Guest blogger Lindsay Benjamin
For over 100 years members of my family have called Forest, Ontario home. I’ve only been around to enjoy 29 of those years in Forest, but this summer, for the first time, I saw Forest in a new light. Every year my family heads to heavenly Hillsboro beach, just outside of town to gather at our family cottage. Although our family built the cottage in the 1950s (and those neighbouring it), I never had much time to explore the local heritage. I was usually distracted by Lake Huron’s sandy beach, warm water and time spent with family. That was until I stumbled upon a Forest Heritage Walking tour in July while shopping Forest’s main street (King Street). I didn’t hesitate to tag along with the group guided by knowledgeable local historians. We strolled Forest’s core then hopped on a hayride through town, touring many of Forest’s historic gems. For your viewing pleasure I’ve recounted some of the highlights! 1. A. Hodgson Enterprize Building, 35 King Street West. A beautiful Italianate commercial structure built in 1888 and representing one of the most impressive, well-preserved buildings on King Street West (downtown). My great-grandmother worked here for a time when it was a pharmacy many moons ago (more precisely, some time in the 1950s).
Hodgson Enterprize Building
2. Station Library, 61 King Street West. The first train station in Forest was opened here in 1859 on the recently completed Grand Trunk line from Guelph to Sarnia. It provided the nucleus around which the town grew. In 1985 the station was converted to a library and a caboose was installed to pay homage to the railways contribution to the founding of Forest.
The Founding of Forest plaque located outside the Station Library.
3. Kiwanis Kineto Theatre, 24 King Street West. One of my favourite places in Forest and the site of the first time my mom let me go to a movie ALONE… 500 metres from my grandma’s house! The Munro Brother’s built the theatre in 1875 and in 1905, George Lundy and Floyd Rumford started the motion picture business. The name “Kineto” came from the type of equipment being used. Thanks to the Kiwanis Club, the theatre is now one of the few remaining independent theatres in operation in Ontario.
Kiwanis Kineto Theatre
The picture below gives you a glimpse of what the inside of the theatre once looked like. Not much has changed since then, aside from the addition of more comfortable chairs.
Historic photo of the interior of Forest’s Kiwanis Kineto Theatre.
4. Rumford Bakery, 8 Main Street North. Although it may not be much to look at today thanks to the addition of aw-inspiring vinyl siding, the Rumford Bakery holds a spot near and deal to my heart. Well, let’s be honest, my stomach. Operating continuously as a bakery from 1884 to 2008, this site represented a tasty and reliable meeting place for Forest residents. Edward Rumford opened this bakeshop and confectionary in 1880 and the present building was built in 1906. Recently the building was transformed into a local museum, but it’s use as a bakery is well represented among the displays. The Rumford Bakery sign still hangs on the façade. I’ll miss you delicious Forest macaroons, rolls, peanut butter cookies, and…you get the point!
5. Forest Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street North. In 1910 council requested $3,000 from the Carnegie Institute to build a library. It was constructed for $4,765 and represents the first building in Forest to be recognized as a historic landmark with plaque affixed to its façade (see picture below). The building is in rough shape, but still a beauty. I love the addition of the eyebrow window over the portico.
Forest Carnegie Library
Forest Carnegie Library plaque
6. St. James Presbyterian Church, corner of Main Street North and Jefferson Street West. St. James has been attended by members of my family for over 100 years and has been the site of many celebrations and remembrances. The present cornerstone was laid in 1890 and the church was dedicated in 1891.
St. James Presbyterian Church
The interior of the church has been beautifully preserved with an exquisite organ, and extensive woodwork, stained glass and murals (see pictures below).
St. James Presbyterian Church, murals and organ.
St. James Presbyterian Church, interior woodwork and brackets.
St. James Presbyterian Church wood pews.