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

My Reflections of Oshawa

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

I grew up on the west side of Oshawa, very close to the Whitby border. There have been many changes in that area in the last 30 years. I watched from my backyard as two plazas were being built on the north and south sides of King Street and Thornton Road. Sheridan Nurseries and a van rental company had occupied the land on the south side prior to the plaza being built. When it first opened, a Don Cherry’s Sports Bar was located there. I remember coming outside to hear that my dad and sister had just met Mr. Cherry himself! He was there checking out the restaurant.

We went on many walks and bike rides through Union Cemetery, picking wildflowers to lay on random graves. On one walk my brother fell behind and we heard him screaming like a banshee a few minutes later. We thought he thought he’d seen a ghost or something. It turns out he had just lost a marble!

I attended St. Michael Catholic Elementary School with my siblings and was saddened to hear that it would be closing due to low attendance. But now I am proud to see that it is being used for the Trent University – Oshawa campus.

We practically lived at the Civic Auditorium. Every Sunday in the winter we’d be at public skating. The theme from St. Elmo’s Fire was *THE* song to skate to! We’d always try and make it to the Skate With the Generals events too. Skate with the Generals, watch the Gens practices, go to games. A pretty decent benefit of living close to the Civic.

While I wasn’t born in Oshawa, I’ve been here long enough that it’s my hometown for sure. I’ve grown up with so many wonderful memories of this town, it’s difficult to hear people knock it. They obviously don’t know a good thing when they see it!

My Reflections of Oshawa

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Earlier this year, the Oshawa Community Museum began a project to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Oshawa being a City.  We’ve called the project Reflections of Oshawa, and we are collecting memories from the community of what Oshawa means to them and their memories of the City.  Recently, a great deal of my time has been dedicated to this project, whether it’s co-ordinating the AMAZING youth volunteers we have, or scheduling interviews with community members.  With ‘Reflections’ being such a dominant theme right now, it has given me the opportunity to do my own reflecting on Oshawa.

Firstly when I think of Oshawa’s history, I can’t help but think of my beloved Grandpa.  He was born in one of the row townhouses on Olive Avenue, worked for Duplate, lived in Oshawa his entire life; to me, he represented all that is positive and good about Oshawa.  He would often share stories about his childhood growing up, and I think one of my favourites is how during the hot summer nights, he and his sisters would take blankets and sleep outside in Cowan Park rather than in the hot, un-air conditioned townhouse.  What a different world he lived in!

Me and my Grandpa at my university graduation
Me and my Grandpa at my university graduation

Another favourite Reflection for me involves the Museum!  I have fond memories of visiting the Oshawa Community Museum when it was the Oshawa Sydenham Museum on a school trip! I was in Grade 4, and we went to school in the schoolroom exhibit in Robinson House, and we churned butter in the Henry House Kitchen.  Today, when school tours come through, students get the chance to ‘go to school’ in the schoolroom exhibit, and many churn butter in the Henry House Kitchen! While somethings change, the good things stay the same.

The schoolroom exhibit in Robinson House and I'm playing the role of the teacher, a different role from when I visited in Grade 4.
The schoolroom exhibit in Robinson House and I’m playing the role of the teacher, a different role from when I visited in Grade 4.

What are your Reflections of Oshawa? What makes Oshawa the city you know and love?

The Month That Was – July 1926

Over 8,000 People Invade Lakeview Park Dominion Day
July 1st, 1926

More than 8,000 people enjoyed the refreshing breezes at Lakeview park, and the breezes were indeed refreshing, for the day was the warmest of the season though not excessively hot. The Oshawa street railway did a thriving business, carrying record crowds to and from the lakeshore.

 

A Fine Park
July 2nd, 1926

The Memorial Park, which was opened some three years ago, contains about five acres formerly owned by Thomas Walsh. It is splendidly situation on Church Street, not far from the main corner of the town. There are two monuments in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War, one having been erected by the citizens of the South Pickering, and the other by Ontario Lodge, No. 324. I.O.O.F.  A flag pole has been erected a short distance from the entrance. There are also on the grounds a dancing platform and a permanent booth.

 

Bobbed Hair is Cause of Trouble
July 2nd, 1926

Amsterdam, July 1-Shingling is becoming more and more the vogue in Holland and Germany, but it has been the cause of many queer complications and domestic friction.

The whole Rotterdam police recently were mobilized to search an individual who, according to a girl’s story, had climbed through her window in the night and cut off her hair. She afterwards confessed that she had shingled herself and had invented the story in order to escape the parental wrath.

Another shingled girl from Nuremberg was found in a Munich park, crying and without money. She had her locks shorn, and not daring to face her parents, had fled to Munich.

 

British Women Now on March through London Streets
July 3rd, 1926

London, July 3-British Feminists, some of whom were famous in the days of Militant suffragettes, marched today in colorful pageant in behalf of equal political rights for British men and women.

Fully 2,000 women, including a contingent from the United States, were in line and marched to Hyde Park to listen to their leaders make a plea for the enfranchisement of women at the age of 21 instead of at 30, and for seating peeresses in their own right in the House of Lords.

The United States section of the parade, in which the National Women’s Party played a prominent part, marched behind a great purple, white and gold banner bearing the legend “All women in the United States can vote, why not here?”

 

General Store is robbed near Guelph
July 6th, 1926

Guelph, Ont., July 6-Breaking into the general store at Glen Christie, three miles out of Guelph, during the proprietor’s absence, a robber pulled a daylight “jog”, getting away with $60 in cash, which had been hidden in a tin can for safe keeping.

According to information in the hands of the police, it is believed the theft was committed by some person who was familiar with where the money was hidden, as a further amount of cash, a gold watch and valuables in a drawer were untouched.

Living History

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

I have done may different things during my time at the Museum; given tours, worked in the garden, make kids crafts, but my favourite time at the Museum was after the fire of 2003 – working in the archives. Myself and others spent countless hours cleaning and refiling photos and other important documents pertaining to Oshawa’s rich history. This time inspired me to get to know Oshawa’s history better and encouraged me to become more familiar with what is in our archives. Since then I have worked on a few different research projects, including reviewing, editing and further researching education in Oshawa with the Olive French manuscript and the initial research for ‘If This House Could Talk: The Story of Henry House’. I have also been able to use information from the archives for numerous presentations and education programs.

From all of this research I have realized that I am living history.

My house is located in the Beatrice and Grandview area of Oshawa. This was once the home of the Lake Ontario Iroquois during the 1400s. Driving down Grandview Street, I get a clear view of the ring of trees surrounding the original pioneer cemetery on Gifford Hill. Every day I stop at the corner of King Street and Harmony Road, once the home of members of the Farewell and Drew families. I arrive at work and get to spend my day in houses that are over 170 years old. When researching the early history of Oshawa for a presentation, was able to look out my window and know that what I had just read about happened directly outside. There are very few people who are as lucky as I am.

I encourage everyone to look out their windows and at least start thinking about what may have happened outside of them!

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