387 Clarence Street, Featherbone Place

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Another covent market photo

387, Clarence Street, Featherbone Factory



Featherbone Place

A group of factories producing cigars, shoes and clothing, and centred mainly on Clarence Street between Dundas and York Streets, went up in the late 1880s and 1890s. This was due to a boom sparked by immigration, the settling of the Canadian West, and a tariff on imported manufactured goods. One of the most competitive sectors of the local clothing business was corset making. Several firms began production in London, including the Coilene Corsets Company and the Featherbone Corset Company.

The Featherbone Corset Company occupied a plant at 387, Clarence Street, which was built in the early 1890s (probably 1892) in the Italianate style. Between 1893 and 1923 it changed hands from one corset factory to another: the Canada Featherbone Company, the Reid Featherbone Manufacture and finally the Warren Featherbone Company. Featherbone was used as a substitute for whalebone in corset manufacturing. The building was an extension to the Reid blank book and stationery factory, itself built in the mid-1880s at 391, Clarence Street. Today, only the extension remains, as the older part of the building burned down in 1923. The fa├žade is similar in design to those of the wholesale buildings in the use of large stone bases or piers on which rest brick pillars running up the full height of the building. The corset factory was gone by the 1920s, and the building was later used in the 1940s and 1950s by the London Shoe Company as a warehouse. Bud Gowan Antiques occupied the building from the early 1970s until 2012, when the late Bud Gowan sold the building to John and Nancy Fyfe-Miller, who own Pinpoint Publications Limited. The Fyfe-Millers are now renovating the building and are taking care to preserve its historic aspect as they turn it into apartment and commercial units.

Today the building still has an enormous external mural and a giant clock salvaged from the former London winery. Inside the building there is still a spiral staircase and what could well be London's oldest elevator. The building is situated nearby what Londoners used to call the "barn dance crossing" at King and Clarence Streets. The "Barn dance crossing" was so-called because for a long time all traffic would stop at this intersection and pedestrians could cross in all directions, including diagonally.


387 Clarence Street
London, Ontario
N6A 3M6