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A sign of history: Raymond Sewing Machine factory

Historic building gets new, old look sign

The stately former Raymond Sewing Machine factory on Yarmouth Street in the downtown, long converted to an apartment building with a commercial main floor, is getting a new “Raymond Sewing Machine” sign.

True to the original sign that once crowned the uppermost front of the building, the large black and red block lettering is going up this week. Scutt Signs, in business in the area since 1979, is doing the work, which is turning heads as it proceeds.

Sign installer Rob Weir said there is not a lot of call these days for recreating historic signs. He’s enjoying the opportunity to try something just a little different, something that puts back something that was lost decades ago. The building became a Raymon sewing machine factory back in 1875. 

Weir has only a black and white photocopied photograph to go on, but the results, he said, have an authentic look to them.

Tom Lammer, president of the Lammer Group of Companies, owns the building. He said with so many of the city’s historic buildings being repurposed over the years, important elements of the heritage of those buildings can get lost.

Following a fire at the 31 Yarmouth St. building in April of last year, an unexpected opportunity arose to completely renovate the 16 apartments and the commercial space.

“I think that’s an important aspect of the built form that we have downtown,” Lammer said in an interview. “We have these interesting old buildings, and some of that history is lost because they’ve been converted to other uses, and there’s no identification to what they originally were.”

He said it is likely that the original lettering was on the building from the beginning, and it should be replaced in the interest of honouring the past.

“And then hopefully people will start calling it the Raymond Sewing Machine building,” he said. “With the rebuilding opportunity, it was the right time to give it its original brand back.”

He added that a bell tower, also true to the original structure, is to be installed on the top peak of the building soon.

The 16 apartments now have 16 new residents as of Sept. 1, Lammer added. There are two prospects lined up for the ground floor commercial space, and the hope is that there will be an occupant before the end of the year.

“It’s just looking as good as I could have expected,” Lammer said, speaking of the signage. “It’s a very satisfying piece, and pretty exact to the original history.”


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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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