Interesting Tidbits of SoHo’s Heritage (Part 2)

This is part two of a two piece article by local historian Alice Gibb on the history of buildings in our neighbourhood.  See Part 1 here.

War Memorials in the SoHo Community

The SoHo community is home two memorials to veterans of the First and Second World Wars. The first is the War Memorial Children’s Hospital, which was part of the original Victoria Hospital complex, on the northwest corner of Colborne and South Streets. In the summer of 1919, following the end of World War 1, members of the Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) purchased the property, planning to build a new children’s hospital. Members hoped to raise enough funds to build a three-storey building to house 70 to 100 children in six wards – construction was expected to cost about $250,000.

When the I.O.D.E. members couldn’t raise that amount from their own members, they reached out to other women’s organizations such as Mother’s Clubs in London and area, Women’s Institute groups around southwestern Ontario, the Masons, etc. The official opening of the new 60-bed facility was held on October 29, 1922. An addition was added to this hospital following the Second World War. This is one of three of the former hospital buildings that have been preserved following the demolition of other structures on the South Street hospital lands.

SoHo’s second war memorial can be found in front of 241 Simcoe Street, the high-rise London & Middlesex Housing Authority apartments. A slab of gray granite features the names of students from Governor Simcoe Public School who lost their lives in the First World War. The school was located in what is now the Goodwill Industries parking lot, across from the apartments. This memorial is often overlooked when memorials in Victoria Park or at Royal Canadian Legion branches are mentioned.

Ladies Stockings Prove Lucrative Business…

In 1872, a man named Carl Freschl of Kalamazoo, Michigan came up with a bright idea – to manufacture stockings that would outlast any other stockings on the market. By 1897, he had created a cotton (nylon came later) stocking he guaranteed would last for six months without any holes.

J.W. Little, a London businessman who already owned Helena Costume Company and Robinson Little wholesale dry goods in downtown London, purchased the Canadian manufacturing rights for this fail-proof leg wear.

In 1919, since the stocking business proving to be very lucrative, J.W. Little opened a handsome new four-storey brick factory at 203 Bathurst Street beside the railroad tracks. Women’s stockings became the major item manufactured here, creating jobs for many young women in the city.

The tall tower on the building (now City Centre Storage) held the water needed to dye the yarns that were used to weave the long-wearing stockings. Starting in the 1950s, the company merged with larger textile companies, expanding into manufacturing ladies hose, lingerie and finally, casual clothing. The former Holeproof Hosiery factory was closed in 1989. The H.H. insignia can still be spotted on window grates of the building.

The University of Western’s athletic field is named the J.W. Little Memorial Stadium, in honor of the London businessman/philanthropist who built the distinctive Holeproof Hosiery factory in SoHo.

SoHo Bakery First Advertiser to Feature Automobile

Noted London historian Dan Brock discovered that a SoHo bakery was the first business in the city to feature an illustration of an automobile in one of its advertisements. The business was Johnston Brothers, who operated a well-known bakery on the northwest corner of South and Wellington Streets. The advertisement appeared in The London Advertiser on December 7, 1899. The ad was promoting one of the bakery’s most popular products, XXX Jersey Cream Bread. It featured the drawing of an open carriage-style car and included the bakery phone number, 818. Before this advertisement, Johnston’s Bakery ads had featured the drawing of a horse and buggy in its promotions.

Which just proves – SoHo has always been on the cusp of change!