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Devastating Orillia Hardware fire in 1941 threatened downtown

A police constable heard an explosion and called in the alarm, but the fire was out of control, destroying the downtown landmark in a matter of minutes
236 Orillia Hardware fire 1941
Fire destroyed Orillia Hardware, housed in a sprawling building on Mississaga Street, in 1941.

Postcard Memories is a weekly series of historic postcard views and photos submitted by Marcel Rousseau.

Some were previously published by the Orillia Museum of Art and History and in the book Postcard Memories Orillia.

One of the oldest businesses in town, Orillia Hardware, was established in 1867, the year of Confederation, on the south-east corner of Mississaga and West Streets. The original building was 35 X 120 feet and contained two floors of hardware, tin ware and general merchandise.

Started by James and W.R. Tudhope, sons of George Tudhope of Rugby, it was sold to G.H. White in 1878. The business changed hands several times and moved to 21-23 Mississaga St. E., a large building built by T.B. Cramp in 1913.

In April of 1941, one of the worst fires in several years completely destroyed the Orillia Hardware and the Orillia Business College above it.

The store had one of the largest floor areas in town and with both floors burned through and the roof caved in, the intense flames threatened the whole block including Swintons Furniture next door. Only the brick walls and some framework on the front were saved from the destruction.

It was just before 4 a.m. when Constable Burtchaell, on duty at the police station across the road from the store, heard an explosion and called the alarm. It was nine hours later before Chief Lee Edwards and his crew could return to the station. Total damage to the building and contents was estimated at $75,000.  

Within a few days the C.V. Bennett Construction Co. was on the scene clearing the debris and starting to rebuild, with the owners hoping to reopen for business within six weeks.