As early as 1890, elephants were paraded along the streets of Collingwood as travelling circuses made their way from town to town. Fred A. Hodgson, son of the well-known Collingwood architect and best-selling author Fred T. Hodgson, was a circus owner and agent with offices in New York City. Hodgson and his wife, Carrie, entertained circus colleagues in Collingwood, and elephants were reported to have been kept in the Hodgsons’ back yard when the circus was in town.
The Hodgsons resided at 637 Hurontario Street in a grand mansion across from Collingwood Collegiate Institute. A number of circus personnel, including John Ringling, owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, also spent time in the “off-season” at the Hodgson home, and neighbours recalled many impromptu circus performances breaking out on the property. The building was later known as the Spike and Spoon Restaurant, followed by Renato’s Italian Restaurant. It now houses several local businesses. ❧
Sources: The Collingwood Museum; Heritage Collingwood