Part 5 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

View up Main Street (formerly Mine Road) looking north in the spring of 1937. At the head of Main, across from the tracks, the false-fronted building on the right is Daneff’s General Store, rebuilt after the December 1936 fire. See sidebar below. Compare the building depicted in the 1935 photo. The building on the left has yet to be identified. To the east is an empty lot, and out of frame is the Geraldton Hotel. The church spire belongs to St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church on Second Ave. N. The absence of the new water tower to the west helps to date this photo, the tower becoming operational in June 1938. Sewer ditches are being excavated on either side of Main, to be spanned by ramps to provide parking (completed by May 1937), but no sidewalks were constructed. The two-storey buildings from R to L: Geraldton Tea Room (formerly Murphy’s Lunch), St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Dreamland Dance Hall, (opening March 1937, formerly Ernie Correll’s General Store, where the Royal Bank is located today), and Cochrane-Dunlop Hardware Store. Photo Greenstone History Collection.

Two lands groups were formed, Geraldton Lands Limited,
by Joe Errington, Stanley Fitzgerald, and Lawrence [MacDonald].
They [swore] an [affidavit] at Toronto [on] January 31, 1934.

Geraldton Realty was started by J.M. Beamish, H. Hogarth,
and J. Bushey[,] with A. Hodgins as office manager.

The first town map covered an area from Third [Ave. N.] to
Fourth Ave. S. The land was surveyed into [33-foot lots].

The land companies were allowed to sell lots for building
and some lots were priced as high as $3,825.00], with $900.00
down and payments of $100.00 per month [and] interest at 4%.
One person purchased a lot for $600.00[,] then had to pay $300.00
for an extra 8 feet because he wanted a larger lot.

People holding mining claims were not allowed to sell lots
[or]subdivide their claims. They did[, however,] allow people to
build on the claims and [collect] “Ground Rent” with a [99-year]
lease .

People wanted a place to call home and they set about
building log cabins, setting up tents, or in some cases [they would
build] a little platform with walls up about 3 or 4 feet and then
put the tent on top of that, giving the feeling of a house
rather than just a tent.

The early settlers did put up with many inconveniences ,
but, they did manage to enjoy life at its worst.

Railway traffic continued to increase and the CNR placed
a box car at [Mileage] 21 with one word on it[:] STATION. The mines
now had a closer rail terminal and freight was unloaded from the
train onto sleighs, pulled by horses in winter and wagons in
summer. The road from the CNR tracks to Kenogamisis Lake was
known as Mine Road

Geraldton had many names [̶ ]Muskeg Metropolis, Muskeg
Capital, Muskeg Citadel, Golden City, Mining Centre, and
Capital of Gold [ ̶ ] [before] the CNR named it Geraldton in 1933.
[It was a] combination of the names of Joe Errington and [S.J.] Fitzgerald.

Each mine provided for their employees. Bunkhouses and a
cookery for the single men , recreation building for all the
employees and their families[,] and an area for the married
men to build their own houses. A house in the Thirties was
probably a tar paper shack or a log cabin with one room, one
window , one door[,] heated by a wood stove, and a floor if
the necessary lumber was available.

Wherever there is a mine there must be some sort
of [health] care available. The Little Long Lac Hospital was
built in 1934, supposedly from a diagram drawn on a cigarette
packet by Doc Riches. It operated as a Red Cross Hospital
and had a Red Cross on the roof to inform incoming planes
they were near a hospital in case of emergency.
It wasn’t long till the hospital had to be enlarged to make
room for a maternity wing. With a young population , long winter
nights, the 4 a.m. [wayfreight] disturbing the sleep patterns[,]
and the fact that birth control was illegal, the birth rate
was high. During one day in the Thirties[,] 30 babies were [delivered]
in one day. Certainly kept the stork flyways busy. Good thing
the Red Cross was visible on the roof of the Hospital.

During 1934 many business firms had [purchased] land from the
[real estate companies]and there was a thriving business area,
mostly north of the tracks.

The buildings fronting First Ave. N. ca 1935, just north of the railway. Looking up Mine Road, they were the buildings visible across the tracks. From L to R, Windsor Hotel, Ruttan’s Barber Shop, Geraldton Cafe, and Daneff’s General Store. Geraldton Cafe soon became Golden Grill. The building housing the barber shop and the restaurant belonged to Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Holmes. Not in frame to the east of Daneff’s are an empty lot and Morin Hotel (later Geraldton Hotel). The first water tower peeps over the hotel. On December 22, 1936, a fire destroyed the three adjoining buildings. See the sidebar below. Photo Dobie Family Collection.
An extract . . .

Plan M-104, available in early 1934, showing the lots of the original Geraldton Townsite. Note in the bottom left corner the north-south boundaries of Errington and Ashmore Townships. Photo from Greenstone History Document Collection.

8 thoughts on “Part 5 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

  1. What wonderful explanation of Geraldton’s early years ! Thank you Edward Lavoie as I lived in Geraldton from 1958-1963 on the North side of tracks beside Willy Pelletier’s house . Was sorry to leave but my husband Yvan Discala was eager to go to England where I now still live .Yvan passed in 2012 .Google


      1. I post most of my articles in a Facebook site named Greenstone History PLUS. No registration or membership fee, but tell us why you are interested.


      2. I’ m very interested in the Geraldton news as I lived there from 1957/1963 & my sisters also lived there at that time & my husband worked for Kimberley Clark .I’m really from Hearst , now live in England but like to keep in touch with news from the area & how Geraldton really started ! Blessings to all ! Taimi


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