One of the most obvious gaps in the streetscape of Kemptville is on Clothier Street East, between the South Branch Bistro and O’Heaphy’s. For many decades, this was part of Kemptville’s main street, long before Prescott Street was even opened on the south bank of the river. The part of Clothier bookmarked by the two restaurants contained, at one time or another, the first Post Office, the first store, newspaper offices, the first supermarket, the law offices of G. Howard Ferguson, and so many other historically important businesses.
13-17 Clothier Street East:
Thomas Hicks erected this building around 1880 and operated a grocery store, living above the shop. He sold it to Alphaeus Patterson in 1890. Patterson was a baker who later moved to what is today Grahame’s Bakery. It then became a furniture store, with offices upstairs. The future Premier of Ontario, G. Howard Ferguson, had his law offices upstairs in No. 13, and he was followed by the firm of Boucher & Loucks, solicitors to the Corporation of Kemptville. J. G. Pelton bought the building in 1899 and moved the Bell telephone exchange there, where it remained for more than fifty years. In 1923, the Orange Order bought the building and had their lodge rooms upstairs, renting the ground floor and basement to Bell. The Order sold the premises in 1984, since when it has operated primarily as a restaurant. The original tin ceiling on the first floor won the building a Heritage designation in 2008.
The Post Office, 17 Clothier Street East
The building that once stood here was an imposing sight, although, in its later years, as a pizza shop, it had fallen far from its elegant origins. But the site itself has a much older history. Asa Clothier built a blacksmith shop on this site in 1816, before selling the property in 1826. It was one of the foundations upon which the village was built, as it provided services to the settlers in the surrounding area who came to the Clothier’s mill and needed their horses reshod and stabled, and wagons repaired and maintained.
It came into the hands of the Leslie family in 1837 and by 1862 Robert Leslie had erected the imposing building pictured on this page. It became Kemptville’s Post Office, with Robert Leslie as Post Master, and the Post Office remained there for fifty years. The Advance newspaper started here in 1888. A serious fire in the newspaper’s print shop in 1909 caused severe damage to the building, and shortly thereafter the Post Office and newspaper moved to new locations on Prescott Street.
In 1943, Leabourne Elliott bought the building and, as the first IGA store, brought supermarkets to Kemptville. After Leabourne had moved his supermarket to where the B&H now operates, Charles Hodgson opened up the Western Tire Shop featuring equipment for cars, hardware and utensils. It was later taken over by the CIBC bank, and then served as a pizzeria before being demolished in the 1990’s.
Bedingfield’s Store, 21-23 Clothier St. East:
This was another building with deep roots in Kemptville’s history, and survived until very recently. In 1870, Robert H. Bedingfield bought a piece of land fronting on Clothier Street and opened a harness salesroom and workshop. In 1882, he expanded his property in the rear, back to Oxford Street and carried on selling saddlery, trunks, valises and other leather goods. After his death in 1912, the property changed hands numerous times, bringing various businesses to the site. Creswell Johnson had a machine shop, and Garnet Van Allan ran the Dodge dealership and sold radios and washing machines. Kemptville Motor Sales sold to the Swedloves in 1959, and it became part of that family’s holdings along Clothier Street. For many residents, it will always be remembered as The Bright Spot Restaurant, a place where service clubs met, and a good Chinese buffet was to be had. Sadly, it fell victim to age and had to be demolished just a few years ago.