The History of South River-Machar, Ontario
The Ever Changing Main Street of South River

These are the early days of South River. This is the skeleton of South River. So many buildings are under construction, so much history to happen.

South River Under Construction
South River Under Construction Details
Sketch of South River's Main Street, circa 1890
Sketch of South River's Main Street, circa 1890 Details

We begin our journey through time along Ottawa Avenue, the main street in South River Ontario. The buildings will change facades and the roads will go from dirt to asphalt.

An early black and white photograph of South River, dated to about 1900. The right side of the street is what was drawn in the hand drawn picture. The road is dirt and the sidewalks are wooden planks. These buildings, the street and the sidewalk will change over time.

Local businesses are becoming established. At this time there were fifteen, including: general stores, hotels, blacksmiths, shoemakers, carpenters, butchers, barbers, dressmakers, and restaurants.

Main Street, South River, circa 1900
Main Street, South River, circa 1900 Details
South River Mercantile Company A. K. A. Ard's Store.
South River Mercantile Company A. K. A. Ard's Store. Details

This is the third building on the right side of the street. It was the South River Mercantile Company. This was South River's general store. It was also known as Ard's Store. The Ard's being the wealthiest family in South River. Items sold at this store include: dresses, suits, tools, nails, fresh vegetables, biscuits, candies and dried goods.

Here is the same street as the picture taken in 1900 but from the opposite end of the street, in the winter. The building with the covered entrance, in the background and on the right in this picture, is on the left in the above picture. The building on the left, near the back and with the decorative molding, is the South River Mercantile Company, which is on the right in the first picture.

Snow Covered Main Street, South River, circa 1910
Snow Covered Main Street, South River, circa 1910 Details
Main Street South River, 1912
Main Street South River, 1912 Details

1912 and Ottawa Street has under gone a change or two. Telephone poles have sprung up. On the right side the first building has changed quite a bit, once again. The brick has become darker, almost like a new building, and the balcony now has a covering for the second floor. The third building is still the South River Mercantile Company.

How things have changed over twenty years. There are now trees and cars along the street. Far down the street there is a General Store and a building that we cannot quite see. Don't worry too much, that's about to change.

Main Street, South River, circa 1930
Main Street, South River, circa 1930 Details
"The Vincent Company" Store, South River, circa 1900
"The Vincent Company" Store, South River, circa 1900 Details

Can you see this building in the above picture? This picture was taken in the 1900s but the building is still there. On the right side, fourth building down. There are now two trees growing on the right side. The building was built in the 1890s but burnt down in the 1940s

Going along the street, going forward in time. The street is now wider than it was before. We are now about half-way down the street. For the first time we can see a gas station. Its a B A gas station, owned by Don Johnston. The Vincent Company or what was the Vincent Company is across the street.

Main Street, South River, circa 1950
Main Street, South River, circa 1950 Details
Don Johnston's Service Station, South River, circa 1950
Don Johnston's Service Station, South River, circa 1950 Details

Here is a close up of the Gas Station taken at about the same time.

Time passes and more changes take place. This picture is taken from the same place as the winter 1910 picture so things are reversed from what we have been looking at. The trees are growing taller, there are more cars on the street and the telephone poles are changing. Ard's Store is the second building on the left. There is a brand new building at the bottom right. Its a restaurant called 'Chequers.' The building across from it is also new. It was the site of The Vincent Company which burnt down since the last picture was taken. Another big change from the winter of 1910, at the back there is a railroad crossing, or at least the sign for one.

South River Street, circa 1940
South River Street, circa 1940 Details
Winter on Main Street, South River, circa 1948
Winter on Main Street, South River, circa 1948 Details

Here is the same street in the winter, but from further back. Again we see Don Johnston's B A gas station. There is a building with a Coca-Cola sign on its side. What could this building be?

He we are at the end of the journey. Luckily there is a picture taken from about where we started in 1900. So what has changed. Well, the obvious is a railway crossing. The telephone poles and vehicles on the road have changed again. This is the first time we have seen a street light. But what of those three buildings? They are still there, having survived eighty years and still look roughly the same. Their brickwork have been covered over or replaced. The two closest buildings now advertise themselves as hotels. The third building now has a covered entrance.

Railroad Crossing in Front of South River's Main Street, 1981
Railroad Crossing in Front of South River's Main Street, 1981 Details
Fern's Beauty Salon and Almaguin Enterprises
Fern's Beauty Salon and Almaguin Enterprises Details

This is what the South River Mercantile Company looked like in the 1970s. The bottom floor are stores and the upper floor are apartments. There was window displays on the right side and two windows above them in the 1900s. But when this picture was taken it has been bricked over. The windows above display windows are still there. What was a wooden facade in the 1900s is now white siding.

Before you leave, here are a few before and after pictures of some South River buildings. At one time this building was a bakery, grocery store or a furniture store.

Former Bakery, Furniture & Grocery Store, Ottawa Street, South River, circa 1950
Former Bakery, Furniture & Grocery Store, Ottawa Street, South River, circa 1950 Details
Former Bakery, Furniture & Grocery Store, Ottawa Street, South River, circa 1985
Former Bakery, Furniture & Grocery Store, Ottawa Street, South River, circa 1985 Details

Now look at it. Its being used as a private residence. Notice the size of the tree by the telephone pole and the size of the hedge. They have grown much larger.

Here is one last building before and after. When this picture was taken the building was empty. However, this place has been: a watchmaker's store operated by W. H. Chapman, grocery store and a confectionery store. So what is it today?

Storefront in South River, circa 1985
Storefront in South River, circa 1985 Details
Storefront of Zak's Natural Food, circa 1990
Storefront of Zak's Natural Food, circa 1990 Details

The building has become a health food store. Aside from superficial changes to the door and the window displays is a sign board hanging above the entrance way.

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