Sturgeon Falls, Ontario: Canadian History in Vintage Postcards
Enjoy these vintage Canadian postcards of Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. These old post cards highlight the history of towns and townships in the greater Lake Nipissing and Lake Temagami areas of Northern Ontario, Canada, including the Nipissing District and portions of the Parry Sound district which are in the “Blue Sky Region.” These Canadian postcards are shown in digital, virtual museum format for educational purposes. If you have images or historical information which you’d like to share with our virtual museum, feel free to do so. To navigate these pages, mouse over the top navigation bar. Drop-down menus will appear of the areas of interest. Click on the thumbnails for larger images. Close the larger image before opening another thumbnail. The occasional duplicates for sale can be found using the search box on the main (home) page of VintagePostcards.org. This is an ongoing project; comments and questions to the webmaster at webmaster - at sign - vintagepostcards.org are welcome.
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Before the white man’s arrival, the Sturgeon Falls area was populated by the people we now call the Nipissing, or N'Biissing, Indians (Anishinabek). Their name means “people of the little water,” referring to the fact that they lived near Lake Nipissing — little in comparison to Lake Huron, where the Nipissings traveled to trade with Huron Indians and tribes living south of Georgian Bay. Fur trapping and trading were an integral part of the Nipissing way of life, also involving travel north to James Bay and east to the St. Lawrence River Valley.
From the early 17th century on, the area was known to European fur traders; Frenchman Jean Nicholas is believed to have been the first white fur trapper in the area, in the 1620s, and Father Joseph Le Caron camped along the Sturgeon River while on a 1641 mission to Indians. By the late 1700s, a fur trading post had been established by Laronde on a Lake Nipissing island (see North Bay). It was part of the Montreal-based North West Company, which merged in 1821 with the famous Hudson’s Bay Company. While the trading post had been variously located on islands and at the mouth of the Lavase River near North Bay (where it was known as Fort Laronde), its permanent establishment was on the Sturgeon River, about a mile and a half from Lake Nipissing’s north shore. Father Hanipaux built a bark-covered chapel at the mouth of the river in 1847 for hunters erecting a log fort. The Hudson’s Bay Company outpost, known as the Sturgeon River House, operated from 1848 until 1879. The river house, said to be on the right bank of the river several hundred metres below the falls, traded with the Nipissing for furs and other goods. Apparently, it reopened briefly in 1880, but closed permanently when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) arrived in Sturgeon Falls.
James R. Holditch of Bracebridge, Ontario, credited as being the first white settler in the area, arrived in 1878 and built a cabin about two miles northeast of the River House, said to be on the left bank near the waterfalls. Remaining in the area when the Hudson’s Bay Company closed, he later became mayor of Sturgeon Falls, in 1897. More white settlers trickled in, and entrepreneur A. P. Cockburn (1827-1905) incorporated the Muskoka and Nipissing Company to run steamers on Lake Nipissing, the first of which was the Inter Ocean, which sailed until 1910. The President of the company was Alexander MacKenzie, Prime Minister of Canada from 1873 to 1878.
As the fur trapping and trading era wound down, the era in which logging and milling would predominate began. Sturgeon Falls’ history is intertwined with that of the timber industry of northern Ontario, and with the arrival of the railroad. CPR construction crews arrived in 1881, and a post office opened. And just as North Bay’s growth on Lake Nipissing was spurred by the advent of railroads, so Sturgeon Falls boomed after the CPR’s 1882 arrival. As was often the case with both Canadian and American history, large-scale migration followed the railroad connection. Pioneer settler Holditch and James Worthington, who worked for the CPR, were involved in land speculation and development, with a man named McEvoy working as a surveyor and another named Secord serving as a notary. At top left is a finely detailed 1907 vintage postcard, published by Phillips & Wrinch of Toronto, of a CPR train on the steel bridge spanning the Sturgeon River. The first locomotive to travel this bridge was No. 217. The c. 1907 private postcard at bottom left, showing a larger view of the CPR railroad’s path, has a note on the front saying: “Part of our city which you shall see July 12.” The sender, Nova, wrote that she’d “be in Powassan on Friday night.” The postcard was sent to Miss Liz Maloney of Powassan.
To the left is a finely rendered c. 1907 divided-back view of the CPR railroad depot, at the north end of Queen St. This building replaced the original train station. What appears to be a mail hook is at the far end of the station, for passing trains to grab mail bags. Some of the area businesses are seen in the background. Note the wooden boardwalk upon which the waiting people stand. Some of the mail which passed through the CPR depot in Sturgeon Falls is this railroad ticket (below). It bears a scarce November 1906 duplex cancel and was sent to Alphonse Hurtubise of Sturgeon Falls and documents his purchase of a box of soap. The front of the postcard shows the CPR’s Hot Springs Hotel at Banff, where Canada’s first national park was created.
A c. 1912-1914 real-photo postcard, probably published by Rumsey & Co. of Toronto during a time period when they took numerous area photographs which were reproduced in postcard format, shows engine No. 2527 at the station. The sender, writing to his sons, said: “Just here on this train and soon start on foot to Kervin houseboats.” The train station was demolished in 1979 by the CPR. A c. 1920s RPPC (right) shows a steam engine crossing on the railroad bridge at Sturgeon Falls.
This splendid, finely detailed 8 x 10” photograph of Canadian Pacific Railway steam engine No. 1266 was taken in Sturgeon Falls on 26 August 1958 by Al Paterson of 451 Maplehurst Ave. in Oakville, ON. It is from the collection of Torontonian George Paterson; we purchased it to share with area residents.
An unused 1901-1907 postcard published by the Leo. Canda Mfg. Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio shows Sturgeon Falls as seen from Minne-Ha-Ha Bay. An enlarged portional view is below. What is the large two-story white building to the right?
Prosperity came with the railroad. Streets were laid out in 1884. In 1886, the John St. bridge opened. It’s seen at upper left in the bird’s-eye real-photo postcard (RPPC) taken by Irmand LeBel of Sturgeon Falls, and in a second 1913 real-photo postcard at lower left. Numerous merchants including T. Robson, J. D. (Jeremiah Daniel) Cockburn, Joseph Michaud, H. Richardson, Sam Eyre and Adrien Lewis opened stores. Eyre owned the Commercial Hotel. Cockburn, who owned a general store, also bought furs from trappers and, with his two sons, owned and operated the Cockburn Lumber Co. He also served as a police magistrate, postmaster and town clerk. Michaud, co-founder of Michaud & Lévesque, went into business in 1883 on Lévesque St. before beginning his partnership with Lévesque in 1887. He also served in Parliament from 1902 to 1905. The partners owned a boat named “The Queen,” which was built in 1899 and later moved to Temagami in about 1919.
This finely detailed private post card, postmarked in 1906, also shows the John St. bridge but is more interesting for the historical information on the reverse. Writing to Miss L. Moloney of Powassan, the sender wrote: “…am sorry I can’t accept your invitation for a ride in your auto.” This would have been one of the very first cars in the Nipissing District, because it wasn’t until 1908 that Henry Ford rolled out his first factory-built Model Ts. These two-seater, open-cab vehicles were known as the “Tin Lizzie” and, at $850.00, were the first semi-affordable and reliable cars on the market. (By 1913, cars had hardtops and were being built to accommodate four passengers.) We can’t help but wonder what kind of car that Miss Moloney had.
Other prominent citizens included Zotique Mageau, Georges Lévesque, who was born in 1857 and migrated from Rivière-Ouelle in Québec, and J. A. (Joseph Adrien) Lévis, the first mayor of Sturgeon Falls. Mageau, who also served as mayor and in Parliament, was a partner in the Mageau and Leblanc Lumber Co., founding the Mageau Lumber Co. in 1914. He ran the business until 1932. Many area buildings were built of brick from Montreal emigrant Charles Gagné’s brick yard, including probably Georges Lévesque’s house, which was the first brick home in town. At the end of King St., Clark’s sawmill operated on Minne-Ha-Ha Bay. The Russell mill was on the west side of the falls. Sacred Heart, founded in 1885 by missionaries, was registered as a parish in 1891. With a population of about 850, Sturgeon Falls incorporated as a town on 16 April 1895.
Here’s the Sturgeon River as seen above the falls in 1913. The real-photo postcard, postmarked in Cache Bay, was sent by M. Cook to Miss Maggie Horne of Mississauga St. in Orillia.
The scarce 1905 RPPC of the Northern Belle docked in Sturgeon Falls (top left) was published by T. Robson & Co. The postcard bears an 18 June 1905 RPO (railroad) cancel from Train No. 6 of the Ottawa & Fort William, but wasn’t received in Homestead, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) until 20 June 1906, just over a year later!
The steamboat, built in Sturgeon Falls by John Gridley, traveled Lake Nipissing from 1905 to 1926. At 104 feet in length, with a beam of 21.6 feet and registered at 168.59 tons, the Belle, with its compound 30-net horsepower Bertram steam engine, was the largest steamer other than John. R. Booth’s boats to sail Lake Nipissing. She was a double-decked steamboat, with a galley and dining room on the main deck, and drew 3.5 feet of water at the bow and 6.5 feet at the stern. Although she was licensed for 300 passengers, the Belle initially served as a freighter. Known captains include Fred and William Clark, Albert McKenney, Darling and Hicks. Fred Clark departed in 1908 to build boats at Cache Bay, with his brother William taking his place. The Belle appears to have had no fixed schedule, with William Clark chartering her for French River cruises (bottom left), and to take picnickers to Sandy Island. The Belle also did some occasional towing. Trips to the West Arm were infrequent, as Captain Clark disliked the area due to the rocks and shoals there.
Here’s the Northern Belle docked at the Chaudiere Falls Wharf on the French River, c. 1907-1914. We think she was delivering the mail.
By Fall 1914, Captain Clark had quit the business for the most part, surrendering the company’s charter in 1923. Until 1930, he captained a few small steamers. Next, the Belle moved to North Bay. The Lake Nipissing Shipping and Transportation Co., headed up by Frank E. McDonald of Newcastle, ON, received its charter on 21 August 1914. The Belle looked more impressive than ever, with a pilot house on the third deck, a new lounge, a hurricane deck, and capacity for 50 more passengers. But the traditional problem of cruise ships — not enough customers — continued. Later Belle owners were the North Bay and French River Navigation Co. and the Northern Navigation Co. Neither was able to make a go of things; the North Bay and French River declared bankruptcy in 1923. Both 1923 and 1924 were unseasonably cold, which didn’t help the tourist situation. Northern Navigation, the last company to own the Belle, announced that she wouldn’t run in 1926; on 26 June 1926, she caught fire at the government wharf in North Bay and sank.
The last we see of area lumberjacks is in a nicely detailed and hand-colored c. 1907-1915 postcard showing lumbermen headed to the woods via the Sturgeon River. A First Nation man, probably a guide, sits in a birch bark canoe on the shore. The postcard was published by the Canadian Pacific Railway News Service, as part of their promotion of westward expansion. The sender wrote, in 1919: “Country typical of Northern Ontario between Montreal and Port Arthur on Lake Superior. Have passed through many miles of wild rocky scenery like this.”
While the local economy had revolved primarily around lumbering and farming, the pulp and paper industries played an increasingly important role after Paget and Heath of Huntsville founded a mill in 1894. The 1905 private postcard at top left, a patriotic view of the 1898 Sturgeon Falls Pulp Company, is the earliest postcard in the Sturgeon Falls collection. The mill provided the town’s electricity, beginning in 1898. Ownership transferred to Imperial Paper Mills Ltd. in 1903 and the river was dammed in 1904, but the mill then closed from 1906 to 1912 - a precursor of future events. The same company operated the Imperial Land Co. Interestingly, the Imperial Paper Mills is called the Imperial Pulp Mills on the c. 1903-1906 old postcard at bottom left. A 1908 hand-colored postcard of the rapids below the falls in Sturgeon Falls is seen at top right, while a c. 1907 old postcard at bottom right shows what the bay looked like.
Prior to 1907, one was not allowed to write on the reverse side of a postcard, which was reserved for the address only. The sender of the patriotic mill card at top left wrote on the front: “They are playing ‘The Pride of the Ball’ in the parlor now.” (This is an old traditional fiddle tune, a reel.) The postcard was published by the Atkinson Bros. of Toronto.
Postcards often yield interesting historical data, such as the message written on the unmailed Imperial Mills card. It says: “Well, how do you like this place? Just got home from Sturgeon Falls. Was at the Teachers’ Convention. They took us through the Imperial Pulp Mills and sulphite plant. They tell us it is one of the greatest on the continent. It certainly was an interesting sight. The Mayor conferred on us the ‘freedom of the town’ but that didn’t hurt us any. They gave us a reception. Several speakers voiced their feelings of timidity at addressing ‘the most highly cultured of all classes’ and one said he could imagine no higher ideal for a man than to become the principal of a public school.”
The 1907 image to the left, sent to Mr. Anthony Lavelle of Pembroke from a lady named Maud in Sturgeon Falls, is a finely rendered view of the mill published by Phillips & Wrinch. In the vertical view from 1913, it’s called the Sulphites Mill.
The Spanish River Pulp and Paper Co. bought the mill in 1912. This hand-colored private postcard of the pulp and paper mills probably dates to about 1907, although it bears an interesting cancel for the 1914 Stratford, Ontario “Old Boy Re-Union,” which was an Old Home Week similar to that held in North Bay in 1925. By 1924, this mill was thought to be Canada’s largest paper company. A c. 1912-1918 real-photo postcard seen below shows the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Mills in greater detail. An unusual and later embellishment for a postcard is seen on the reverse: A large pencilled sketch of a woman, with the comment: “This is supposed to be Lana Turner.” The initials of the artist are SK. Lana Turner looked like this in approximately 1951, so apparently the vintage postcard languished in someone’s home or office until the artist needed a piece of paper to draw on. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old saying goes.
Here’s an interesting 1924 real-photo postcard, marked as No. 41 and photographed by George Vachon. Learn more about Vachon on the Northern Ontario Postcard Photographers page. The image shows a rock cut channel on Lake Nipissing at what’s called Sturgeon Falls on the postcard; however, it has been suggested that this is the diversion channel below the main hydro dam near Dokis Bay, where there is a small, approximately 60-foot wide dam not visible in this photo. There’s a log boom in the foreground, and the boat is gasoline-powered. The year 1924 was remarkable in Sturgeon Falls history for the fact that it was when concrete control dams were built on the Sturgeon River. River driving of logs ceased in 1963. The last run was made by the George Gordon Lumber Co. of Cache Bay.
Here’s the newly-installed dam, seen in a c. 1924-1930 postcard, with the public school in the distance. Numerous people are gathered on the far side of the dam.
The Spanish River Co. merged in 1928 with the Abitibi Power & Paper Co. and continued to make newsprint until November 1930, when the mill closed for 17 years. It’s seen at upper left in a 1930 image, before its closing. The Great Depression years were hard, with up to 75 percent of Sturgeon Falls’ residents being on welfare. With much fanfare and to the great relief of the citizenry, it was announced on 2 October 1946 by Ontario Premier George Drew that Abitibi was reopening. Abitibi ran the mill from 1947 to 1979; it’s seen at bottom left in a 1949 RPPC. The American sender of the Abitibi postcard was particularly unhappy with their cultural awakening, writing: “We don’t care about this. We are roughing it tonight. Not a very nice cabin. We are eating in the town on the front of the card. The boys hardly eat when we eat in a restaurant. I could hardly understand the guy where we got the cards.” We wonder if they were adventuresome enough to sample putine. What is the point of travel if one wants everything to be the same as it is at home?
In its heyday, the mill employed about 600 people. By 1992 when half of the work force was laid off, Vancouver-based MacMillan Bloedel, or Mac Blo, owned the mill. When hardboard mill operations were discontinued; it took fund-raising efforts by the local community and intervention by the West Nipissing Economic Development Corporation and the Ontario government to raise $1 million dollars to convert the corrugated paper mill into a paper and cardboard recycling center, in an attempt to save the remaining jobs. Weyerhaeuser purchased the company in 1999, but the remaining 150 jobs were lost when Weyerhaeuser shut down operations three years later, in 2002. The mill had been the mainstay of the local economy since its 1898 construction. About six employees stayed on to operate the mill’s hydro-electric dam, contributing to Ontario Hydro’s grid.
Numerous other small mills have operated in the area. In the 1940s, as shown in the CKC real-photo postcard to the left, one of them was the Davidson Lumber Co. Eight lumberjacks have paused from work to have their picture taken. To the right is a c. 1940s to 1950s McNeill image of a log drive by the John St. bridge. The last log drive in Sturgeon Falls was in 1963.
In December 2004, the 300,000 square foot mill (left to right below), seen in a c. 1940s to 1950s real-photo postcard and in a 1956 RPPC (center), was demolished, and the town bought the dam. The center image is a CKC real-photo postcard from the 1940s. In happier times, teenaged girls pose next to the dam in the two John McNeill real-photo postcards to the right.
Apparently, fishing was good in the vicinity of the Abitibi mill. Hugh Stack and Jack Larocque are shown with their prize sturgeon, caught on 1 June 1938. Notations on the reverse indicate the fish was caught in the Abitibi vicinity, and that it was 5’6” long and weighed 75 pounds. The photo was taken by J. H. Bernard, who operated the “Amateur Art Studio” in Sturgeon Falls. Where was the “Amateur” located?
Here’s a finely rendered 1906 private postcard showing a handsome catch of sturgeon. It was sent by a young girl or a young woman named Violet Murray to a Miss Sandurious of Mitchell, ON who had been or perhaps still was a teacher of Miss Murray, as the card was sent over the Christmas holiday. It says: “Dear Teacher, I am in a hurry. It is train time.” Mitchell is an agricultural community in Perth County, 20 km northwest of Stratford and 60 km northeast of London.
A scarce c. 1906 postcard from an unknown publisher, marked as No. 194 on the front, shows a group of hunting guides from Sturgeon Falls, including at least two First Nation guides. We wish we knew who the men were.
From the beginning, both English-Canadians, especially from the Muskokas and Simcoe County, and French-Canadians from the Ottawa Valley were attracted to Sturgeon Falls. For example, Parker and Stiller were English-Canadian settlers and Jodouin and Serré were French-Canadian settlers. Louis Jodouin’s wife was a CPR cook. Jean-Baptiste Serré was a blacksmith. His smithy was on King St., from 1883 to 1894. While the town had been primarily English-speaking before 1900, the balance shifted after the turn of the century and particularly after the 1906 mill closure; Sturgeon Falls has subsequently become a voice for French language rights and culture in Ontario.
An interesting example of the increasing French influence in Sturgeon Falls was the presence of The Québec Bank on the west side of King St., as seen at right front in this scarce 1912 real-photo postcard. The Québec Bank, known for serving the timber trade along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers in the 1800s, was Canada’s second oldest bank, having been founded in 1818 and chartered in 1822 by the Province of Lower Canada. It was absorbed in 1912 by the Royal Bank of Canada and later the named changed to the Canadian National Bank. One of the bank managers was named Lucien Charron. E. M. Anderson was a Traders branch manager in 1909.
To the left of the bank, one sees the King Edward Hotel, built c. 1903 by Hutchison. The King Edward was later owned by the Furino family and Albert Bourgault. We believe that the two-story brick building at far left was built in the mid-1890s by James Holditch and at one time was the Rosenbaum store. Real-photo postcards, also known as RPPC and RPPCs, are a valuable way to document a town’s history. In this view, several other storefronts are seen, with a round sign advertising a drug store a few doors down. Which drug store was this?
One local business was the bottling plant of J. F. Prieur. We believe the bottling works was on Salter St., near Park St. Here’s one of the Prieur bottles. Marked on the front, it says: “J. F. Prieur - Sturgeon Falls, Ont.” In what years was the bottling plant in operation, and what was bottled there? The purple, or amethyst-colored, bottle measures 9 inches in height by 2-¼ inches in diameter and dates to 1910 or earlier. The purple color comes from the manganese used in clear glass prior to 1910. Most manganese-containing bottles are over 100 years old, so this bottle may actually date to earlier than 1910. Prieur died in 1932, and is known to have operated a liquor store for the province until his death. Many thanks to Frédéric Hartl of Gatineau, Québec for providing these images. The bottle was sold to a Sturgeon Falls collector.
An early pioneer collectible from Sturgeon Falls is this antique clay firkin from Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. Estimated to have been made around 1885, the firkin is extremely rare; most of them were broken over their years of household use. Clay firkins were used for storing household food staples that were liquid in nature such as vinegar, molasses and honey. This particular firkin, measuring 6“ wide and 6-1/4” tall, is in excellent condition and comes complete with the original aerator on the side used to facilitate faster emptying. Unfortunately, the stopper/plug from the top of the firkin is missing. Nevertheless, it’s in excellent condition considering its original use and the easily broken clay from which it was made. It apparently descended in the family of Andrew Kalinowski of Ottawa, who has family ties to Sturgeon Falls. Kalinowski is a private-natured person, due apparently to the nature of his family’s law enforcement work; sadly, no other oral history was available concerning this piece.
Later in the century, c. 1940-1970, Leach’s Dairy offered “high quality milk” in bottles. The bottles were 10.5 inches tall. Where was the dairy?
Where was Thomas Legault’s business, and was he a grocery or a miller? To the left we see a c. 1911-1928 postal cover (envelope) bearing his imprint and addressed to Robert Farrel of “Leron.” (We’re unsure of the town’s name.) Advertising on the front says: “Cream of the West Flour, the hard wheat flour that is guaranteed for bread.” On the reverse (back) side of the envelope is a splendid agricultural advertisement for Cream of the West depicting a baker on a flour bag, Manitoba wheat fields and an early piece of farm equipment which looks like it might be a combine. The flour came from the Campbell Flour Mills of Toronto. We suspect that the farm equipment shown dates this cover to no later than about 1920.
Another Sturgeon Falls business was W. L. Fortier’s grocery. He advertised as “The People’s Grocery”, and is probably the man in the doorway who’s wearing the white apron, as seen in the photo to the left. Many of his goods are displayed in front of the store, where one can also see a hitching post for a horse. In the 8 October 1913 letterhead seen to the right, he says he offers: “Select Groceries and Provisions, flour, feed, hay and grains. His address is given as P. O. Box 13, phone 17. In the letter, he writes to the J. H. Ross Boat & Canoe Co. of Orillia, and says: “Dear Sirs, Next season I intend to handle boats & canoes. Please send your catalog and price list. Yours truly, W. L. Fortier.”
Author Jamie Bendickson, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa and co-author (with Bruce W. Hodgins) of The Temagami Experience: Recreation, Resources, and Aboriginal Rights in the Northern Ontario Wilderness, in his book Idleness, Water, and a Canoe: Reflections on Paddling for Pleasure (published on 17 May 1997 by the University of Toronto Press) wrote: “In Ontario,… canoe-building enterprises varied in nature and size from small, craftsman-owned and -operated companies exclusively devoted to canoe building to larger operations in which canoe manufacturing was carried on alongside a comprehensive boat-works including the making of skiffs and motorized launches. A listing of Ontario canoe-manufacturing companies whose advertising appeared in turn-of-the-century periodicals includes the following: the J. H. Ross Canoe Company, Orillia; the Lakefield Canoe Building and Manufacturing Company; the H. L. Bastien Boat and Canoe Works, Hamilton; the William English Canoe Company, Peterborough; the Peterborough Canoe Company Limited; the Capital Boatworks, Ottawa; the Canadian Canoe Company Limited, Peterborough; the Walter Dean Company, Toronto; H. E. Gidley and Company, Penetanguishene; the H. Ditchburn Boat Manufacturing Company Limited, Gravenhurst; J. W. Stone Boatworks, Rat Portage (Kenora); and the Toronto Canoe and Boat Company.
“Canoes manufactured in Toronto were available from the T. Eaton Company at least as early as 1901, when the rapidly growing department store’s first issue of the Summer Catalogue appeared. The sixteen-foot basswood model was modestly priced at $25 with paint or $32 for a varnished finish. Cedar or butternut craft of the same design were somewhat more costly. A good bird’s-eye maple or cherrywood paddle could be obtained for $2.”
The Kirkup Hotel, built in 1904 of bricks manufactured in Sturgeon Falls, was a three-story brick building with an attractive wrap-around porch. Don Cockburn bought it in 1926 and, after the hotel was sold to E. D. Boyer and family, the name was changed to the Hotel Chalfonte, before becoming known as the Nipissing in the 1950s. It was then renamed the D and G after new owners Denise and Gaby Pelletier, and later became a Robins Donuts location. To the right is a real-photo postcard, postmarked in 1956, which shows a “modern entrance” to the Hotel Nipissing. This entrance has a strong Art Deco influence, and was probably remodeled to this appearance in the late 1930s or 1940s. The signs include one for “Ladies and Escorts.” According to provincial law at the time, ladies and gentlemen drank in separate cocktail lounges. While a gentleman could accompany a woman into the ladies’ lounge, he couldn’t remain there unaccompanied and, likewise, an unaccompanied female couldn’t remain in the gentlemen’s lounge. With the coming of women’s liberation, the custom ended.
Another building with an Art Deco influence was the Rivera Restaurant, with its prominent neon sign. Was the restaurant on King St.? A pool hall was located to the left of the restaurant, and a barber’s pole can be seen near the entrance to the pool hall. Who owned the Riviera, the pool hall and the barber’s shop?
At top left is a nicely detailed 1940s postcard of the Windsor Hotel, which shows a 1910 construction date prominently displayed in the cornice piece. We had always heard prior to locating this postcard that the Windsor was built in 1903. In this 1940s image, we see several people lined up at a side entrance which has a sign reading: “Purveyors, Beer & Wine.” A King St. sign next to the Windsor advertises British Consols cigarettes, with wooden directional signs at the intersection of King and Front pointing towards the dock and Kervin’s Camp. Interestingly, a private postcard, published between 1903 and 1906 and postmarked in 1906 at both Powassan and Sturgeon Falls, shows the hotel with a more ornate and undated cupola, from which an unidentified flag flies. The 1906 postmark belies the idea that the Windsor was built in 1910. In 1906, the building also advertised “sample rooms,” in an ad painted on the side of the building. Until the 1960s, the hotel was owned by the Chaputs of Mattawa. Gaëtan “Peanut” Poirier was one of the managers of the Windsor, which burned in 1975.
Here’s a scarce real-photo postcard of Sturgeon Falls, with firefighters from the newly-formed fire department testing a hose in front of another local establishment, the St. Louis Hotel. The three-story brick St. Louis building was at the corner of Main and Queen Sts. (A video store was later located here.) On the corner of the St. Louis building, there is a round enamel advertising plaque for “Silver _____ Beer.” Could this have been a brand of beer sold by J. F. Prieur, one of whose bottles is seen above? The image was photographed by LeBel, who is known to have worked in Sturgeon Falls between 1914 and 1922.
An equally interesting c. 1911 RPPC, also photographed by LeBel, is a highly detailed example of why real-photo postcards are so useful in documenting history. A. Aubin & Co. occupied the building, at the corner of King and Queen Sts., in 1911. It was later the J. W. Rochon building; Rochon opened his clothing store in 1925. The family business closed in 1993. The storefront at right front has display windows full of period clothing, and advertising signs for Invictus Shoes and Leather Label Overalls. On the Invictus Shoes sign is what appears to be the name of George A. Slater, with a wholesale notation. Is this correct? The horse and buggy are in front of a Sherwin-Williams paint sign, and Abe Shwaty & Co. is to the left of the paint sign. To the left of Shwaty’s is a shaving parlor that had a pool hall and offered baths and cigars. Sounds like a wonderful place for a man to hide out. It looks as if the owner’s name was Stewart. Does anyone know who this was?
Another photographer took this photo of the A. Aubin & Co. store around 1915, before the Rochons bought the building. Although the real-photo postcard image is unfortunately slightly out of focus and underexposed, it does show additional King St. storefronts.
LeBel also photographed the Opera House theater on King St., which was owned by the Cockburn family. This RPPC was taken in 1912, when “The Fisher Girl of Cornwall” was playing. Posters are also up for movies called “The Ways of Men” and “Fidelity.” Another sign advertises a “complete change of pictures tonight,” with the price of admission being 10 cents. The gentleman standing out front is probably Mr. Cockburn. To the left of the Opera House was the shop of J. Villeneuve, a tailor. Later, the Riviera Restaurant was located where the Opera House once was. The Riviera, with its Art Deco-influenced neon sign, is seen (right) in a c. 1950s real-photo postcard. A pool hall is to the left of the Riviera, along with a striped barber’s pole. Does anyone know the name of the pool hall or the barber?
Other Sturgeon Falls photographers included Robson, Thomas & Co. (1900-1907), which also sold fancy goods; Jacob Collins, known to have photographed Sturgeon Falls between 1907 and 1913; and E. W. (Ernest William) Fox, c. 1922. To the left, we see Fox’s studio on King St., and the view across the street. Fox arrived in 1922, the same year that LeBel left for New York; we think he may have bought LeBel’s business. The building which housed Fox’s studio has since been demolished; the location is now a parking lot for Theoret’s Funeral Home, 119 King St. Many thanks to Frank L.W. Foley and Patricia M. Foley for generously making the Fox material available to us. For more information on area photographers, see the Northern Ontario Postcard Photographers page. Learn more about postcard styles on the Old Postcards and Antique Postcards page, and find postcard price guides and other reference books on the Postcard Price Guides page.
This private postcard, c. 1901-1907 and by an unknown publisher, provides a nice overview of King St. businesses. Children are seated in front of the foreground storefront, which appears to have a jewelry or watchmaker’s figural advertising sign extending out towards the boardwalk. King St. is still unpaved at this time.
Another very early view, this private postcard from 1901-1907, shows the substantial three-story brick Michaud & Lévesque clothing store on King St., which was founded in 1887. Lots of men are posing out front in this image, which was published by H. Richardson, pharmacist and druggist, telephone 91. As infrastructure was implemented, development was fostered. Sewers were hooked up in 1902 and telephone service also became available that year. The Nipissing Telephone Co., as it was known, sold out its 74 telephones to Bell Telephone in 1909.
In 1907, the public school in Sturgeon Falls as seen at upper left was a brick building with what appears to be rather prominent bell towers, the whole surrounded by a tidy white picket fence. Built in 1901 and in use until 1956 when it was replaced by the Frank Casey Public School, this building burned in 1958. A Victorian home with gingerbread in the front-end gable can be seen to the right and beyond the school. A student named Beatrice, in writing to a Mrs. Jackson of North Bay, said: “Thank you ever so much for the pretty dog. He is a beauty. I have a name for him already. What do you think of our school? Not so bad, eh? Am coming home on Friday.” The postcard was published by A. W. Smith of Sturgeon Falls. By the time the 1922 real-photo postcard was made of the school, the white picket fence was gone. Who can provide information about the English-French model school in Sturgeon Falls, which is seen to the right? This real-photo Azo Square postcard dates from about 1907 to 1910.
Here’s the public school on a wintry day in 1913, with what appears to be a snow dump in the foreground. St. Andrews United Church, formed in 1925 from a union of Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians, was next door to the school. After the school burned down, a home for the minister and a complex for senior citizens were built there. To the right is a finely detailed 1909 postcard of the Methodist Church.
St. Joseph School, named for Joseph Michaud, looked like this from 1922 to 1958, when it burned, oddly, within a week of the public school conflagration. St. Joseph became known as Sacré-Coeur in 1949 and in 1975, the name changed to Écho-Jeunesse.
Some of the large two-story brick homes on N. King St. are seen in the 1907-1915 divided-back postcard at top left. Light poles are in, but the road is still dirt. Sacred Heart Catholic Church, originally built prior to 1905 and located on John St., is shown in an RPPC at bottom left which documents the church’s interior as it appeared c. 1925. This was the second Sacred Heart Church, built in 1914 at a cost of $38,000.00 by W. Daoust of Noelville, using granite from Noelville and Dokis Bay. Another c. 1940s RPPC, which looks similar in style to the photos of McNeill, shows the church’s interior (top right). A real-photo postcard of the convent, taken by LeBel c. 1904-1922, is at bottom right. Below are two additional real-photo postcards of the Church of the Sacred Heart, and a c. 1940s Photo Tex postcard of the convent which was published by the Irwin Specialty Co. of Toronto.
In the 1920s postcard (left to right, below), the former Québec Bank building is seen on the left, with a drug store, a business owned by J. W. Rochon and an Imperial gas pump on the right side of the street. In the 1940s McNeill real-photo postcard of King St., the Odeon movie theater is at right front. The Odeon was later a bingo parlor. Young’s Lunch, Walsh’s Restaurant with its ground-level Art Deco façade, Achille Michaud’s store and the three-story brick Windsor Hotel are seen. An old glass globe gas pump is near one of the Michaud entrances. The Canadian National Bank is seen in a 1950s RPPC at far right.
A 1950s chrome postcard of King St., seen above (second from right) and photographed by North Bay photographer William R. Forder, shows the Windsor at front left. One of the storefronts on that side of the street is a restaurant. If you know the name of the business, we’ll be glad to include it. Canadian Tire, opened in the 1950s by Bill Laplante, was on the east side of the road, near the corner of King and Front. The New York Grill was next to Canadian Tire. A colorful Plastichrome postcard (far right), photographed from almost the same angle as McNeill’s c. 1940s view of King St. was, shows many of the same stores as well as Lavoie Shoes and the Niagara Bank. It was postmarked in 1988.
The two aerial views to the left, published by the Peterborough Post Card Co., show the important intersection of King and Front (Highway 17), with Highway 17 leading west to Sudbury and east to North Bay. The Windsor is in the foreground in the top image, with the Nipissing to the left and a gas station across the road (on the Canadian Tire side of the street). The second aerial, taken at a slightly different angle and at a greater height, shows more of the businesses, homes, churches and the hospital. The c. 1980s aerial image by Hubert Gervais, seen to the right, shows subtle changes in the built environment.
Here are two c. 1940s Photo Tex views of the tidy-looking post office, with the date stone indicating it was built in 1939. The Sturgeon Falls post office opened on 1 July 1881, with James Holditch serving as postmaster until his 1883 resignation.
The original section of the Hospital St. Jean de Brébeuf is shown in the real-photo postcard at top left, hand-dated 1957 on the reverse and probably written on by an American tourist, as it reads: “We stopped at this town and took pictures. Everything is written in both French and English, and people from town speak French fluently.” Surprise, surprise …not. The four-story c. 1940s addition is seen at bottom left. Msgr. Alphonse Lecuyer built the original hospital in 1927; in 1941, he returned, remaining at the hospital until his 14 June 1945 death. The Daughters of Wisdom provided nursing care for 50 years prior to the July 1977 opening of West Nipissing General Hospital. Dr. Francis Xavier Boileau, who practiced locally from 1888 to 1912, was Sturgeon Falls’ first French-Canadian physician. Another who served the town for many years was Dr. Percival Musgrave Young, who retired when West Nipissing opened.
Interestingly, the hospital was named for a Jesuit missionary, St. Jean de Brébeuf, who was martyred in Canada in 1649 following an Iroquois attack on St. Louis, where he was working. Canonized in 1930 along with seven other missionaries known as the Canadian Martyrs, de Brébeuf is a patron saint of Canada, with an October 19th feast day. de Brébeuf also wrote “Huron Carol,” a Christmas carol still sung today.
The unused 1940s CKC real-photo postcard, also by photographer McNeill, is a highly detailed aerial view, showing many of the town’s homes and businesses; I can make out a large church in the block next to the hospital, as well as the paper mill across the river. Au Chateau Maison de Vieillards, the home for the aged, is shown to the right in a Forder postcard.
Which buildings are shown in this aerial view of the northern part of Sturgeon Falls? The real-photo postcard was postmarked in 1949.
To the left is a tall-tale, or exaggeration, real-photo postcard which is notable for its railroad theme. Entitled “It’s All in the Way You Train ‘Em!,” this vintage postcard shows a man with a fishing pole, dwarfed atop a giant fish, the box car pulled by a steam engine marked as “The Fisherman’s Special.” Above are five scarce c. 1910-1920s real-photo postcards published by the Canadian Post Card Co. of Toronto which celebrate local agricultural products. From left to right, the images show four men trying to haul two oversized geese to market; an onion harvest in which approximately three onions fill the bed of the horse-drawn wagon; and a pumpkin harvest requiring a team of horses to carry three pumpkins. These photo-surrealistic images, intended to brag about fertile soil and bountiful harvests, fall within a genre known as exaggeration or “tall tale” postcards. The 1951 fishing postcard (second from right) is more typical of exaggerations, as is the 1932 fishing postcard at far right. For an explanation of the photographic process used to make these postcards, see the Wisconsin Historical Society’s web page about photographer Alfred Stanley Johnson and the American Museum of Photography’s page on “trick” photographer William H. Martin.
Another unusual postcard is this Art Deco-influenced QSL card (ham radio) filled out by Lucien Guitard of Sturgeon Falls in May 1939. Never mailed, it was intended for someone named Felix in Belgium. On the reverse, Guitard wrote: “I wonder if u know anbody by the name of Godfroid near u. My mother comes from Belgium. My grandfather’s name is Lucien Godfroid. I think they used to live near Charlebois. He has sisters and brothers there.” Considering that World War II followed within two years, we’ll never know what happened to Felix.
Two 1930s to 1940s early roadside Canadiana postcards are seen here, of the Laronde Creek Lodge in winter and in summer. It was located just before what was known as the Number 10 Indian Reserve; that name was changed to Nipissing Indian Reserve 10 before its 14 June 1994 name change to the Nipissing First Nation Band. The Lodge was on the right side of Highway 17 as it heads east toward North Bay, about 20 minutes away. At the time, the Lodge had white globe gas pumps, with a c. 1920s to 1930s White Rose advertising logo above the pumps. Several cabins are in the distance and the Lodge’s headquarters is at left front, with a large Coca-Cola sign above the front windows. Both vintage postcards were published by the Temiskaming Printing Co. of New Liskeard, in business from 1906 to the present.
The Sea Gull Lodge at 930 Quesnel Road, seen to the left in a c. 1945-1949 Azo real-photo postcard, is about four miles from downtown Sturgeon Falls, at the mouth of the Sturgeon River and Lake Nipissing. At the time, the Sea Gull had a large Coca-Cola kick plate on the front door, with a prominent Coca-Cola advertising thermometer to the left of the door. Other area lodges included the Alabama Club House (right). The title of this c. 1930s to 1940s postcard is “Sturgeon Falls, Ontario — Alabama Club House, French River.” Did the club meet in Sturgeon Falls and fish at French River? The image is of a substantial two-story structure, atypical of small fishing camps, with at least four smaller cottages visible in the distance.
The Alladin cottage, as seen c. 1907-1915, was on the west arm of Lake Nipissing. Look at the great pleasure craft! It’s partial name contained the letters “ardeu.” Does anyone know the name of this boat? The Sturgeon Falls area has always been known for its great fishing, especially walleye. This postcard was published by the Pugh Specialty Co. of Toronto.
The Lincoln Motel at 191 Front St., near O’Hara St., is seen in a c. 1950s real-photo postcard (top left) and in a c. 1960s chrome postcard (bottom left) which advertised that there was a TV in each of the 18 units. By the 1970s, it was owned by Jeannot and Lorraine Gervais, as seen to the right. Note the Sturgeon Falls Granite Club (curling) and the ice hockey arena behind the motel. The Granite Club is actually the third site for curling in Sturgeon Falls, the previous locations having been at the corner of Nipissing and Front Sts. and on Railway. Well-known local builder Arthur Paiement, who built the popular Holiday Inn, died in 1956 while constructing the curling club. The photographer of the Lincoln was J. M. Cossette of Repentigny, Québec. A restaurant owned by A. Gervais, is seen in a c. 1960s to 1970s postcard at bottom right. Located on Highway 17 East, it specialized in Canadian and Chinese food. A beauty salon, barber shop, laundromat and “newly furnished” bachelor apartments for rent by the month were also located on the premises.
Here we see a 1940s curling enthusiast known only as “Maranda, Jr.” in the caption. He has an infectious grin and seems delighted to be posing with two curling rocks. His name was Rolly Maranda, and the image was taken in front of his parents’ John St. home. Many thanks to Michael Patry for this information as well. Rolly had two brothers, Marcel and Gerry. They were all members of the Maranda family which had a pharmacy at the corner of King and Queen Sts., in the Rochon building.
The Sturgeon Hotel and Motel, also known as the Sturgeon Lodge, was built by Joe Jennings in 1946. In this c. 1940s postcard, the Lodge is seen attractively situated overlooking the Sturgeon River. Harold Meehan was the owner-manager for many years. It advertised “excellent cuisine,” a “spacious dining room” and had boats and motors available. Sold in 1972, the lodge has since had many partners.
Several motels were located along Highway 17, including the Champlain Motel, still at 155 Front St. and seen at top left in a 1950s chrome postcard, and the Red Rock Motel, seen at bottom left in a 1958 real-photo postcard. Both were just east of the Sturgeon Falls city limits. The Moulin Rouge motel at 175 Front St. (Highway 17) was owned by Ray and Gerry Pilon at one time, and has been in business since the 1950s. Ted Monette owned the Silver Star motel and Esso gas station on Highway 17 East, as seen in this late 1950s to early 1960s Forder postcard. We think this was on the west side of Sturgeon Falls. If you know differently, let us know. The Sunshine Motel, at 11921 Hwy. 17, west of downtown, offers kitchenettes, camping with hookups, a heated pool, and access to cross-country skiing, a snowmobile trail, hunting and fishing. It’s seen below in a c. 1980s postcard.
A quadruple-view postcard (a type which is somewhat uncommon), depicts activities at the Sunbeam motel, on River Road. The complex was somewhat sophisticated, offering a cocktail lounge, saunas, a marina and a 2,500 foot airplane landing strip. The image appears to be c. 1960s to 1970s. To the right, in a c. 1940s CKC real-photo postcard, new canoes are seen docked at what was then known as the Sunbeam Lodge.
A. Z. Aubin owned the La Plage Camp, as seen in the 1954 real-photo postcard. Established in 1934, it has a Verner mailing address. To the right, one sees a shore dinner being prepared at Kervin’s Camp, on the west arm of Lake Nipissing. The sender of this 1940s postcard wrote: “Shore dinners at noon are wonderful.” Below is a finely detailed 1924 real-photo postcard by Vachon, showing two of Mr. Kervin’s houseboats on the West Arm of Lake Nipissing. Other images of Kervin houseboats can be seen on the Callander page.
The Lizette cabin cruiser, owned and operated by a man named I believe “Bun” Bergeron, traveled Lake Nipissing and the French River as a general-purpose vessel, delivering to cottagers and lodges. It was leaving for the French River in this 1954 McNeill RPPC. Mr. Bergeron had two sons, Roland, a retired firefighter, and Raymond. We’ve been told that Roland is the man standing in the stern, while his father pilots the boat. Many thanks to Gérald Hébert, formerly of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in Sturgeon Falls and now of Ottawa, for this and other information. We think the Lizette burned, but are not sure. The second real-photo postcard, a c. 1940s CKC view by Forder, shows the Lizette with the Chief Commanda I, at Chaudiere Lodge on the French River.
Numerous cottages dot the shoreline of Lake Nipissing, with some of them shown in this c. 1940s postcard published by the Photogelatine Engraving Co. of Ottawa, commonly referred to as PECO. Does anyone recognize the cottages and their location?
Lew Brown’s camp on Sandy Island is shown in a c. 1940s CKC real-photo postcard to the left. One of the camp’s log cabins is shown at bottom left, in a real-photo postcard which was postmarked in 1947. Oak Island Lodge, photographed by Harry Oakman of Peterborough, is seen in the nicely detailed aerial RPPC to the right.
McNeill took the c. 1940s RPPC of the quay. To the right is a Forder postcard of the government wharf, as seen in the 1940s.
Leaving town and heading west on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 17), one crosses the Champlain Bridge. The bridge shown here opened on 16 November 1954 and was replaced in 1983. In the foreground is a more contemporary image of the CPR trestle as first seen in the 1907 postcard: note how the original rocky landscape has been transformed. This chrome postcard, c. 1970s, was published by the aforementioned Peterborough Post Card Co. The second postcard, a close-up of the Champlain Bridge, was published by Forder.
Last but not least is the c. 1950s McNeill real photo postcard showing Meadowside, on the stretch of the Trans-Canada connecting Sturgeon Falls and North Bay, about 35 km (22 miles) east. Teenagers have been known to call this the “Sturgeon Strip” and to drive a little fast on it.
With a population of about 6,500, the Sturgeon Falls community is now part of the provincially-mandated Municipality of West Nipissing (total population of about 13,650) as of 1 January 1999. Sturgeon Falls, Cache Bay and the Townships of Caldwell, Field and Springer were amalgamated to form the West Nipissing municipality. The townships of Badgerow, Bastedo, Beaucage, Bertram, Crerar, Dana, Falconer, Fell, Gibbons, Grant, Hugel, Kirkpatrick, Latchford, Loudon, MacPherson, McWilliams, Pedley and a portion of the Janes township were also annexed. Sturgeon Falls is in the District of Nipissing in northeastern Ontario, which was created in 1858; the district seat is North Bay.
For collectors of vintage postcards, old postcards and the antique postcard. Deltiology, the hobby of collecting vintage postcards, is one of the fastest-growing collectibles hobbies. Old postcard collections interest collectors of antiques, memorabilia and ephemera; collectables such as old vintage postcards are used by museums and historians to document what was.