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Gordon Block

2, Downie Street, Stratford, Ontario, N5A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1978/12/15

View of the northeast corner showing overall massing and proportions of building - April 2003; OHT, 2003
View of the northeast corner – April 2003
View of the pediment on the east elevation showing corbelling and emboss patterning – April 2003; OHT, 2003
View of pediment on east elevation – April 2003
Historic view of the northeast corner showing overall massing and proportions of building – c. 1910; Kyles, Garratt and Marklevitz, Architects, 1992
Historic view of the northeast corner – c. 1910

Other Name(s)

Gordon Block
Festival Square

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1893/01/01 to 1894/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/12/07

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The building at 2-12 Downie Street, commonly referred to as the Gordon Block, is situated on a five-sided parcel of land at one of Stratford's most prestigious downtown intersections. The architect of the three-storey red brick building is unknown; however, the date of construction has been traced to 1893-1894.

The exterior of the building's three visible facades is protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the City of Stratford under Part IV (Bylaw 107-84) and Part V (Bylaw 173-97) of the Ontario Heritage Act.

Heritage Value

The unique form of the Gordon Block is the result of its location at the intersection of Downie, Ontario, and Erie Streets in the heart of Stratford. Its large massing and two towers account for its existence as an urban landmark within the downtown and its vertical character provides a unifying quality that matches much of the fabric of the area. The structure abuts a building to the south known as the Beamish Building (1888), and together they form an indoor shopping centre called Festival Square.

The Gordon Block is representative of the early growth and development of the City of Stratford, as its construction was one of the projects commissioned by the City's first mayor, William Gordon. The building was also the last brick commercial building of the 19th Century to be constructed in Stratford's downtown core, thus signifying the end of a period of intensive expansion and commercial development which continued from 1870 to 1900.

After being threatened by demolition in the mid-1970s, the building was restored by a heritage-minded developer and now exists as one of the focal points in a well preserved downtown core. The preservation of the building's façade was a historically significant event as it launched heritage conservation practice in Stratford.

The Gordon Block is an excellent example of a late Victorian commercial building that incorporates design influences from a variety of architectural styles. Among the most notable of the building's features are the two pyramid-capped corner towers along the main (north) façade and the intricate brick corbelling along the roofline. However, as impressive as these features may be, the Gordon Block is most significant for its role as the first building in Stratford to be constructed of a cast iron frame. Timber frame construction had been predominant throughout the downtown core in the early days of Stratford, but in 1863 a municipal bylaw was passed in an effort to reduce the hazards of fire. The adoption of a cast iron frame not only helped to curb the threat of fire, it also expanded design opportunities by lessoning the amount of space required for structural components. Given this new opportunity, the floor level of the building was designed as a solid curtain of plate glass, allowing uninterrupted views into the building from all three sides.

Source: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust.

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Gordon Block include its:
- representation of the early growth and development of the City of Stratford
- existence as the last brick commercial building constructed in Stratford's downtown core during the 19th Century
- association with the history of heritage conservation in Stratford
- innovative structural system
- stone foundation
- cast iron framing
- load bearing brick masonry with wood joists and wood decking
- three visible red brick facades
- brick pilasters
- hood moulds
- voussoirs
- brick friezes
- brick corbelling and other modulated and custom brickwork
- fenestrated storefronts with tall proportions on the ground floor
- wood paneling and large expanses of glass
- pressed metal cornice with associated commercial signbands
- two decorative cast iron columns at the building's “cut away” corners
- fenestration which varies between flat-headed windows at the second floor, round-headed windows at the third floor, and segmented and tri-partite bay windows on the northern (main) façade
- two principle corners along the north (main) façade which contain differing sized square hipped-roof towers (the larger distinguished by a series of four small round-headed windows on its north and east sides)
- brickwork along the upper portion of the building with intricate corbelling and embossed patterns, the roof top pediment on the east façade, and the lack of an upper cornice
- prestigious location at the intersection of Downie, Ontario, and Erie Streets
- existence as an urban landmark within the downtown
- relationship with the Beamish Building to form Festival Square




Recognition Authority

Ontario Heritage Trust

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Ontario Heritage Foundation Easement

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1978/01/01 to 1978/01/01
1997/01/01 to 1997/01/01
1979/01/01 to 1979/01/01
1984/01/01 to 1984/01/01
1975/01/01 to 1977/01/01
1978/01/01 to 1979/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Conservation Easement Files Ontario Heritage Trust 10 Adelaide Street East Toronto, Ontario

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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