Birthplace of Windsor & Area's Transit System
hundred and fifty years before the Casino started drawing thousands
of tourists to Windsor every day, the local tourist attraction was
a real hot spot!
the mid 1800's, thousands came to Windsor every summer to visit
the sulphur springs in Brighton Beach, just outside of Sandwich.
In order to accommodate the thousands of mostly American tourists
flocking to the area, the Ontario Legislature passed an act in 1872
approving a horse drawn street car line.
City of Windsor cleared a 100-foot wide swath of land from Bruce
west to Huron Line to create London Street (now University Ave.)
The six car trolley line opened on July 20th, 1874. Rates "from
any point in Sandwich" to Assumption Church were six cents; to Campbell,
seven cents; and eight cents to Windsor.
the very snowy winter of 1875 the railway substituted sleighs for
the horse-drawn streetcar. Thus began a nearly 100 year tradition
of street car companies being responsible for the plowing and cleaning
of our main roads.
original streetcar line did not prosper and changed hands many times
(even Americans were involved at one point) until the Sandwich,
Windsor & Amherstburg Railway (S.W. & A.) commenced operation
in June, 1887.
1891, a powerhouse (to equip the road for electric operation) and
the London Street trolley barns were built just west of the Michigan
Central Railroad Bridge. The powerhouse apparently also 'sold' electricity
to its neighbours during its brief history.
first 'electric' streetcar ran between Windsor and the town of Walkerville.
The one and a half mile long line was officially opened on June
9, 1886, with a travel time of 12 minutes to Walkerville. It is
thought to be the first electric streetcar in North America but
our Municipal Archives has no information that would back up this
the trolleys disappeared in 1937, the London Street Trolley barns
still exist (though another smaller version out back is long gone
as are the street rails) on University Avenue West at the foot of
S.W.& A. ran their operations there from 1887 until 1947, with
a Freight Office and barbershop just to the east. The Windsor Rollerdrome
was located in the building that now holds "The Junction", from
1949 until 1952 while the other remained vacant.
Brenda (Gallimore) Gall loved to rollerskate and remembers going
to the Rollerdrome as a young teenager with her babysitting money.
"The floor was so smooth and there was never any drinking or fighting
- you were kicked out if you started anything".
were unofficial 'races' on Saturday afternoons bringing people from
all over the county for the good-spirited competition. Other neighbourhood
girls from that time I've talked to indicated that they "weren't
ALLOWED to go", and others "didn't have money for that kind of thing".
of these buildings and the adjacent property are owned by The M.G.
(George) Butler family and are managed by Doug Butler, Sr. (one
of George's sons) and Doug, Jr.
1951, Michael George Butler bought the buildings from the S.W.&
A and started the family business. Calling themselves 'Industrial
Distributors', they've got a little bit of everything you'll ever
need for your factory: maintenance & janitorial supplies, hoists,
chain, all kinds of rope, hoses, valves, tools, etc., I even saw
'wellies' and rain slickers. All the things a hardware store junky
to blueprints provided by local Bus Historian Bernie Drouillard,
when the powerhouse was in use, there were tracks that brought the
coal car right into the building, to a small room behind the boiler
room. Upstairs in the back they have left the unusual looking original
present, M.G. Butler and Sons rents out space in their building
(where the paint shed used to be) to the Salvation Army as storage
former Rollerdrome building presently houses The Junction, a family
entertainment facility. George Sofos and his partners renovated
the trolley car barn to the tune of $1,000,000 and counting, and
it's quite evident.
of a maintenance pit, well hidden, hearken back to the building's
garage days. The original heavy sliding doors have been moved and
are used as wall dividers throughout the building. Sofos is in the
process of restoring the original Edison lights that were used in
the pits and finding the right replacements for the blocked-in windows.
scene of many corporate parties (where even adults have been known
to whiz down those curvy slides), plans for the Junction include
expanding to include more slides which will be accessed from an
even higher mezzanine area.
you're interested in seeing how one of Windsor's oldest buildings
has been put to good use, take a trip to The Junction. Just think,
you can sit in an old trolley barn, (hopefully enjoy a glass of
wine or beer), someone else makes dinner, and the kids can have
Visit Sherrill Tucker's
Web Site - sherrilltucker.com