WHARF STREET DEBATING CLUB
For nearly a century, a converted wooden boat house housed the City of Belleville’s most colourful & controversial institution. Every civic election, aspiring politicians would nervously endure caustic jabs & verbal skewering by Foster Ward’s working-class wits who, for one night, could expose the sins & broken promises of their supposed betters. While pipe & cigar smoke choked the air thicker than a London fog, the language could make a sailor blush. Women were barred entry for decades but, after a historic and lively battle, they won admittance (in 1988) and the wit meter rose even higher.
GPS Co-ordinates: 44° 09’ 29.24” N 77° 22’ 50.06” W (44.15805556, 77.38055556)
Street Location: South Front Street at St. Paul Street. (There is no Wharf Street.) The plaque is mounted on a rock at ground level at the side of a parking lot.
The building was torn down in 2013, but the Wharf Street political debates continued in other locations. The first woman who endured the jibes and insults of the male patrons was Shirley Langer, who became mayor for one term. The author of the text on the plaque was C. W. Hunt, a Belleville author who loved characters and wrote in a Runyonesque style. He had a lot more to say about the Club in his book Dockside Democracy including the night a steel pipe came smashing through a window during a debate.