Historical Plaque Properties


John Orr - Builder
53 Grange Street
Stratford, ON

The Ontario cottage at 53 Grange St. was built by a member of one of the earliest and most transformative families in Stratford.


Thomas Orr was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, Dec. 26, 1833, the son of John Orr and Sarah Hamilton. At 13 he emigrated to the US and soon after settling in Philadelphia, married Frances (Fanny) Noble, the daughter of Joseph Noble and Martha Nelson, on June 12, 1855. Fanny, born on October 18, 1834 was also from County Tyrone, Ireland and came to the US with her family, arriving in Philadelphia June 3, 1846.

Thomas and Fanny first heard about Stratford from Fanny’s cousin, Matthew Nelson, who had a farm in Downie Township and had been trying to convince the young couple to move there. Shortly after the birth of their first child Martha Ann on August 5, 1856, Rev. Thomas McPherson, a friend of cousin Matthew’s, was visiting Philadelphia on a fund raising mission, hoping to establish a Presbyterian Church in Stratford and he persuaded Thomas to come visit the town. With the recent arrival of the Grand Trunk and Buffalo-Lake Huron railways, Thomas was impressed with the economic potential of the area and he, Fanny and their infant daughter made the move north. Soon after they arrived, their eldest son John was born on December 5, 1858. Five brothers and another sister would soon follow, Thomas (1861-1867), Joseph (1683-1938), William (1865-1951), Sarah Elizabeth(1865-1912) Robert Thomas (1870-1957) and Henry Noble (1874-1917).


Within a year of arriving Thomas Orr was already established as one of Stratford’s leading general contractors building many homes and even tendering on the first city hall project. By 1872 he had established the Stratford Planing Mills on Cobourg St. near the vicinity of the present location of the band shell by the Avon River. At this time his eldest son John had followed into the family business becoming a carpenter. As his father was purchasing land and developing it throughout Stratford, by 1883 ownership of Lot 52 of the Grange Survey passed from Thomas to John and shortly afterwards he built the Ontario cottage on it initially leasing it out to Howard Jameson, a wheat buyer.


At the age of 29, John married 32 year old tailoress Agnes (Aggie) Brown, July 11, 1888. Aggie was the daughter of fellow carpenter and co-worker at his father’s factory, Magnus Brown and his wife Mary. The following year on October 4, their daughter Roberta Florence was born. Two brothers would follow later, Thomas Douglas on July 18, 1896 and John Kenneth on December 10, 1899.


John would continue to work at his father’s factory but an unfortunate workplace injury confined him to his home on William St. where he died two months later on May 19, 1900. His death was not unexpected.  Aggie and her children would move from the house on William St. in 1904 to 29 Water St. She continued to maintain the cottage on Grange St. as a rental property.


Roberta became a bookkeeper and married machinist William Seager in Stratford on July 11, 1921 and they moved to Buffalo, NY. Thomas became a butcher and married Ida Roberta Day on February 21, 1921. A lifelong bachelor, Kenneth worked for CN Express and lived on Water St. with his mother she died in 1940 and remained until his death in 1975.


John Orr, his wife Aggie and their children and spouses are all buried in Avondale Cemetery.