The following article was published in our periodic newsletters. The Friends of Roselawn Centre Newsletter is one of many benefits of our membership.
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Springtime in the Village

Summer 2017 Newsletter

The warm weather has arrived and many of us are thinking about new summer clothing  –   a simple task for us now, but how did the residents of the little village of Port Colborne acquire their new Spring and Summer wardrobes in the 1860s?

Godey’s Lady’s Book was a women’s magazine that was published in Philadelphia from 1830-1878. It was widely circulated and was the most popular journal of its day. Each issue contained poetry, articles and engravings and even piano sheet music  of the latest waltz or polka but Godey’s was best known for the hand-tinted “fashion plate” at the start of each issue depicting the most current styles. (If you haunt antique stores  as I do,  you will have seen framed copies of “Godey Ladies”   still popular today) Almost every issue included a pattern with measurements for garments sewn at home as many women, of necessity, became accomplished seamstresses in those days. What a daunting task with voluminous skirts, ruffles and pleats, ribbons and bows and not to forget the intricate under skirts, camisoles and removable collars and cuffs! OR as now, men and women alike could SHOP ON WEST STREET

In 1850, Lewis Carter (who later became the owner of our Roselawn mansion)  entered the mercantile trade, probably with his father.   In that year, he built a brick building on West Street which was to house his store at the location of the new lock between Charlotte and Clarence Streets. It was the first brick building on West Street and it still stands today!  Next time you visit the Canalside Kitchen Store,  you might feel the presence of Mister Carter  moving along the aisles and  checking the stock.

Over the years,  his business had branched out from strictly a grocery store to a general store  and American Express agency with  surprisingly sophisticated goods from around the world.   The sign atop the building read  “L.G.Carter  & Co.  IMPORTERS OF DRY GOODS”  He made buying trips to Europe , visiting England and Wales.   The Port Colborne Historical Museum holds a copy of a document , registered at the foreign office, London, granting Lewis Carter the freedom to travel through Europe.

Lewis and Mary Carter had no children.   Lewis took a great interest in his nephew, DeWitt Carter,  and when he travelled to Europe to purchase items for his store, he took DeWitt with him, introducing him to Paris and London. DeWitt (who became Port Colborne’s first mayor) helped in the store as a young man . A personal column in the Welland Tribune noted: “We are informed that Mr. L.G.Carter of  Port Colborne, accompanied by his nephew, Mr. DeW. Carter left Quebec per SS Sarmatian, July 5, for England. Mr. Carter intends making his purchases in England and Scotland, after which, he and his nephew will make the tour through France, Italy, Germany and Austria, visiting the World Fair at Vienna.”

An article in The Tribune at the time said that L.G.Carter and Co.  “are prepared to show the most beautiful assortment of dress goods in every description of fabrics  in plain and fancy stuffs…..and mourning goods of every kind, all of which can be made to order on short notice by the best dress maker in Port Colborne…the millinery show room contains every novelty in American, English and French styles.”  The article goes on to “remind the gentlemen that every branch of gents furnishings is complete – with paper collars, linen collars, ties,  bows and scarfs….white shirts, with broad and narrow pleats….fancy regatta shirts, flannel shirts, wool and merino undershirts and drawers…silk hats, fur hats, felt and straw hats,and silk and tweed caps”   A full column ad boasted that his “large stock of General Dry Goods, Millinery, Mantles, Dress goods, Clothing, Boots and Shoes will compare with any retail stock in the Dominion.”

An 1876 photograph shows the three- storey  Hopkins and Carter brick building block adjoining the Carter store to the south . A fire on December 14, 1881, destroyed all but the original Carter store .  The three storey block was replaced with a two-storey building but with a gap in the middle which is still there today.

Those of you who know me well will realize just how much I would like to travel back in time to shop at L.G.Carter and Co.

Until next time…  

 Carole Black Brisley