One of the most historically significant building in Eastern Ontario is going to be sold via auction.
Two connected building on King St. West and Water Street in Prescott, both built in the mid-1800s, will be sold July 12, 2011. The buildings have been the home for the Prescott Journal for home than a century and the building was believed to be the first home of the Packet, a weekly newspaper that would eventually become the Ottawa Citizen.
The auction is handled by Gordon’s Estate Services.
The Prescott Journal’s corporate offices have moved to their production and printing facility on County Rd. 2, about two kilometers east of Prescott.
“There is an incredible amount of history in these buildings,” said Beth Morris, owner of the Morris Group, publishers of the Prescott Journal. Beth’s late husband, John Morris, and her late father-in-law, Jack Morris, were both publishers of the Prescott Journal in the building, and they both published books on the history of Prescott out of the building. “The buildings present a great opportunity to the right person or group.”
The three storey Water street building has an historic archway separating the ground floor into two part. Built in 1851, it was originally an inn and pub called the Duck and Drake, while the Prescott Journal, first published in its present format in 1890, occupied the east side of the building.
Gordon’s recommends the building as ideal for a townhouse conversion. The three storey King Street building has been home to the Prescott Journal and its predecessors for more than a century and a half. Among them were the Packet, published by Robert Bell in 19847. Bell would become discouraged with his business and move to Bytown, where he would published the Bytown Packet. This newspaper would become the Ottawa Citizen.
The Prescott Journal was printed in the building until 1965. The King St. building and the east side of the Water St. building were joined in 1965 to house a sheet fed printing business. The buildings will be sold together and will need to be separated by lot addition in order to be sold separately.
While being the launching grounds for the Ottawa Citizen is the most unique historical footnote the building has, it has been the hub of a strong newspaper tradition in the Fort Town that dates back nearly two centuries.
The first newspaper published in Prescott was the Grenville Gazette, circa 1816. Donald McLeod, originally from Aberdeen, Scotland and a veteran of the War of 1812 with the British Navy, settled in Prescott and founded the Gazette following his discharge. It was a radical Reform newspaper.
While it is unknown how long the Gazette was published for, it was resurrected in1831 when a Mr. Miles from Kingston arrived in Prescott with equipment for setting up a printing office. He resurrected the Gazette but became discouraged, and disposed of his office and business to McLeod.
McLeod, an active Reform politician who would eventually move to Cleveland, OH, would pass on the Gazette to William Wells. A lawyer and a Reform Party representative in the Legislative Assembly, Wells also struggled to make a newspaper work in Prescott. He changed the name of the paper to the Vanguard and continued on the path of being a staunch advocate of Reform principles.
Wells sold the business to a man named Mr. Wilson, who changed the paper’s political views from Reform (liberal) to one of conservatism. Wilson eventually sold the company to Robert Headlam.
Robert Bell started a publication called the Packet in 1847 but would move his publication to Bytown after a few months. The Bytown Packet would grow into the Ottawa Citizen.
Back in Prescott, meanwhile, S.B. Merrill arrived from Kingston with his printing equipment and set up shop in the Water St. building. He published the Prescott Telegraph, which was another Reform newspaper and a forerunner of the Prescott Journal. Merrill would eventually pass the newspaper business to his sons.
During this era of Prescott newspapers, the town also saw the Leeds and Grenville Independent and the Prescott Conservative Messenger come and go. Coincidentally, the Morris Group, who own the Prescott Journal, also have newspapers in their stable by those names in the Barrhaven Independent and the Manotick Messenger.
It is believed that the Prescott Journal and Prescott Telegraph were published concurrently by James Stoddard, and in 1890, the newspapers were combined to form the Prescott Journal and Grenville County Telegraph.
In 1929, W.E. Crateau purchased the Prescott Journal. He incorporated St. Lawrence Printing in 1949. His editor, Jack Morris, would eventually buy share in the company. His son, John Morris, bought the Kemptville Advance, and would sell his newspaper to buy Mr. Crateau’s shares and become a partner with his father.
The building has an incredible history'” said Jeff Morris, who is currently serving as the editor of the Prescott Journal in the footsteps of his grandfather, father and uncle (Robin Morris). “It has been the hub of activity and communication in the town for generations and generations. One of my first memories is sitting at my grandfather’s desk and watching the Centennial Parade on July 1, 1967, from the upstairs window when I was three. It’s a beautiful building and it can play a big part of Prescott’s future linking to its heritage and past.”