Sometimes I Like to Help

As I am currently in the midst of applying for jobs these days, I haven’t had the time to visit the city archives and get down to writing that I hoped I would. Nevertheless, I do keep up the reading of local history blogs and one of my favourites is Urbsite, by the Midcentury Modernist. This week, as part of a discussion of ghost signs, he presented a number of then and now pictures of the Scharf Grocer building at the corner of Bay and Lisgar in Centretown.

In order to flesh out a little more of the occupation, ownership, and operation history of it, I commented the following:

Although not definitive, it seems that it was constructed somewhere between 1879 and 1888. It’s not on the 1878 fire insurance maps, but when it shows up on the 1888 (1901 Revision) edition, it’s listed as a Grain Store. There is no municipal address noted for Lisgar St, and on Bay, it’s No. 293.

The 1891/2 city directory indicates that it was owned by John C. Shea and operating as a flour store with a wood yard on the side. This business configuration remained until the 1896/7 City Directory, when Shea’s property was identified as a grocery with barns on the side. The city directory for 1898/9 shows the same.

I don’t have any directories available between 1900 and 1908. The building remains identified as a grocery, but owned by John Baxter in 1909. The 1902 (1912 Revision) fire insurance map shows a municipal address on Lisgar as Nos. 508 (upstairs) and No. 510 (the Lisgar entrance) and that it was now No. 291 Bay St. The woodshed/barns since demolished for the shorter row beside Primrose Terrace.

Baxter didn’t remain the grocer for long, however, as the 1912 city directory shows that an Ira E. Richardson was now the grocer, but John Baxter remained living in the upstairs unit with a William Johnson. The following year Baxter got a new roommate(?) in Mrs. Mary Wilson, perhaps widowed. In 1914, Richardson remained the grocer, with another grocer, John McMahon occupying No. 508.

It was in 1915 that the Scharf was put into Scharf Grocer. The city directories for 1915 and 1916 indicate that it was both worked and occupied by a Hartley Scharf. I don’t have any of the city directories for the years 1917-1922, but by 1923, it was taken over by a George Hill and the upstairs was vacant.

For his own part, Mr. Scharf was born on October 6, 1887 in Carp (Huntley Twp) to Nicholas Scharf and Mary Anne Stanley of the same. He married Margaret Davis on January 20, 1915 in Smith’s Falls at age 27. He was identified as a grocer on his marriage certificate. Perhaps the result of a growing family, the Scharf family decamped 508 Lisgar in favour of 304 Bay. One of their children (? – I haven’t found notation of others), Harold, died at under two years of Lobar Pneumonia on February 15, 1922 and buried at Beechwood.

So I guess that although Scharf only seemed to own/operate the grocery for seven years and was one of many, it is his ghost that lives on at Bay and Lisgar. Hartley died in 1960 and his final resting place is Huntley United Cemetery at 2606 Carp Road.

I then followed up with:

To add a little detail to John Charles Shea, he was an Irishman born in 1828 in St-Columban, Quebec (outside Saint-Jérôme) to John Shea and Elizabeth Conroy of Ireland.

The 1881 city directory shows him in his Flour and Feed Store at 293 Bay St, corner of Lisgar. Given his age, the transfer of his business some time between 1900 and 1908 was the result of his retirement. Shea died on June 27, 1913 (aged 85) at his home, 617 Somerset W. (now home to Joseph Tailors and Professional Barber Shop). His death record notes that he was retired and the immediate cause of death was Asthenia (Weakness).


Excerpt from 1915 Might’s Ottawa City Directory