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Links London: Marshall Brothers Tea Company Facade on Display
Gary Ennett | January 17, 2018

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Historical piece of Dundas streetscape now back on displayçade-display-central-library-london-ontario-1.4484831

From Issue No. 266 | February 12, 2018


Façade of the Marshall Brothers Tea Company graces the third floor of the Central Library

Part of the facade of the Marshall Tea Co. now on display on the third floor of London's Central Library

Part of the facade of the Marshall Tea Co. now on display on the third floor of London's Central Library (Gary Ennett/CBC News) 


Pieces of the façade of the Marshall Brothers Tea Company, established in 1873, are now prominently displayed on the third floor of the library. The new exhibit was unveiled earlier this week.

"It's probably one of the oldest store facades in London," says Dorothy Palmer, of the local branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. Visitors can get a "real look at what a little shop looked like in that time of Victoria."

The permanent exhibit includes several of the uprights, the door surround and some of the signage. It also includes an intriguing life-size photograph of Ernest Marshall, the son of one of two brothers who founded the business, which survived for over 100 years.

A thriving business

Ernest took over the business in the late 1880s right out of high school and was the owner for more than 70 years.

Tea 1

Ernest Marshall, owner of the business, for more than 70 years. (Gary Ennett/CBC News)

"It was a thriving business. A lot of people of a certain age definitely remember it. War brides mentioned how they were thrilled to see it when they came to town. It supplied tea right across Southwestern Ontario," said Palmer.

The store, which was located at 67 Dundas Street, imported tea from India. It stood just steps from the present day Budweiser Gardens.

Historians believe the building was likely constructed in the early 1850s, a boom time for London.

Facade saved from demolition

In the mid-1980s, the streetscape was being demolished and Julia Beck, an active heritage activist,  and Museum London got permission from the developer to save the façade.

"So they literally pulled it off the building, stored it in the old PUC substation on Carling for a while, and then it went over to Museum London, " Palmer.

Editors Notes: This is the most extreme form of urban taxidermy, when buildings end up in museums. Valuable for sure, but so much less satisfying than an occupied building that is part of a diverse, active community of businesses.
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