I don’t know about you, but when I hear the name ‘Disney,’ my mind automatically jumps to the infamous mouse and anything animated. Oh, the great strength and success of branding. Because Disney is such a notable name, one might wonder why there is a building in Downtown Oshawa called the Disney Building. I’ll just come out and say it, no, Walt has no known ties to our City! But Oshawa did have its own set of Disney brothers who left a lasting mark on Oshawa’s downtown.
In 1882, John E. Disney married Sarah McKittrick, and together they had three sons. William Frederick was born in 1883, Llewellyn Victor was born in 1888, and Roy Stanley was born in 1893.
LV and RS made their names known through their successful furniture and undertaking business. In 1888, a man named Alex McLean began the business, which LV bought in 1909. The brothers established an ambulance service, which was boasted as the finest ambulance between Toronto and Montreal.
The undertaking business operated at various addresses around downtown Oshawa, including along Simcoe Street and on Bond Street. By 1923, the Disney Funeral Service was found at 31 King Street East; in 1924, the building at 27-33 King Street East is known as the Disney Block. It was originally built in 1920, and still stands in our downtown, remarkable due to the archway and the identifying ‘Disney Building’ lettering.
LV Disney had a variety of other interests, including real estate and local politics, serving as an Alderman. In 1930, Matthew F. Armstrong purchased the funeral business, changing the name to Armstrong Funeral Home. It still operates today at 124 King Street East, a location they have occupied since 1936.
Oshawa’s largest bakery, Tod’s Bread Limited, was established in 1890 by David M. Tod. Mr. Tod was born in November 1865 in Bowmanville to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Tod. At the age of 13, D.M. Tod quit school and began working in his father’s bakery. After a few years there, he travelled to the United States but eventually returned to Oshawa.
D.M. Tod’s bakery was located at the corner of Bond and Centre Streets. It was a solid brick, one storey building, sixty-six feet long and sixty feet wide. In this building was the flour store room, the shipping room, wagon shed and the bread shop proper as well as the latest machinery known to the science of bread making. The stable, which was located behind the bakery, was large enough to house 10 horses and had a separate harness room. It was also equipped with running water and electricity.
In 1895, a confectionery shop was opened by D.M. Tod at 20 King St. W., the old McChesney Bakery property. Here people were able to purchase some of his bakery products as well as visit the light lunch parlour, where ice cream was served in the summer and hot drinks in the winter. At the rear of the parlour was the confectionery shop where the “home made” taffies and chocolates were available.
In 1909, the bakery was averaging 1600 loaves of bread daily with an additional 1000 on Saturdays to meet the demand for their fine products. The bakery employed 5 bread makers, 3 fancy bakers, 5 delivery drivers, a stable hand and several clerks to run the operation. The delivery wagons were traveling throughout Oshawa, Port Perry, Brooklin, Myrtle, Ashburn, Raglan and Columbus on a daily basis.
In 1915, the confectionery shop located at 20 King St. W. was sold to Mr. J. Welsh.
By 1927, the bakery had prospered. D.M. Tod now had his son-in-law, R.L. Gray working as Assistant General Manager of the business. The bakery was equipped with more state of the art machinery that allowed for the output of 800 loaves of bread every 45 minutes. There were 20 employees whose combined wages totaled $30,000. The bakery had 10 delivery wagons on the road daily as well as delivery trucks for long distance hauls. The delivery trucks would travel 30 to 50 miles from Oshawa to reach the ever growing demand for their popular products. The bakery was the second largest industry in Oshawa to provide group insurance for its employees.
On October 26, 1930, there was an explosion of an oil furnace at the bakery resulted in an excess of $1,000 damage. However, due to the use of another oven, the bakery was still able to take care of business as usual and get their products out to the many patrons that came to expect the excellent service of Tod’s Bread Limited.
At the time of D.M. Tod’s death on December 26, 1949, his grandson, R.T. Gray was President and Managing director of Tod’s Bread Limited.
It is unknown when the bakery went out of business; however, the 1954 City Directory lists the property at Bond and Centre as vacant. In 1966 the building was demolished and today in 1998, the Bond Towers stands at this particular site.
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.
“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.’
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.
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