Historical Plaque Properties

 

Frank M. Gifford - Furniture Finisher/Manufacturer
161 Cobourg Street
1906

Frank Gifford was born on October 29, 1879 in Stratford, the son of Charles W. Gifford (b. 1818 NY State) and Margaret Beckett (b. 1843). The family, which at the time included their oldest child, Archie, emigrated from Ithaca, New York to Canada in 1873. Charles was a tailor by trade and set-up shop in Stratford on Wellington Street near St. Patrick Street.


Frank had an active interest in sports all his life. As a young man he played on the Minneapolis-St. Paul Lacrosse team which won the U.S. Championship in 1900. He was the captain of the Stratford Lacrosse team which won the Canadian championship in 1901. He was also a member of the Stratford O.H.A. hockey team that went to the finals in 1903.


The year 1906 was an auspicious one for Frank. On January 10, he married 28-year old Mary Maud Black, the daughter of John Thomas Black, a locomotive engineer with the Grand Trunk Railway who died when she was just two and a half years old, and Christine Patterson of Stratford.  In 1904, Frank had purchased a lot on Cobourg Street and started construction of a house in 1905, which was completed in 1906. The newlyweds moved into their new house at Number 161. Not long after their only child, Helen Patterson Gifford, was born on December 14, 1906. They lived in the house until 1909.


After leaving school, Frank went to work for the McLagan Furniture Company learning the trade of furniture finishing. He spent nine years in the plant and then was promoted to the position of traveller, which in today’s terms is a travelling salesman, for McLagan’s and latterly worked for Gibbord Furniture in Napanee, Ontario.


In March 1913, Frank with his lifelong friend, Charles Farquharson, established the Farquharson Gifford Furniture Company of Stratford. Frank and Charles grew up together, were teammates on the same hockey team, co-workers at McLagan’s and purchased adjacent lots together on Cobourg Street  in 1904 and lived beside each other on Cobourg between 1906-09. Frank was Secretary-Treasurer of the company and upon the untimely death of Charles Farquharson in 1931, assumed the presidency until he sold the business in 1951.


Not only was he a successful industrialist, but also an avid citizen of Stratford. He was instrumental in attracting Kroehler Manufacturing and Avalon Fabrics to the city. He was elected to City Council in 1920 and 1921 and served on the Parks Board where he was chair of the committee overseeing what is now the William Allman Memorial Arena. One of his last projects, dear to his heart, was a plan to build a replica of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in the Shakespeare Gardens. He obtained the plans complete with furniture designs of the original Cottage from England. However, with the start of World War II, the project could not be financed.


Maud Black Gifford died October 9, 1949 and Frank M. Gifford died August 11, 1955. They are buried in the Mausoleum at Avondale Cemetery.