Linton published three handbooks for the Canada Company and a paper called the Voice of the Bondsman, within which he spoke out on public morals and criticized Daly continuously. Linton would also be a founder of the Agricultural Society and saw the creation of the first fall fair in October of 1842, held in the public square behind what is now City Hall .
However, in 1846 Daly and Linton would become unlikely allies in their pursuit to advance Stratford. The Huron Tract was going to be split into 2 counties - Huron and Perth. Both Daly and Linton would put aside their personal differences, fighting together for the new county seat. Stratford would receive the seat in 1850. Daly would become the first treasurer and Linton the first clerk, while W. F. McCulloch would donate his hill at the junction of William and Huron Streets for the first county buildings .
In September of 1853 the settlement voted to incorporate as a village, detaching 2700 acres from the surrounding townships. The village boundaries were the river, Front Street to the east, John Street to the west and West Gore to the south. Further laying the foundation of its festival roots, five wards were created fanning out from the city's centre - Avon, Falstaff, Hamlet, Romeo and Shakespeare .
These early Shakespeare overtones laid the groundwork for Stratford's destiny. But, culture was always something that came easy to Stratford - early on it had a country club where elegant balls were held. It also had a rash of newspapers in the 19th century, including two weeklies that published in German . Adelaide Leitch points out in Floodtides of Fortune:
"The settlers lugged in over the Huron Road not only practical pioneer necessities, but equipment also for the mind: worn volumes of the classics tucked in their bulging bags, books on architecture and horticulture."
Add to this the skilled workmen of the Grand Trunk and furniture factories, with their young families and money to spend, Stratford began to take on a refined look. Come 1911 there were over 2000 craftsmen in Stratford. Their families built beautiful homes and planted expansive gardens . By 1914 there were 500 members of the Stratford Horticultural Society, which had been in existence since 1878. The Horticultural Society held regular flower shows and tended to over 60,000 tulips in 50 flowerbeds throughout the city .
German's brought the love for theatre and music. In 1857, with a population of 2000, they built the Market Building featuring theatre seating for 500 . This was proportionally more than the theatre today, which draws its audience from across the continent. In the massive hall, locals produced plays and concerts to entertain packed houses. There were also motion pictures and school recitals, along with a prizefight in the late 1890s that was denounced by local churches .
After the Market Building burned down, the new City Hall featured a hall less than half the size. But, Albert Brandenberger, who had backed many of the shows at the Market Building, decided to build an opera house. The 1250 seat Theatre Albert opened in 1901 and would eventually become the festival's Avon Theatre . Smaller theatres and concert halls popped up all over Stratford, including in schools and church basements as well as outdoors. With the movie houses, some claimed Ontario Street was becoming a "little 42nd Street."
The unimaginative and the mass-produced were never good enough for Stratford. Domestic architecture from the very beginning produced some striking local buildings - W. F. McCulloch built "The Grange" in 1840, with impressive ornamental gates and gardens. In an Atlas of Perth County in 1879, the author took note of Stratford's architecture:
"Some of the finest business blocks in any town of equal size in the Province â€¦ The Albion, Dufferin, Easson, Odd Fellows, Phoenix, Rankin and Waverly blocks are such as would do credit to any city â€¦ some churches that are exceptionally fine in architectural design, mechanical execution and interior decoration - Knox Church is one of the finest specimens of architectural models we have seen."
Stratford Becomes a City
The temperance movement would push Stratford towards cityhood before its population allowed. In 1856 Stratford had 11 hotels, a brewery and a distillery. In 1871 it had 28 hotels and taverns, 4 saloons, 5 liquor stores and it was said you could walk down Huron Street from John to Erie and pass 14 places to get a drink .
The most famous of these drinking holes was The Albion on Ontario Street. Built in 1855 by James and Peter Woods, it pulled in farmers from the townships, as well as locals and travellers. It even had its own driver and neighbouring livery that would bring drinkers from the train station. But like most of the watering holes, it had a special clientele, as it was mainly a Tory hangout . While the Mansion House at the corner of Wellington and St. Patrick Streets was more of a farmer haunt . Farmers were actually the big reason Stratford had so many hotels - as they hauled their wheat to the public weigh scales, they would stay for drinks afterward.
That is why it was odd that the county was proposing to go dry. The Canadian Temperance Act allowed counties to ban the sale of alcohol, providing the entire county went dry. Prohibitionists had strong support in the rural area and this scared the citizens of Stratford who did not want to lose their saloons and taverns. So despite the fact that the city was shy of the requisite population of 10,000 to automatically become a city, it had a referendum on cityhood and separated from the county in 1885 .
I've been lucky to live in a city where its history has often been saved by the memories the community shares. Its parks, downtown and overall urban form have been influenced by people's memories of these places. The rich architectural history of the city's downtown is heavily influenced by the fact it was the drinking hole for the county. It's renowned theatre a continuation of past cultural influences. And it's tree-lined streets and gardens surrounding elegant homes an extension of the hopes and aspirations of those who toiled within the city.
Economic growth and urban renewal have often taken a backseat to community concerns in preserving this past. And, today, thanks to these efforts, Stratford is a place where the past has been preserved and it has left an indelible character on the town and its people.
The River & Parks
The river was the reason Stratford became a city and it also played a huge role in the daily life of the citizens. Of course it was the place where early industrial activity took place, but it was also a place where regattas were held, children swam and hockey games were organized - it was the citizens' playground.
Despite this, come the turn of the century, the river was in poor condition - stumps littered the waterway, the dam was leaking and vegetation clogged the river. The city's early park system wasn't in much better shape. Victoria Park (which would become Queen's Park) was being used for sheep grazing, and Avondale (which would become the T.J. Dolan Natural Area and Avondale Cemetery) was overgrown and used as the city's dump. There was even talk of draining the river and developing it.
However, the city had visionaries among its citizens and Thomas Orr, along with Dr. Edward Henry Eidt, began pushing for a parks board and a restoration of the river. Council resisted at first but the men persisted and in 1904 citizens approved a bylaw creating Stratford's Board of Park Management .
Invited to Stratford were two of the finest park architects to be found in America - Fredrick G. Todd who had designed Ottawa's parks and Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park, along with F. Von Hoffman, the assistant landscape architect for the New York Park Commission. Von Hoffman remarked, "The lake is worth a million dollars to Stratford. Some places, if they had it, would spend a million dollars to beautify it."
The idea was to create a continuous park through the city and along the water, connecting Queen's Park to the east and the T.J. Dolan to the southwest. It was met with resistance immediately. Thornton & Douglas had been a long time furnishing business in town and it wanted to expand from Ontario Street and across York Street, clear down to the River, using lands acquired by the newly minted Park's Board. Council was tough to deny such a business expansion but the Park's Board fought, despite threats from the company that they'd leave town. In the end, the Park's Board won the day and Thornton & Douglas did leave town, only to return a few months later opening in the Albion Block further down Ontario Street .
However, this minor skirmish was nothing compared to the advances of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Stratford was a one-train town and council, along with many businesses, saw competition as good for the economy. CPR wanted to come into town along the river, through the city's park system, which would completely destroy the plans of the Park's Board.
A 1913 bylaw was put to the ratepayers asking whether or not they wanted CPR to come into Stratford. This faced Council and industry off against the Parks Board. The Board responded with a campaign of photos of crowds who flocked along the river regularly, while pointing out that this would be considered trespassing if CPR were allowed to build along the city's beloved river. The river was saved by a slim majority of 127 votes and 850 acres of continuous park now framed the river .
The Park's Board had drawn on citizen's collective memories of the past to save the city's park system. Citizens were shown that they would lose their community's playground, which had played an instrumental part in shaping the city. These memories were too strong to deny and the concerns of Stratford's citizens trumped economic development, thus laying the foundation of the city's future success.
The Whistle Blows
The railway would play by far the biggest role in shaping Stratford's urban and cultural form. The year 1856 signalled the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) and Buffalo and Lake Huron Line, beginning Stratford's long history as a major rail centre .
Early engineers knew the devastating effect trains had had on downtowns in England, so the early stations were located a good mile out of town. Over the years, John MacDonald's plan for having downtown on the north side of the river at Huron and William Streets would be altered as business would be drawn south closer to the station, thus pulling the core of the city towards what would become Market Square.
In 1871 a GTR locomotive repair shop opened on St. Patrick Street, expanded in 1889 and 1906, with over 313,000 square feet of building space by 1949 . By the turn of the century, Stratford saw 44 passenger trains a day . Trains would be the reason for Stratford's economic success, as by 1905 half the town worked for the railway and it had a monthly payroll of $50,000 .
The Grand Trunk amalgamated with the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway and in 1923 was taken over by the Canadian National Railway. The CNR would continue to be a significant contributor to the town's economy until the closure of the shops in 1964 .
Although the GTR was the biggest employer in town, there were other industries. In 1886 the first major furniture factory, owned by George McLagan, began another industrial boom in Stratford . McLagan designed his own furniture and the Toronto press said he "probably contributed more to the industry than any other man in Canada."
Eventually there would be 20 furniture factories in Stratford's east end industrial area, including McLagan's, Kroehler and Imperial Rattan. Many of these factories were attracted to Stratford because of its rail access, proximity to hardwood, and its relative freedom from labour troubles.
However, that labour peace exploded in the 1933 general strike of furniture workers and female chicken pluckers at the Swift meat packing plant. They were demanding better wages and a shorter workweek. At first, calm prevailed, but soon violence erupted and the police were overwhelmed. The mayor called on the government and the War Measures Act was implemented with tanks and army reserves being dispatched to Stratford. Fortunately their necessity wasn't required and citizens soon protested their arrival, with 1500 locals marching to demand their removal. The Toronto press chastised the city's mayor for calling in the army and in October with the strike's completion, the reservists were recalled .
This breakout of labour unrest would shape the development of the city for the next decade, as the memories of this strike and the blue-collar nature of the city would influence labour minded growth. Whenever factories inquired about moving to Stratford, council would respond with questions like: "What are your working conditions? What are your wage levels? And what are your overtime and holiday rates?" In response, council would not pay for the required infrastructure and stagnation set in.
Stratford, though, was a place where progress wasn't always measured in dollars, population or numbers of factories. In 1951 Stratford's Industrial Commission turned down a plan of General Electric to build a plant that would have employed 1000 people. The president defended his decision in a very Stratford response: "What's the point of crowding our schools, our housing, all our city services? We make the town a worse place to live in, and what good does it do us? We want growth, but we want sound growth. Size doesn't mean anything in itself." The acknowledgement of past labour disputes contributed to protecting Stratford's unique charm and character, which in the long run would be an asset, as the festival would soon come knocking.
The Festival Theatre
The slow growth mindset of the city would preserve Stratford's small city character, while saving the park laid the groundwork for the space of the Stratford Festival. It is hard to imagine the festival taking shape with a CPR train yard in its midst. Keeping a CPR route out of the city was another one of those moments where Stratfordites took a leap of faith, following their hearts, rather than development, which in the long run paid immense economic benefits.
Tom Patterson, the Stratford born visionary who came up with the idea of the festival, said of Thomas Orr, "Stratford's park system make him appear like an aesthetic Jesus, creating the rock/garden upon which I would build my church/theatre." However, Patterson also pointed out an interview with Orr, where Orr questioned in typical Stratford fashion, "Why would we want ten thousand people tramping around on our grass? This park was built for the people of Stratford."
After recruiting Alec Guinness, stage designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch and director Tyrone Guthrie from England, Patterson's dream of a festival took flight and it was July 13th, 1953 when the show began to a packed house . The critics and theatre patrons who flocked to Stratford began calling it the "Miracle of Stratford" and the "Stratford Experience" . Here was a backwoods city, where Shakespeare was taking place with some of the best minds in theatre, under a tent in a park, with picnic goers and trains being heard in the background. A reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer complained to himself, "This is a bit of a put on â€¦ When I get to the end of all these wheat fields, I'm not going to see Alec Guinness â€¦ It will have to be some other Guinness - Joe Guinness or somebody."
But the festival was really just a culmination of the past - Stratford had always been a town that embraced culture. When the Market Building was lost to a fire in 1897, Brandenberger built the Avon - the town would not lose its theatre productions. Stratford had always been respectful of its past endeavours and built upon them, rather than simply forgot. And, it was really this need to preserve and build upon the past, that was key to the Festival's success. With a required budget of $150,000 Tom Patterson and his crew aimed to raise $30,000 of it from the local community, figuring if they could reach that amount, it would show the community was behind the festival. Within a week they had raised $42,000 . Eventually Stratford's total contribution toward the festival in that first year was $72,000, leading Guthrie to remark to a friend, "I don't see that happening in many of our country market towns, do you?"
The festival would remain in the tent for four seasons, until a permanent theatre was built on the same site with a tent-like design. It would open in 1957 with a young rising Canadian actor, Christopher Plummer, playing Hamlet . The festival launched into continuous expansion, taking over the old Casino (which would become the Tom Patterson Theatre) along the river in 1955 and the Avon in 1956, adding the Studio Theatre in 2002.
In a community with rural and blue collar roots, all walks of life could be seen at the theatre - from the Governor General to a local farmer. You could see Tom Patterson show up at the Queen's Hotel with Ethel Mermen, and Edward Everett Horton once had to stand up at bar because he didn't have a reservation for a table . This charming character of the city continues today - the main theatre of the festival has gone under numerous renovations, but is still settled amongst the park and you can still visit any number of local pubs and chat with celebrities.
Not to say there weren't cultural clashes - many asked why the festival was in such a conservative town. But what the festival really did was impose a new culture on an already existing one, what Adelaide Leitch referred to as, "night people coming into a day people society." There were cases of young Stratfordites calling actors "gearboxes," but there were just as many, if not more, cases of citizens buying actors drinks in pubs .
The social changes were subtle - a broadening of horizons, increased tolerance and wider interests. Citizens opened their homes to guests as hotels overflowed. Locals had walk-on and speaking parts in plays. The face of Stratford was changing, as its citizens would play host to what would become North America's largest repertory theatre. The festival would in turn help preserve the city's downtown and traditional neighbourhoods.
Stratford's Urban Renewal
Painters did a good business sprucing up houses along the city's tree-lined streets with the coming of the festival, as the city took on a self-importance and began cleaning itself up. The CNR also saw a 55% increase in travel to Stratford, so it began renovating the station . Downtown also began changing, tidying itself up and offering finer wares. A church would be renovated as an upscale restaurant, bookstores opened in houses and no longer would the high-class ladies of Delemare Avenue and Douglas Street have to travel to Toronto to buy expensive lingerie .
The festival's success would also bring downtown revitalization to the city. A 1966 economic development report showed 39 million tourist dollars were being spent in the city, with only 8 million of that being spent in the city proper . Many tourists spent their money in hotels and shops on the periphery and merchants downtown wanted to get money back into the core.
Stratford's grand City Hall at the apex of Downie and Wellington Streets was beginning to show its age - offices were cramped, the foundation and walls were cracked, and the building was in general disrepair. The estimated cost of renovating City Hall was $660,000 and a serious pitch to demolish the building was put forward .
In October of 1967, Mayor C. H. Meier produced a sketch of what could become of Stratford's grand City Hall - a round, 10-storey hotel with a revolving restaurant on top . News of the imminent destruction stirred locals' passions - soon the militant "Save the City Hall League" was formed. The plight of saving City Hall became divisive - the mayor received threatening phone calls and preservationists, such as Eric McLean (who had been involved in saving Old Montreal) and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, weighed in on the subject . Due to a public outcry to preserve City Hall, in August of 1972, council scrapped the idea of redeveloping the site and choose to renovate the existing City Hall. Again, Stratfordites choose their past over the temptations of modernity.
The battles in the core continued, however, as the city-owned Gordon Block at the apex of Downie, Erie and Ontario Streets, was in disrepair. The Gordon Block was built by the city's first mayor, William Gordon in the 1890s and was really the centrepiece of the city's downtown. Etched in its profile were four of the city's early hotels and it was flanked to the south by two active banks, the Commerce and Toronto Dominion, which were housed in Victorian quarters.
A plan by the city called for raising the buildings and constructing an enclosed mall that would include the two banks, along with a hotel and six-storey parking garage. There was public outrage immediately and resistance was firm. An Ontario Municipal Board hearing in the fall of 1976 pointed out that downtown business could suffer from the big city solution; however, the city won its case to move ahead with redevelopment .
Heritage Canada disagreed with council's plan and even author Pierre Berton weighed in, calling the scheme "perfectly scandalous." But while the community screamed, they couldn't save the Royal Bank building at the corner of Downie and Albert Streets. The Royal Bank building had been built in 1912, replacing three earlier building that had been demolished to make way for the bank. The original structure was three-storeys and provided a strong corner opposite the City Hall junction. In a sad statement for preserving the past, it would be bulldozed and replaced with a more modern building. As for the Gordon Block at the accompanying banks, the community uproar resulted in a compromise - a developer from London was brought in to preserve most of the Gordon Block, while the Commerce and Toronto Dominion would be demolished and replaced with modern buildings. This ended Stratford's foray into big city planning schemes, as the downtown was slowly revitalized and spruced up to reflect its historical routes.
Stratford is full of buildings and public spaces that air the history of the city. I grew up a few blocks from downtown in what was the city's old industrial district, just down the road from McLagan's furniture factory. It was a working class neighbourhood, with grand three and four-storey brick factories airing Stratford's past onto the surrounding area. I'm amazed to this day the brickwork and ornation these old factories feature - unlike today's industrial buildings, these factories were built to transcend their time and bestow dignity upon the community.
Today the area is gentrifying, becoming an upscale neighbourhood, surrounding the factories that one-time residents walked to and toiled in daily. The old factories and homes preserve the working class feeling of the neighbourhood. But today instead of walking to the factories to work, residents tend to be professionals working from computers or opening their homes for bed and breakfasts. The dignity of the neighbourhood still persists, but a new layer and meaning is being imposed on the old.
There are still residents who remember the days before the areas hardwood was exhausted and the factories manufactured furniture that filled homes across the continent. These residents blend in nicely with the newly settled families, passing on the history of the neighbourhood, explaining what used to go on in each of the old factories.
Just a few blocks west is downtown, filled with many stores that haven't changed since the turn of the century - Watson's Bazaar and Bradshaws. But there is plenty of change in the core, however, as new pubs and restaurants modify the commercial landscape, they are preserving the past, renovating heritage buildings. There are, of course, still buildings that exist in the same form and function as days gone by - one of my favourite being the Old English Parlour, where I indulge in the odd pint and which was originally the Mansion House.
Taking a walk through these neighbourhoods, enjoying the architecture and the ongoing preservation of these old buildings, really gives me a sense of pride in my community. My pride is amplified when I begin to understand what a fight it was to preserve these buildings and character in the face of modern planning proposals. If it weren't for the community respecting its past and fighting to preserve it, there wouldn't be a magnificent park system framing the Avon River or a theatre gracing Queen's Park. Economic development would have overwhelmed the urban form, destroying the character of the community. And, Stratford's well-preserved downtown would have felt the brunt of modernist renewal schemes, no doubt, falling silently into decay like so many other small city cores.
With a respect for its past, Stratford resisted the temptations so many other communities embraced to their own detriment. This respect for its history has translated into economic and cultural success for Stratford.