As you drive into the village of Kilbride from the west, you will see a small, white, frame house with a barn board building beside it. It may be hard to believe, but that building once housed a thriving tailor shop.
Originally, that home and others were built by T. L. White for the staff of his store at the corner of Thomas Street and Rebecca Street (Kilbride Street and Cedar Spring Road).
William Thompson, an immigrant from Ireland came to Hamilton and later moved to Kilbride. He was a tailor and worked in T. L. White’s store. The tailor shop and millinery business were located on the second floor of the store. 10 women worked in the millinery department while between 8 and 10 men worked in the tailor shop. It was very common for people during the mid to late 1800s to have their clothes tailor made. Those that purchased a ‘ready-made’ suit were considered to be cheap. The quality of ready-made did not compare to tailor made.
William’s son, Charles, worked with him in that tailor shop until his death in 1879. In about 1886 the business was moved to the barn board building just to the west of the store. In that small space they employed 4 men and about a half dozen girls.
Charles’ son William was born in 1876 near Carlisle and came to live in Kilbride at an early age. Most likely this was after his grandfather and namesake, passed away. William worked in the tailor shop for a few years until he was about 17. He went to Hamilton to work and eventually went overseas during WW1.
He returned in 1926. His father had been running the shop during that time but passed away in that same year. While it is said that Charles was the last tailor, one current resident of the area remembers her father bringing his suit to Willie, as he was known, to have his suit pressed and cleaned. This would have been in the 1930s. William must have continued some aspects of the business if not the actual tailoring.
In a Hamilton Spectator article appearing on November 11, 1950, William talked about the difficulty in receiving cash payment for tailoring and other services he provided. Often, customers paid when they could. Others paid with loads of wood, hay, eggs, etc.
The house has changed hands a number of times with the most current sale taking place in 2019.
Contributing Author: Helen Callaway