Alger Building – the History Behind the Arched Doorway

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement 

My father loves history almost as much as I do; I’m fairly sure I’ve inherited this interest from him.  He was born and raised in Oshawa and knows the city as well as a life-long resident does, although every so often, he’ll ask me questions about places and names.  This happened last week, when driving through downtown Oshawa, we passed 37 King Street East, a yellow brick building, with an archway over a door saying ‘The Alger Building’.  Dad is very rarely the passenger, as he was that day, so he had the opportunity to truly take in his surroundings.

37 King Street East, the Alger Building
37 King Street East, the Alger Building

“Now, I know the Alger Press Building,” Dad said, referring to the building at 61 Charles Street (now owned and used by UOIT), “but what is the history of the Alger Building?”

“I think it’s connected to the Alger Press Building,” I said, albeit not too confidently. “I’m sure it’s the same family who owned the two buildings, but I’m not sure off the top of my head.”

This conversation prompted me to take a look  in the archives and find out why two buildings in Oshawa’s downtown have been given the name ‘Alger.’

61 Charles Street, the Alger Press Building, now UOIT Campus building
61 Charles Street, the Alger Press Building, now UOIT Campus building

Indeed, the Alger Press Building is well associated with the business that bears its name.  It was first constructed in 1903 when the T. Eaton Company of Toronto began the manufacturing of textiles in the three-story brick facility.  During the war years, it had been home to the General Motors War Parts plant.  In 1946, the Alger Press happily accepted the opportunity to purchase 61 Charles Street, and they resided in the building until bankruptcy was declared in 1993.  Despite its new use as a University building, it will likely be known to locals as the Alger Press Building for quite some time.

37 King Street
37 King Street

The Alger Press was established in the early 1900s when Ora M. Alger changed professions and began publishing a newspaper in Oxford County.  In 1919, Alger left Tweed where he was subsequently publishing, and moved to Oshawa. 

He purchased a small parcel of land across from the Oshawa Post Office on King Street East and constructed a two storey plant.  This new business focused on commercial printing.  However, Alger soon returned to newspaper publishing and began the Oshawa Telegram.  The newspaper was a success, switching from a weekly to a daily newspaper, Oshawa’s first daily newspaper.  In 1926 however, the commercial business was so successful that Alger decided to sell the newspaper holdings to Charles Mundy and Arthur Alloway, partners in The Ontario Reformer, and focus solely on commercial printing. The 1926 Directory shows the Alger Press located at 35 King Street. Not long after, the company faced a setback when a fire destroyed the building.  A new building was constructed a block away, and on the old site, a four storey office building, the Alger Building, was constructed. It opened in 1928.

The new four storey building was designed by NA Armstrong Company, Limited of Toronto and built by AE Spooner, Renfrew. At the time of opening, the ground floor and basement were designed and equipped for restaurants, while the three upper floors were divided into offices. It was boasted that the building was equipped with a high speed  elevator, automatically operated.

There have been many occupants in this building, but because of the impressive archway, it will forever be associated with the Alger family.

Many thanks to my father for inspiring this post! – LT


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