Historical Plaque Properties


Francis E. Mason - Furniture Manufacturer
201 Water Street
Stratford, ON

Francis Edward Colwell Mason and Georgia May Lindsay were newly wedded when they built 201 Water Street in 1912. The property which they purchased from George McLagan was originally part of a one hundred acre estate known as ‘The Grange’, owned by William F. McCulloch, one of Stratford earliest and wealthiest businessmen. His luxurious house with a grand entrance down Trow Avenue from Ontario Street was the first building on the 210 Water Street property. Most of his estate is now Queen’s Park but the western portion extending to Front Street is residential. James Trow and George McLagan were subsequent owners of the property and the latter had the McCulloch house demolished and built the house which stands there now.

Francis Edward, known as Frank E., was a teenager when his family came to Stratford and moved into 157 Water Street. His father, James J. Mason had arrived in Quebec from Middlesex, England at age 3, with his family aboard the liner Atlas.  The family settled in Campbellford, Northumberland County in eastern Ontario where James’ father established a business as a shoemaker/shoe merchant. It was there that he met and married in 1881, Elizabeth Rowe, a resident of the neighbouring town of Colborne. The young couple moved westward to London where James began his career in the furniture business as a traveller for Broadfoot and Box Furniture of Seaforth, where a Box Furniture store is still in business to-day. The next move was to Montreal where James managed a dry goods store.

In 1902 they came to Stratford with their four children because James had acquired the franchise to establish a Globe Wernicke office furniture manufacturing business. A three storey factory was built on four acres of land at 163 King St (now Factory 163) where office desks and sectional bookcases, which were so favoured by lawyers that they became known as “Barristers’ Bookcases”, were produced.

By 1916 Frank E. was the Secretary-Treasurer at Globe Wernicke and he continued on as the Bookkeeper when city resident William Preston purchased the business in 1926 and it became known as Preston Noelting Ltd. and then later Prestonia Stationery Ltd. Frank’s older sister Theresa married George Maitland, the son of a local family that operated a photography business. His only brother, James Arthur Ryerson, served as a Flight Lieutenant in World War 1 and then became a lawyer. The youngest member of the family, Winnifred, married Stuart Porter from the town of Dundalk. Their son, Dr Thomas Porter, served as the General Secretary of the Ontario Medical Association for many years and was well known in the medical/hospital community across Ontario.

Georgia, the daughter of a storekeeper in Parkhill Ontario, and Frank E. were the parents of four children, three daughters Dorothy, Ruth and Elizabeth (Betty). Their only son Lindsay, the baby of the family, served in the RCAF from 1941-45. Returning to civilian life he began a career with Victoria & Grey Trust in Peterborough in 1946 and held various senior positions with that company in Ontario and Manitoba until his retirement in 1984. He married Mary Margaret Calder and they had three children, Patricia Calder, Colborne, Ontario, Michael Mason, Langley, BC and Jimmie who died at age 3.  Lindsay died in 2011 and is buried with Mary Margaret, in Little Lake Cemetary, Peterborough. Georgia died in 1950. Frank later married Estelle Matthies but died at age 69 in 1955. All three are buried in Avondale Cemetary.

A final note: Frank’s father James, and a colleague on the Public Utilities Commission are credited with ensuring Stratford’s safe water supply by persisting in their efforts, in the face of considerable opposition, to find a way to make the non-functioning artesian wells operational so that the drinking water would no longer come from the Avon river and health problems such as typhoid fever could be eliminated. He was also very instrumental in bringing hydro power to Stratford back in the days when electricity was in its infancy.