RHODES: What a Chatham Pub Crawl Was Like in the 1960s


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If you were in the 1960s and going on a pub crawl or pub crawl, you will be familiar with the included photo.

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It was taken at the intersection of Llewellyn and Fifth streets.

The photo faces the east side of Fifth Street and the buildings that stood there at the time.

I date the photo to 1962, maybe early 1963, and with the exception of the street surface, absolutely everything in that photo is gone.

Let me tell you what was in the photo.

The building on the far left is the Merritt Block.

I’m not sure how old it is, but I have traced an early property to WE Merritt (1861-1944); he was a private banker and broker.

He was successful in business because people didn’t trust the banks; they preferred to place their savings and mortgage liabilities with local financiers, who lived in the community and supported local businesses, attended the same church, and belonged to the same service clubs.

The Merritt block was typical of structures of this era; street shops on the first floor, offices and / a meeting room on the second floor and apartments on the third and fourth floors.

The Merritt Block had a large meeting room but I don’t know if it was on the second or third floor.

The Merritt Block was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1963.

Then to the left is the Turf Room, which was an annex to the Chatham Hotel, of which the latter was built in the early 1930s.

In 1916, bars and taverns were closed by the Ontario Temperance Act.

Over the years, successive Ontario governments have begun to undermine the foundations of OTA with exemptions and modifications.

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In 1961, the only drink you couldn’t buy at a Chatham bar or tavern was hard liquor, but that changed when Chatham voters approved alcohol in a plebiscite.

Soon after, the Chatham Hotel demolished the adjacent structures (to the north) and erected the original Turf Room.

I must point out that there is a large wall behind the Turf room. It is the west wall of the William Pitt Hotel; more on this in a future column.

Other hotels would sell whiskey, but this was the first venue, erected after the OTA, that was specifically intended to host previously banned sales of strong drinks by the glass.

Originally, the Chatham Hotel was erected by a group led by John Beverly Kerr who had trained in hospitality under the direction of his father, Judge John Garner Kerr, who had inherited the Garner Hotel. of her aunt, Isobel Kerr Garner.

When the Merritt Block was destroyed by fire, it also destroyed the Turf Room.

By the time the owners of the Chatham Hotel rebuilt the Turf Room, they enlarged the building’s footprint to include the former Merritt Block property, and via this route they were able to double the floor space.

The substantial increase in floor space allowed the hotel to double the seating space which, in turn, made it possible to accommodate artists as popular as Ronnie Hawkins to perform here.

Ronnie Hawkins was extremely popular in Chatham and I remember seeing fans waiting for a chance to enter the bar to be entertained by him.

On the far right, you can see the north wall of Harrison Hall, which was the center of Chatham’s municipal government.

Harrison Hall and the Chatham Hotel were separated by a lane that ran from Fifth Street to Sixth Street.

All of these buildings, with the exception of the Merritt Block, were removed for mall development 40 years ago.


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