The Pump House
By 2014, Gallery Stratford will be recognized as the leading visual arts destination within Stratford and our neighbouring counties, and a vital aspect of our citizens' and visitors' overall cultural experience.
Gallery Stratford offers the citizens and visitors to Perth and Huron counties diverse opportunities to explore and develop their interests in visual arts, creativity and learning.
Built in 1883 on the banks of the Avon River, Stratford’s original pump house with its elaborate architectural elements and picturesque setting is a perfect location today for the city’s public gallery of visual art - Gallery Stratford.
Located at 54 Romeo Street, the building’s Queen Anne Style architecture contains Gothic Revival Style elements that are seen elsewhere in the community. The character of the former Water Works building is quite in keeping with the designs of George F. Durand, a prominent London architect who designed the Perth County Courthouse.
Durand, one of Ontario’s leading architects of the time, felt, very strongly, that architecture was an art, not an engineering project; his structures reflecting the combination of more than one style of design associated with the Queen Anne Style.
Features such as pairings of lancet, or narrow pointed windows and the polychromatic effects in the brickwork are characteristic of Durand. Remnants of the once monumental entranceway, with its wedge-shaped gable and the arch within an arch motif, reflect Durand’s way of thinking.
While the Gallery’s exterior appears cottage-like, the building was never designed for domestic living. In its original state, the pump room had 16 foot high walls decorated, in places, by a “wandering artist.” It had a brick floor and an oiled hardwood ceiling.
Two other men responsible for the construction of the Waterworks in Stratford were W. Perry, Jr., who was responsible for putting the pumping machines in place and William Roberts, who was the building contractor. Roberts was not only a builder, but was also a brick manufacturer and the pump house was build using his “celebrated superior white patent pressed brick.”
By 1964, the historic building became obsolete when the Stratford Public Utilities Commission opened a new pump house across the street; there was a possibility that the buildings would be demolished. The Stratford Art Society (founded in 1945) prepared a feasibility plan to convert the buildings into a prestigious art gallery.
In 1966, the Stratford Art Society became known as the Stratford Art Association, and its director was Robert Ihrig. With receipt of financial backing in 1967 from Rothman’s Pall Mall of Canada Limited, The Stratford Art Association renovated and opened the doors of the Rothman Art Gallery.
The Rothman Art Gallery was an active cultural centre for the region, exhibiting emerging Canadian and International artists. In partnership with the Stratford Festival a ‘Music at Midnight’ series flourished at the Rothman Art Gallery from 1969 until 1976; presenting unscheduled appearances by guest musicians and chamber concerts by members of the resident Festival orchestra.
By 1974, Rothman’s underwent internal organizational changes that altered the way the company supported the arts. Rothmans eventually removed themselves from this project, but not before spending in the neighbourhood of a million dollars to develop a viable art gallery.
Withdrawal of Rothman’s along with its financial support over the next three years resulted in the gallery’s new name – Gallery Stratford. In 1985, Gallery Stratford’s unique architectural exterior was recognized with the City of Stratford designating it a Heritage Building.
Over its 40 years, Gallery Stratford has established itself as one of the region’s leading art galleries, organizing exhibitions of works by local, national and international visual artists.
Learn more about the Pumphouse here, courtesy of the Stratford-Perth Archives.