Historical Plaque Properties

 

Henry William “Harry” Strudley - Manager/Imperial Rattan Company Ltd.
73 Parkview Drive
Stratford, ON
1914


The American Four-Square house at 73 Parkview Drive was built by one of Stratford’s most prominent businessmen, Henry William “Harry” Strudley.

 

Harry Strudley was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 10, 1870, the son of John Strudley and Emma Bell, recent immigrants from Henley-On-Thames, Buckinghamshire, England. After his father was accidentally killed when thrown from a wagon on June 20, 1878, the family were in such destitute circumstances that an ad was placed in a local paper and $50 was raised for the widow and her 7 children.

 

When his mother died in 1879, Harry and four of his siblings (Ella, Frederick, Arnold and Walter) were taken in by John Harkes and his wife Ann. By the 1880 Census, Ann was a widow and Harry’s elder brother and sisters were working to support her. Harry left school and struck out on his own at the age of 12 and by 1888 he was working as a clerk for the Fletcher, Jenks and Co. hardware store. By 1895 he had become a traveling salesman for the now Jenks & Muir Manufacturing Co. It wasn’t all work and no play in those early days. In a benefit by the Strasburg Academy for the Benton Street Kindergarten in 1892, Harry even managed to take to the stage with his sister Carrie (born Clara Anne) who had been adopted by the Comstock family. He played the Jack of Clubs in a live game of whist.

 

While still working as a travelling salesman for Jenks & Muir, but now living in Flint, Michigan, he met and married 26 year old piano teacher Anna Eleanor McMaster, the daughter of William J McMaster and Caroline Bancroft, on December 28, 1898. Harry’s career was doing well because by the time their eldest daughter Eleanor was born on March 13, 1900, he and Anna were able to afford a servant and he had started the Wolverine Reed Co. Moving back to Detroit they welcomed their son Donald Bell on December 4, 1901.

 

In 1902 when the railway announced that they were going to increase their grade to 8 feet, Harry, now Vice-President of the Wolverine Reed Co. which backed onto the railway, said that it would effectively put them “out of business as far as shipping was concerned.” The competitive position of the company was made even worse because his competitors in the Detroit area were using low-cost prison labour.

 

By 1905 he had had enough. Now as President of the company, he simply closed down the factory, took all the machinery, stock and 20 employees and relocated across the river to Walkerville, ON in the old Walkerville Match Co. building. He renamed the company the Imperial Rattan Company Ltd. While in Walkerville, their daughter Mary Bancroft was born, February 6, 1909 but soon the family would be on the move again.

 

Hearing about the potential of Stratford as a burgeoning furniture manufacturing centre, Harry purchased the Borland Carriage Co. building at the corner of Albert and King Streets in 1910 and moved his factory for the final time. He soon began purchasing land nearby and building homes for his employees including the newly expanded King Street (now Parkview Drive) from Ontario to Queen’s Park. Harry and his family would first settle at 151 Douglas Street then move to 118 Norman Street and eventually to the large house at 186 Mornington Street, which he would remodel extensively in 1939, adding the large columns which remain today. 

 

Eleanor married Earrol John Dempsey August 12, 1924 and they moved into their new house at 311 Water Street. Donald married Frances Emma Marguerite Cooper on June 11, 1927 and soon took up residence at their new house at 176 Mornington Street. Mary married chartered accountant Jay Waldo “Monte” Monteith on November 26, 1936 and they moved to 150 Douglas Street. After his beloved wife Anna died on June 22, 1941, Harry would move in with his recently widowed daughter Eleanor on Water Street. Mary and Monte moved into the large house on Mornington where they would remain, while he served as Member of Parliament for Perth from 1953 to 1972, eventually serving as Minister for Health and Welfare.

 

During their 51 years here, Harry and Anna travelled extensively both for business and pleasure, many times with friends and fellow furniture manufacturer Charles Moore and his wife Myrtle. They were both very active in their adoptive community. Anna maintained their beautiful home filling it with art, antiques and music.

 

Harry was an avid horticulturalist renowned for his beautiful rose gardens and a strong supporter of the Kiwanis Music Festival from its early days. He served as the President of the Board of Trade, sat on the Board of Education, was President of the Western Conservatory of Music, was President of the Perth Mutual Fire Insurance Company and served on the Public Utilities Commission. During World Wars I and II he was Chairman of the Perth County Victory Loan Committee, was an honorary lieutenant colonel of the Perth Regiment and for years the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Stratford General Hospital. 

 

One of Harry's greatest achievements was overseeing the construction of the new hospital in 1950 and the conversion of the old into the Avon Crest convalescent facility. Another of his lasting accomplishments was the donation of the bridge to Tom Patterson Island. A design competition was held for the bridge and, ironically, the winning design was submitted by his son, Donald Strudley.

 

After a life well lived with many friends and accomplishments, Henry William “Harry” Strudley died peacefully in the Stratford General Hospital he helped build, on April 25, 1961 at the age of 90.

Harry, Anna and their 3 children are all buried in Avondale Cemetery.