According to the 1851 map of Dundas, the corner of King Street West and Church Street was occupied by a building owned by William Hazlewood. A Dundas resident since 1834, by 1868 Hazlewood was operating a blacksmith shop at this location.
The building structure at 173-181 King Street West was used for a variety of commercial purposes. John Kerwin (b. 1841- d. 1918) operated Kerwin’s Grocery from 1880-1910. He passed down ownership to his son, James, eight years before his death. His grocery store occupied the west corner of the building.
Kerwin began construction on the existing building in 1907 and it was completed in July 1908. In an article announcing the opening, the Dundas Star reported “both in appearance and utility, the building is an ornament to the town, and a monument to the business success and ability of the builder”.
John Kerwin cared deeply about the safety and well-being of his grocery store. According to the late T. Roy Woodhouse, when closing up the shop for the day, Kerwin would set up bear traps and an electric burglar alarm that was attached to a bell to prevent any thieves from attempting to steal his merchandise. He even would put wrapping paper on the floor so if someone did break in, they would make a lot more noise when they stepped on the paper. John Kerwin’s dedication to his business is a testament to the success of Kerwin’s Grocery in serving the local Dundas community.
East of the Kerwin’s Grocery was the Dundas Drug Co. which at this time was owned and operated by H.W. Ralph. This business spanned two units and occupied the rest of the building. The Dundas Drug Co. also had an adjoining Confectionery and Ice Cream shop, which operated in the east corner unit of the building.
Thanks to the students of McMaster University Department of History for their assistance with this project.