From wrestlers to Louis Armstrong, Kenwick Terrace had it all

The Kenwick Terrace building, as seen from George Street, circa 1951. Photo courtesy, John Rochon collection

Phil Egan

Back in the 1960, my brother and I would go up to Kenwick Terrace to watch the wrestling matches.

Leaping Larry Chene and Johnny Powers were two of the stars that used to hurl each other around the mat. We’d line up and get their autographs.

Some of our earliest information about the area just north of the northeast corner of George and Christina Street comes from the pen of Lawrence Crich. His history of Sarnia public schools titled, “The Way it Was,” is still available from the Sarnia Historical Society. Crich describes an early private school on the property. It was taught by Duncan McNaughton who built a home there in 1839, across Christina Street from where the present St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church would be built 28 years later.

In 1892, the Sarnia Curling Club built St. Andrew’s Rink on this site. In 1910, Sarnia Garage opened at St. Andrew’s lower level, run by Samuel Hitchcock and William T. Richardson.

A Ford dealership was purchased in 1919 and, in 1927, St. Andrew’s became the site of Lambton Motors and an Imperial Oil station. Dr. Calvert Carruthers, of Carruthers Clinic fame, owned Lambton Motors from 1934 until the early 1940s.

In 1925, a second-storey dance hall had been added to the structure. That was the first step in creating what would become one of the city’s most popular entertainment centres. During the Second World War, a ramp was built to the second storey of St. Andrew’s and cars were stored on the former dance hall.

The year 1943 saw a change in ownership. Entertainer and musician Jack Kennedy and his wife purchased the St. Andrew’s Rink property. Jack’s wife Genevieve’s maiden name had been Warwick, and “Kenwick” became a combination of both surnames as the property became Kenwick Terrace.

This was the era of the Big Band sound, and dance fans would come from all over southwestern Ontario to see them play. Tommy Dorsey, Tommy Tucker, Louis Armstrong, Guy Lombardo, Count Basie and many others played Sarnia as the city became known as an entertainment mecca. Advance sale tickets could be purchased for $1.50, but went for $1.75 on the night of the event.

An A&P grocery store was also located at Kenwick Terrace during the 1950s and 1960s.

Kenwick Terrace was one of two famous Sarnia dance halls in this era, with Kenwick-on-the-Lake popular in the summer months.

Whether it was curling, skating, buying gas or groceries, fixing your car, watching wrestling matches or dancing to the big swing bands, Kenwick Terrace truly had something for everyone.