Thursday 11 April 2013

Eramosa Rd.

This postcard presents a view of Eramosa Rd. (incorrectly labelled "Eramora Road") looking northward from the intersection of Eramosa, Woolwich St. and Upper Wyndham.

Text on the back of the card indicates that it was produced by "The International Stationary Co., Picton, Canada". It is one of a series of postcards of Guelph printed by the company, all done in this warm, sepia tone, with a narrow white frame and art-nouveau-font label on the front.

The photo clearly shows incandescent street lamps, directly above the hat of the woman in the foreground, that were introduced to downtown Guelph in 1912. The card is postmarked for June 1st, 1916, so the image can be dated to ca. 1915.

This card is one of my favourites. It is an unusual card in the sense that it is a professional card that has people in the foreground. Most professional cards of Guelph, at least in the Edwardian era, are of notable structures or places, less often of activities or events. Activity cards often feature people but focus on leisure or recreation, e.g., strolling in the park. Here, the ladies crossing Woolwich St. are in the foreground, but are not engaged in a recreation. Indeed, they are dressed in their fancy attire. So, what are they doing?

It is hard to be sure, but the photo offers some clues. Union Jacks and Ensigns are seen flying in the windows above (James) Steele's Wire Works (the building on the corner at the right margin of the photo). A line of Union Jacks and perhaps other flags is suspended across the road from Craven's Furniture to Trafalgar Square, opposite. (Henry Craven is listed as an upholsterer in the 1917 Vernon's City Directory, at 5 Trafalgar Square). In "Guelph: Take a look at us!", Donald Coulman provides a picture of the Dominion Day parade in downtown in 1912, noting that the buildings are covered in patriotic bunting (1977, n. 180). Dominion Day marked the establishment of Canada as a confederation and a British dominion on July 1st, 1867. (It is now known as Canada Day.) It could be that the ladies in the foreground are on their way to a Dominion Day celebration.

The background is also interesting. The Trafalgar Square road continues from the picture's center down to the Eramosa bridge. Eramosa then continues dramatically up and over the crest of Eramosa hill on its way out of town.

Things are happening along the roadway. A car appears to be turning off the road in the middle ground. Is it a Model T? Perhaps it is headed into the garage next to Craven's Furniture. Vernon's directory lists a "Maylor Auto Sales" at 9 Trafalgar Square, which seems likely to be the garage in the picture. The directory lists seven "garages" in total, suggesting that cars were becoming popular in the city, even at this relatively early date.

Further down the road, beside the furniture store, is a passenger rail car, apparently sitting on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks next to the road. I gather that it is not going to cross the road since the white barrier poles on either side of the tracks are raised to permit traffic to cross.

Then comes the Eramosa bridge, spanning the Speed River. After the bridge, the colouration of the roadway seems to change, suggesting that the pavement ended there and that Eramosa road remained a dirt road at the time.

Although it is necessarily a snapshot, the picture provides an interesting tension. The three figures in the foreground approach the camera, walking with a purpose, even as Eramosa Road seems to lead the eye off in the opposite direction, away from the camera and over the horizon. Also, the different means of mobility, that is, walking, driving, and riding the train, remind the viewer about the places in the area outside of the frame of the picture. Retrospectively, the presence of the cars makes me think about how profoundly automotive traffic is about to change the city and the lives of the people in it.

Here is the current Street View image of the same vantage:

View Larger Map

Many of the details have changed. For example, the roadway has been widened, squeezing Trafalgar Square in order to accommodate more cars on Eramosa. The buildings on the right margin have been replaced by The Matrix Centre. Eramosa Road has replaced the "Trafalgar Square" address and now meets Woolwich St. However, the topology of the streets remains essentially the same.

The postcard was sent through the mail, so the back has some interesting things on it as well. First, it has a two-cent stamp, reflecting the fact that rates for postcards increased from one to two cents in 1915 for North American delivery. The text of the letter reads as follows:

Thurs. a.m.
Dear Margaret: Rec. your card. have the house-cleaning just about done. giving Ida a party on sat. after-noon. if Sid doesn't get off, you had better come up over sunday. Ida would like you to be here for her party.
With love from all
Grace and the boss
The receiving address is: "Mrs. S. Dudley, 88 Indian Grove, Toronto, Ont". I wonder if Margaret made it for the party. Or Sid. And, who was "the boss"?

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