122 Dundas Street, Fanny Goose’s Clothes Shop

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Dundas St., 122, Fanny Goose's




The Fanny Goose’s Clothes Shop

Following the Great Fire of 1845, Dundas Street near the market was quickly reconstructed. This does not mean that outbreaks of fire no longer plagued the downtown. In the poverty-stricken years of 1857, 1858 and 1859, when many London businesses went bust and the harsh provisions of the Debtors' Act sent people to prison for defaulting even on small amounts, crime took off. In particular, arson was a difficult problem to handle. Fires in and around the downtown during these particularly harsh years were the order of the day. Some could be traced to the fire companies, whose members would receive cash for every fire. The financial conservatism of subsequent decades, which earned London a national reputation, stemmed from the depression years of 1857-59. The history of London from the 1860s onwards can be better understood in the light of those savage years.

Today, only a few sections of the many commercial buildings built up following the 1845 and later fires have survived. One of the best examples of the surviving Georgian structures is 122, Dundas, probably built between the late 1850s and the early 1860s. Its Georgian style, announcing the influence of the Italianate style, can be identified by its original recessed arches on the second floor. In the 1860s, the three buildings to the east of 122 were similar to it.

This three storey late Georgian commercial building has been popular with locals as Fanny Goose's clothes shop. Fanny Goose was a colourful lady who famously fled the Nazis in Poland. Many Londoners remember her for her strange hats and interesting conversation as they shopped for their family's underclothes or sock supplies. Fanny Goose's family had immigrated to Canada after the Second World War and initially sold clothes door-to-door. Many remember her generosity for adopting a pay-when-you-can attitude, especially with new immigrants who were still finding their feet. Fanny Goose is part of a generation of downtown merchants who differed from the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant mercantile class that had held sway on downtown businesses until the end of the Second World War.

Indeed, until the Second World War, this north side of Dundas Street, stretching between Talbot and Richmond Streets, was known as the Dry Goods District and later became home to department stores selling ready-made clothes. These stores dealt in a multitude of fabrics and many had their own seamstresses who could sew tailored garments, linens, and bedding on demand. To the south side of Dundas in this same area, one could find hardware as well as dry goods stores. The dry goods district came into existence due to the area's vicinity to the market, established on its present site in 1845. Operating from a building at the heart of what was once the Dry Goods' District, Fanny Goose and her clothing shop continued this tradition for a full fifty years after the Second World War.

From the 1860s until after the Second World War the dry goods merchants were among the city's wealthiest class, and they commissioned the construction of some of the most spectacular mansions in the Woodfield, Old South and Old North areas. In the late 1860s London was still on the major business and social circuits, due in part to the Church of England Establishment. The educational institutions established in the city by this time— Huron College, Hellmuth Boys' College and also Hellmuth Ladies' College—ranked among the best educational institutions in the province.

On a light-hearted note, it was also in the late 1860s that the north side of Dundas, like the rest of the downtown area, feared the nameless thief dubbed "Slippery Jack." This persona became part of the folklore of London at the time. For a full year, "Slippery Jack" made a mockery of London Police by entering households and shops without, however, ever really stealing anything. In September 1868, "Slippery Jack" wrote a letter to the London Advertiser revealing that he had won a bet that he could enter at least one London private property a week for a period of one year without getting caught. Long afterwards it was revealed that "Slippery Jack" was a young officer of the Imperial garrison who had been helped by another young mischief-maker. Both of them were members of a club named Hellfriars Club and reflected an age when the British garrison and the various Clubs set high social standards for, and added maverick trickery to, the London community.


Fanny Goose’s Clothes’ Shop Dundas Street 122
London, Ontario
Canada N6A 1G1