Doors Open Lambton: a preview of this year's sites

Historic Petrolia Hardware among featured sites

Local historian and photographer Dave Hext is the Petrolia Heritage Committee's representative on Doors Open Lambton. He will be presenting a series of articles on the historic sites featured on this year's Door's Open Lambton tour which takes place June 21 and 22, 2014.


Vantuyl and Fairbank Hardware Since 1865

By Dave Hext, as published in the Petrolia Independent.


It is a cool, damp April morning as Bill Hackett opens the side door of Van Tuyl and Fairbank’s Hardware. “I better take my boots off before I go into the office to turn up the heat, or ole Liz (Elizabeth Hoban) will wring my neck for tracking dirt across her clean office floor. What does she expect? The entire warehouse is a dirt floor.” It’s Friday and a large shipment of pipe is due to arrive from Glasgow. “I bet Charlie will want the whole railcar emptied as soon as it arrives,” Bill complains, “makes me wish I was back at the Wagon Works, working beside a nice warm fire, shaping rims.”

Outside, you can smell the burning coal from the train engine as it backs up to the warehouse. You can hear hogs squealing as they pass in wagons on the way to the Pork Packaging Plant. The creak of the jerker rods in the oil fields is almost hypnotic.  Steam whistles blow like clockwork to signal shift changes at the Refinery, Wagon Works and the Canning Factory.  Outsiders remark that the stink of crude is overpowering.  Those fools don’t realize that it is the smell of money.

It was 1865 when the store opened in the East part of town and the store sold staples, such as groceries, liquor, and hardware. In 1877 J.H. Fairbank bought out T.H. Smallman’s Shop on the northeast corner of Petrolia and Station Streets and moved there to open the Hardware Business. Smallman moved to London and formed Smallman & Ingram and later to become the London store of Simpson’s Department Store. Not to belittle Smallman, but Van Tuyl and Fairbank went on to be the largest hardware store west of Toronto.

Come on out and experience the old stories, sounds and smells that brought our ancestors here over a century ago. Tour Van Tuyl and Fairbank Hardware and walk the same dirt floors that Bill Hackett did. Join us for Doors Open Lambton on June 21st and 22nd. Tour times can be found at Also, be sure to like us on facebook.

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Latest comments

17.08 | 00:02

My name is Patricia Mcilwain , Kate Newton was a second cousin,. My mothers first cousin, Florence( Chambers) Young. Interesting story.

22.01 | 13:44

William Hay, my uncle, served on Petrolia as cook. My picture dressed in a navel uniform with an H.M.C.S. hat band, I was told was the " JACK" (Mascot)

19.08 | 12:32

I was Raised to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason on September 6, 1975 in a Masonic ??? Lodge #503 Ontario Canada.
My lodge Ira A. Beck #503 Battle Creek MI

05.06 | 03:34


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