Smiths Falls is where the magic happens. Not just metaphorically, but also literally; world-famous illusionists Ted and Marion Outerbridge have made this their home. The performers, who have delighted audiences across Canada, in Hollywood, and even as far away as China, moved to Smiths Falls two years ago and immediately began performing to sold-out crowds. Every Saturday saw them performing on the world-class stage in our own little 140-seat Station Theatre. (In spite of Covid, they still hope to put on some shows this summer. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!)
Ted Outerbridge has been published before: he used to write for Vanish, the most widely-read magazine in the magic world. Now he is writing a monthly column for Hometown News, Smiths Falls History & Mystery, uncovering the history of the town right before our eyes.
Outerbridge’s love of history is relatively new; it began when they first walked through the door of the Keyhole House two years ago. “It was love at first sight,” he explains, “for the house and the town.” On their first day of house hunting in Smiths Falls, a teenager held open the door for them as they went into Tim Hortons. Ted and Marion looked at each other in delight – this was a good sign. And doors of history have continued to open.
When the Outerbridges were signing papers with the lawyer to buy their house, they were told that one of their home’s first owners was Agnes Lamb, niece of Alexander Wood from the Frost and Wood Company. Outerbridge explains, “this was the Tweed of 1850, they made agricultural equipment. This was a giant factory that employed a lot of people” in Smiths Falls.
The builder of the house was Matthew Ryan, a builder who was highly in demand at the time. He had his own brick yard; “his bricks basically built Smiths Falls,” enthused Outerbridge. The architect was also popular and busy in Smiths Falls: George Martin, who designed Trinity United and its addition, among others.
“Learning all this – this was the beginning of my quest for information,” explained Outerbridge. He bought the book Smiths Falls: A Social History of the Men and Women in a Rideau Canal Community, 1794-1994 by Glenn Lockwood. As a magician, he was thrilled to read about Signor Bosco, a magician who performed at the local opera house in 1888. This begged the question – where was the opera house? This led Outerbridge to the microfilm at the Smiths Falls Library, finding advertisements from different entertainers and performers, and he learned that the opera house had once been a Methodist chapel, then the opera house, and then the post office.
“This book is full of amazing statements. Two days ago, I read there was a cheese factory on Brockville Street,” he reported. Whenever he discovers a new rabbit trail to go down, his first stop is usually the Heritage House Museum. “I probably get on their nerves,” he confessed, laughing. “Leisa is awesome. She always makes time to help me out.”
Watch for our video interview with Ted this month on hometownnews.ca; and to follow along with Ted Outerbridge as he uncovers the mysteries of Smiths Falls’ history, pick up a copy of Hometown News’ print edition each month or find our digital copy online at hometownnews.ca.