This striking image is the earliest known photograph of King Street Dundas, thought to be taken around 1855. The roads are still dirt, and the sidewalks are lines of uneven planks, but this was Dundas at a time of great economic prosperity and expansion. The success of local milling, foundry, and shipping businesses caused commercial growth to radiate outward from the town core. Houses were being built north of Park Street for the first time, and a wave of Irish and Scottish immigration bolstered the community’s population.
Specifically, this image gives a view of the south side of King Street roughly between Sydenham and Cross Streets. This clipping of Marcus Smith’s 1851 Map of the Town of Dundas offers a contemporaneous plan of the businesses seen in the photo.
Perhaps the most striking part of the scene is the dazzlingly painted building at centre, decorated in a distinctive argyle pattern. This business was T. Collier’s ‘Chequered Store’, and the design was more than simply decoration, it was an advertising gimmick. Painting his shop in a distinctive style was a way of insuring that it would stand out. This was a time when multiple grocery stores on King and Main streets competed for customers whose rates of literacy were not high.