Where The Streets Get Their Names – Robson and Whiting

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

The other afternoon, I had to stop by the head office for the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority.  It is conveniently close to the Museum, a mere two kilometres north along Simcoe Street.  Driving to the CLOCA head office, you will pass the intersection of Whiting Avenue (the street where the office is located) and Robson Street. This interesting intersection is a fitting tribute to two industries that had made Cedar Dale their home.

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Let’s first look at Whiting Avenue. Whiting is the older of the two businesses, so it seems appropriate to start at the beginning.

We first discussed A.S. Whiting in our post on the History of Cedar Dale, a community which was located along Simcoe Street, south of Bloor Street.  In the 1860s, looking to re-establish his manufacturing business after his Oshawa Manufacturing Company floudered, Whiting did not look to the thriving Village of Oshawa, but rather, he chose a location south of the Baseline, and commenced building a factory near the Oshawa Creek.  In 1862, the Cedar Dale Works opened; it would be later renamed A.S. Whiting Manufacturing Company.  This company ceased operations by the 1890s.

A.S. Whiting Manufacturing Co., from the Oshawa Community Archives
A.S. Whiting Manufacturing Co., from the Oshawa Community Archives

Algernon Sidney (A.S.) Whiting was born on March 7, 1807 in Winsted, Connecticut, an area renowned for its clocks.  Before being married in 1832, Whiting worked as a travelling clock salesman.  In 1842, Mr. Whiting and his wife Julia moved to Canada and settled in Cobourg where he continued to travel selling clocks.  He moved to Oshawa in 1850.  Mr. Whiting passed away in March of 1876 and is buried in Union Cemetery; the street named for him affirms his place in Oshawa’s history, and he is also credited with the naming of Cedar Dale.  Not a bad legacy to leave behind.

After A.S. Whiting Manufacturing closed, what happened to the buildings of this established factory?  Enter James Robson.

Robson Leather Tannery, from the Oshawa Community Archives
Robson Leather Tannery, from the Oshawa Community Archives

The Robson Tannery traces its beginnings back to the Bartletts in the early 1800s who first established a tannery in Oshawa.  In 1865, Robson and his partner Laughland bought the South Oshawa Tannery from the Bartletts.  Over the years, the business thrived, eventually being passed to Robson’s sons Charles and James, until they were struck with a fire in 1899. The South Oshawa Tannery, which was located on Mill Street, was destroyed.  The Whiting Manufacturing buildings were vacant, so Robson relocated.  In 1904 they changed their name to the Robson Leather Company, and they were renamed again in 1963 after amalgamating with James Lang Leather Company of Kitchener to become Robson-Lang Leathers Limited.

Robson had been a long standing industry for the City of Oshawa, however, after a lengthy strike in 1977, they closed their doors and ceased operations.

Part of Robson Tannery still exists as the head office for CLOCA.  They have historic images around their office of when the building was in use as a manufacturing company and as a tannery.


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