The store was the focal point of our community. It met so many needs: post office, farm supplies, groceries, gifts and above all, a place to socialize.
-- Jessica Coburn Robinson
In 1875 a small country store, formerly the shoe maker's shop of Alban Lawrence, stood at the corner of the Keswick Ridge Road and McKeen Drive. In 1878 it housed the lower Keswick Ridge Post Office. Mr.VanBuskirk was its storekeeper and postman.
I remember back to 1950 when I used to be down at the store for an hour or so in the evening when neighbours used to sit and gossip on the seven foot long bench behind the wood stove. In 195l, when I started school and came home for dinner, I would usually get a piece of candy or small ice cream for the walk back to school.
-- Ed Albright (son of Ken Albright, storekeeper from l944-l958)
The one and one-half story store building with a low pitched roof had a rough board platform protected by a veranda roof extending across the front where the customers would gather. There are large wooden shuttered windows containing nine small panes of glass each on both sides of the central door and on either end of the building. The exterior is now finished with gray wooden clapboards.
In the early 1900's "The Store" was a typical little country store. It had one room on the ground floor with counters along one side and end. Shelves were on the walls behind the counters. On the counters were glass cases containing penny candies and other assorted goods. To the left of the door was the post office. This was a nicely constructed cabinet of compartments open in the back with doors in front hinged at the top. People's names were attached to the top of the doors. The cabinet contained the mail of the McKeens Corner and Lower Keswick Ridge families.
In winter an upright stove in the middle of the ground floor served to warm the store -- and the regulars who gathered to talk and smoke around it. The upstairs was sometimes used at Christmas time for Christmas trimmings and toys. On the back of the store was a lean-to shed. Here feed, kerosene, molasses, flour and sugar were stored. This is being replaced by a state-of-the-art artifact storage area, designed to resemble the original shed.
My father walked to the store in the evening to chew the fat with neighbours. As young children we were given lists and carried home items such as old cheddar cheese wedges cut from a large round of cheese, stone jugs of molasses filled from a hogshead and metal containers of kerosene for our oil lamps. The smell of kerosene and molasses in the back of the store remains with me..
-- Jessica Coburn Robinson
The McKeen Corner Store, bearing the date 1790 on its gable, stood empty for several years. Today it falls under the stewardship of the Keswick Ridge Historical Society and has been relocated to a small lot alongside the Keswick Ridge Superior School. It is currently being extensively renovated to become a part of the Keswick Ridge Historical Society Museum.
The Buildings and Facilities Committee, for many years headed by Ralph Stevenson, and currently chaired by Dan Nicholson, has been engaged in renovation and restoration. This process is continuing as fund-raising efforts bear fruit. Here's how the store looked in September of 2015:
And here it was in October of 2019.
In September of 2020, Tom Egers broke ground for the foundation of the new shed. On November 30, Adam Kelly began the framing. To see what's happened to the exterior so far, click here [click on each image, to see the next step].
And to see some of what's been happening inside, after the building was closed in, try here.
We'll continue to keep you posted as things develop.
Click here to read an article from the Daily Gleaner about the project.