Historical Plaque Properties


James Kennedy - Liquor & Wine Merchant
159 Ontario Street
Stratford, ON

James Kennedy was born on April 7, 1836 at Kennedy’s Corners, near the town of Newport in County Tipperary, Ireland. He was the son of Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Casey.

According to his obituary, James came to Canada with his parents about 1845 and settled in Brantford. The 1851 census records a nineteen year old James Kennedy who lived and worked for a Thomas Heeney, a wagon maker in Brantford, however, research can’t conclusively prove this is our subject James Kennedy.

His obituary notes that James moved to Ayr where he engaged in the wholesale liquor business but fell on hard times when he lost his investment in a business transaction with the Buffalo and Lake Huron railway which was under construction. Subsequently, he travelled in the United States before settling in Stratford during the mid-1850s. 

Originally, James established a hotel on Wellington Street before relocating to Ontario Street where he established the Terrapin House in the late 1860s. The saloon earned the reputation of being the cleanest and most orderly hotel in Stratford. “The barroom was scrubbed daily and Mr. Kennedy or Jimmy as he was known made it a matter of principle never to sell liquor to a man already under its influence,” according to a write-up about James.

On July 14, 1864, James married 18-year old Mary Fitzpatrick the daughter of John Fitzpatrick and Ann Kirnan at St. Joseph’s Church in Stratford. Mary was born on February 2, 1846 in County Kilkenny, Ireland and came to Canada about 1849. It is not known whether Mary came with her father and mother or whether her mother died in Ireland or in Canada. The 1851 census shows a large Fitzpatrick clan in Downie Township including a 48-year old John Fitzpatrick who is a widower with a 6-year old daughter named Mary. By the 1861 census, Mary is recorded as living in Stratford and appears to be an apprentice to a John Dearlove who is a baker. James and Mary had five children: Robert (b. 1865); John Patrick (b. 1867); Catherine aka Kate (b. 1869); Anastasia aka Annie (b. 1871); and Mary aka Minnie (b. 1873). James and Mary lived at 104 Brunswick St. for the rest of their days.
By 1881 James had sold his saloon and was listed as a gentleman in the census of that year. However, in 1882 he purchased the property on the corner of Ontario and Waterloo Street South and built the current building in which he established his wine and liquor sales business. James claimed that his liquor was so pure that the gallon jug he used to measure never had to be washed. He also adhered to his principles of keeping the premises clean and never selling to anyone under the influence.

James died suddenly on March 9, 1891. The business was taken over by his son Robert who passed the business to his mother in 1899. She rented the building to a variety of tenants until she sold it to John Chowen in 1904 who operated the Stratford Steam Laundry Co. Ltd until 1936.

Mary Fitzpatrick Kennedy died on April 25, 1913. She is buried, alongside James, and other members of the family in Avondale Cemetery.