Interesting Tidbits of SoHo’s Heritage

This is part one of a two piece article by local historian Alice Gibb on the history of buildings in our neighbourhood.  Stay tuned next week for part two.

The Victoria Tavern Building Turns 100 in 2017

The Victoria Tavern (a.k.a. “The Bucket of Blood”), at the corner of South and Maitland Street, began its life as the Ginsberg grocery store 99 years ago. Brothers William, Louis and Harry Ginsberg, who were Jewish, immigrated to London in the early 1900s. William and Rose Ginsberg married in 1906, opening a small grocery business at Horton and Clarence. By 1911, the couple was living at 239 Grey Street with their two sons; William’s parents; seven siblings and an adopted stepbrother. About 1917, the Ginsbergs built a large new building at Ottaway (South Street) and Maitland, which accommodated their grocery business, the family home and other businesses.

The Victoria Tavern, under new ownership, will be re-opening for business in 2016 – and will be able to host centennial celebrations in 2017!

Hunt’s Mill Located behind Labatt’s

Charles Hunt, an early London entrepreneur, built his large mill in SoHo on land he purchased from brewer John Kinder Labatt. Construction on the City Mills establishment started in 1854; by 1856 Hunt had erected a dam across the Thames River, just below Richmond Street. In the 1930s, his son, Albert Ontario Hunt, oversaw the rebuilding of that dam – still a popular location for fishermen.

Charles Hunt undertook many business ventures that changed the face of London over his career. Many of those ventures were carried on by his sons and grandsons. In 1957, the old Hunt’s City Mills, on the PUC property along the Thames, was demolished. The former flour mill had been used for years as a shop for PUC painters and carpenters. Even today, you can still find a few remnants (bricks and part of the foundation) of the mill beside the river.

Heritage advocate Joe O’Neil’s beautiful photographic calendar for 2016 features a photo of the Richmond Street dam, with an inset heritage photo of City Mills. A commemorative plaque recalling Charles Hunt’s impact on London will be erected in one of the parks beside the falls in 2016.