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Lost Architecture of Cambridge


Local History

  • The Galt Hospital on St. Andrew’s Street, c1912
    The Galt Hospital on St. Andrew’s Street, c1912
  • The Iroquois Hotel, April 6, 1975
    The Iroquois Hotel, April 6, 1975
  • Ontario Training School for Girls, renamed Grandview School, c1944
    Ontario Training School for Girls, renamed Grandview School, c1944
  • Scott’s Opera House, c1910
    Scott’s Opera House, c1910
  • Preston Municipal Building, c1949
    Preston Municipal Building, c1949
  • Winston Hall, c1944
    Winston Hall, c1944
  • Hespeler Public School, c1908
    Hespeler Public School, c1908
  • Preston Post Office (date unknown)
    Preston Post Office (date unknown)
  • Idylwild Park, c1910
    Idylwild Park, c1910

Linda F., Queen's Square | September 1, 2015

Anyone giving a walking tour of Cambridge will need to mention ghost buildings – buildings once important but since demolished. Some of these buildings were hard fought heritage battles, such as that for the old Galt Hospital, and some disappeared literally overnight, as when the Iroquois Hotel went up in flames in downtown Galt. Some, like the Grandview School, might not be missed.

Whether you miss a building depends on who you are, your age, the building’s age, and the attitudes of the time you live in.  It’s hard to miss Scott’s Opera House when you’re only familiar with the war memorial at Queen’s Square. If you’ve worked hard to preserve a building unsuccessfully, that building’s phantom stays with you for a long time. Not so long ago, only lovely residential buildings and public buildings were considered worthy of preservation, but thankfully, industrial buildings and landscapes are now given their due. Maybe the hardest buildings to pay attention to are the buildings that don’t seem special now, but will be regarded as such in the future. This might include 150 Main Street, the site of the earliest mall in Cambridge, Cam bridge Place on Water Street as an example of durable modern architecture, or our own Queen’s Square library building.

Here are some ghosts of Cambridge’s past. If you add to our list, we’ll add some photographs.

The Galt Hospital on St. Andrew’s Street as it looked c1912. It opened in 1890, and was demolished in 1992.  A stone cairn near St. Andrew’s Terrace marks this site. Search the City of Cambridge Archives Online Portal to find more local history photographs. (Photograph courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)

The Iroquois Hotel, located at Main and Wellington Streets, was once the poshest in Galt. It was open for business in 1894 and came to a spectacular end when it burned down on April 6, 1975, as shown in this photograph. (Photograph courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)

The main buildings of the Ontario Training School for Girls, renamed Grandview School in 1966, were once located behind the present day police station on Hespeler Road. The buildings were constructed during the Depression in 1933 and the school closed for good in 1976.  It was temporarily used by the Wrens during WWII as HMCS Conestoga when this photograph was taken c1944. Both male and female residents were abused at this institution, so the buildings are not badly missed. (Photo from the Canadian War Museum website)

Scott’s Opera House opened in 1899, suffered extensive fire damage in 1910 (this photo was taken earlier the same year), and in 1928 was turned over to the Galt War Memorial Committee. The site is now the location of a cenotaph.    (Photograph courtesy of Toronto Public Library)

This site on King Street has been used for 3 different purposes. In 1945 Preston purchased the former home of Dr. Ochs and converted it into the Preston Municipal Buildings.  In 1965 the building became part of the Allan Reuter Centre.  The photograph shows the 1949 Preston Reunion celebrations.  (Photograph courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)

Winston Hall in Hespeler was opened in 1944, the year that this photograph was taken. The building provided housing for single female workers at Dominion Woollens and Worsteds making military uniforms during the Second World War. Find out more about the history of Hespeler at the Hespeler Heritage Centre. (Photograph courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)

Hespeler Public School was built in 1883 on Kribs Street and demolished in 1983. This photograph of students walking down Kribs Street was taken in 1908. (Photograph courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives

The Preston Post Office at the corner of King and Church Streets was opened in 1915 and was demolished in 1961. (Photograph courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)

Idylwild park was located on the Speed River and was made accessible by the Galt, Preston, and Hespeler Street Railway line that opened in 1896. This colour postcard showing the entrance to the park was produced c1910. The park closed in 1916 and is now part of the Mill Run Trail. (Photograph courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)

Be sure to read the second article, Half-Saved Architecture, and the final article in this series, Preserved Architecture.


Submitted by Jamie (not verified) on

These photos are incredible. What a rich history Cambridge has.

Submitted by Angela Caretta (not verified) on

Just looking at these wonderful buildings that have either disappeared or been changed helps us realize what we have in the Old Post Office in Galt. It is indeed something to be treasured and restored for generations to come.

Submitted by Lary (not verified) on

Hespeler Heritage Centre, Lary - The centre's archives hold many pictures of buildings that are no longer standing, as well as many that are not recognizable today as the same building of yesteryear. Many of these pictures are on display at the Centre and many others are on USB sticks, such as the attached picture of the Queen's Theatre, Queen St. West, now a parking lot for Ernie's Roadhouse. The HHC is always willing to share these photos.

Submitted by Andrew (not verified) on

The original Knox's Galt church building between the old City Hall and the Farmers' Market on Dickson Street. The current church is across the square from the library. (Photograph from Our Todays and Yesterdays, written by Andrew Taylor).