The Chequered Store

Circa 1855 view of Kings Street West, Dundas

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.

Segment of Marcus Smith's 1851 Map of the Town of Dundas

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.

Close-up of the Chequered Store from the circa 1855 view of King Street West, Dundas

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.

Advertisement for the Chequered Store, circa 1849

This 1849 advertisement for the Chequered Store offers a description of the goods which could be purchased there. The slogan “Groceries at Hamilton Prices” reflects the rivalry which then existed between the neighbouring towns. Collier also makes a point of recommending his goods to hotel and tavern keepers. At this time Dundas was home to a large number of taverns including The Collins, Elgin House, Red Lion Hotel, Riley House, and Buck’s Head Inn. Unlike the wooden structures near it on the street, the Chequered Store building still stands and is now the Valley Char-Broiled Restaurant at 44 King St W.

 

 

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44 King Street West, Dundas, ON
L9H 1T7
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