Harriet’s House

By Aly Beach, Durham College Journalism Student

Once upon a time, there was an old, decrepit house on Simcoe St. North, in Oshawa. The windows were boarded, the door creaked open and slammed shut. The greenery had begun to overtake it. The house was surrounded by a massive construction site and seemed out of place. One day it was there. The next it wasn’t.

HarrietCock

This house was located at 2300 Simcoe St. North, just past Durham College and UOIT, until around 2016. It originally belonged to Harriet Cock, affectionately known as “Granny Cock” by relatives and local archivists. She was one of Oshawa’s first female landowners.

Being a female landowner was unusual in the 1800s, as was being independently wealthy. Unlike most women during that time, Granny Cock could vote before Confederation. The requirement for voting prior to Confederation was to be a landowner. This ‘loophole’ was closed after confederation in 1867.

Granny Cock immigrated to Canada from Cornwall, England in 1846 with plenty of money, her daughter, son-in-law and her prized mahogany table.

Granny Cock was born in 1787. She amassed her fortune when both her father and husband died. Her father was a wealthy barrel maker who also owned a barrel factory, and her husband was a prosperous grocer.

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The Harriet Cock portrait, on display in the Verna Conant Gallery

Soon after immigrating, Granny Cock started buying land. Over the course of her lifetime, it is estimated she owned over 250 acres of land in north Oshawa and the Georgian Bay area.

Granny Cock built herself a house, ran a successful farm and lived a comfortable life in Oshawa. She died in 1884, at the age of 97. She is buried in Union Cemetery.

In her will, she gave her house to her grandson, William Guy, a member of Oshawa’s influential Guy family. It is unclear who owned the house directly after him.

In recent history, the house was property of Windfields Farm until 2009. The land was then purchased by Canada’s largest real estate investment trust, RioCan, in 2012. And so began the battle over Harriet’s House.

RioCan was ordered by Heritage Oshawa to produce a report of the house, to see what the preservation options were.

In 2012, RioCan hired Toronto-based company ERA Architecture to consult on the house and do the report.

The report, presented to Oshawa City Council in April 2012, stated Cock’s house “is a rare example of early vernacular architecture in the Oshawa area likely dating from the 1830s.” This was based off studies of the Guy House, which is very similar in architecture and general style. It was discovered not long after the report that the time-period was wrong, and the houses were actually from the 1840s. This error was based off misinformation given to the Oshawa Museum, where Guy House is located.

According to the ERA report, Harriet’s House “was found to be in sufficiently good condition to enable it to withstand the impact of relocation.” It was decided by Heritage Oshawa that RioCan could relocate the house for between $40,000 and $45,000.

Four years later, nothing had happened. The house was still where it had always been. In 2016, the developers deemed the house was deemed too decrepit to move. Joel Wittnebel, editor of The Oshawa Express, pointed out in an article from 2012 that Harriet’s House had managed to survive for over 150 years, but apparently those four years did a number on it.

“The impression I get is that it just didn’t fit into the overall scheme of what they wanted,” says Jennifer Weymark, archivist at the Oshawa Museum. She has lived in the area since 1999.

In 2013, Oshawa city council carried a motion that approved the move proposed by Heritage Oshawa and suggested to make it part of Windfields Farm, and designate it as a historic building.

In the request to demolish the house, RioCan added in a $15,000 donation to the city of Oshawa for Windfields Farm preservation. The money would go to Oshawa Heritage Week at Oshawa Fire Hall 6.

Harriet’s House holds a special place in Weymark’s heart. She would have liked to have seen the house survive, because its presence changes the historical narrative of the area.

“I think she’s a really interesting aspect of our early history that we don’t celebrate enough,” says Weymark, who believes when we talk about history we often focus only on the male perspective.

Weymark says the fact this house exclusively belonged to a woman changes the story. The house could tell a story driven by an influential woman.

The bulldozing of the historic Cock house brings about many questions: How could it have been saved? Should it have been saved? What could have been done to prevent this?

“Obviously preserving buildings that have historic value; It comes from the citizens of community that really rally behind and say ‘this is a building we think needs to be saved’,” says Weymark. “It was those citizens who saved these three buildings, particularly this one [Henry House], Guy House and Robinson House. It was a citizen effort that had them preserved,” says Weymark.

Heritage Oshawa Chair Laura Thursby says, “We seek out properties, some with cultural significance and some with interesting architecture.”

Heritage Oshawa is Oshawa’s municipal heritage committee. They are not truly advocates, but advise the City Council on matters related to heritage.

They have a list of historical significant buildings called an inventory. If a building on the inventory is being changed, Heritage Oshawa can step in and make recommendations about how the changes can implemented to conserve the heritage aspects of the building. They are also notified if the owner of a building on the inventory applies for a demolition permit.

If Heritage Oshawa feels like a building on the inventory holds notable historical significance, especially if it is threatened in some way, they will ask for a report on the property. Based on the recommendations outlined in the report, Heritage Oshawa can recommend to Oshawa city council that building should be designated. This gives it extra protections and helps conserve the building. However, designation does not necessarily mean that it is completely safe from demolition.

Heritage Oshawa simply gives recommendations to city council about what they believe should be done with the building. Ultimately, all final decisions are made by council.

It is important to mention when Heritage Oshawa makes their recommendations, they do not consider the current state of the house, only the historical significance of the building.

Thursby says it can be disappointing when historical buildings are destroyed, such as Harriet’s House, as once demolished they can never be brought back.

“It can be frustrating, but our job is simply the heritage side,” says Thursby.

Recently, there have been two places Heritage Oshawa has tried to protect.

The first one is downtown’s Memorial Park. Heritage Oshawa recommended it should be added to the inventory for its heritage significance and protection. Council vetoed the recommendation.

“It is a public space that is valued by citizens,” says Thursby.

Harriet’s House was also recommended for designation in 2012 and was vetoed.

The second is the Robert McLaughlin’s house on Simcoe Street. McLaughlin was father to Sam McLaughlin, the man who is credited with the creation of General Motors of Canada.

Heritage Oshawa is in the process of trying have it designated as a historical building.

“We consider it significant in the heritage landscape of Oshawa,” says Thursby.

“These buildings are central to Oshawa culture. They both contribute in different ways and they both have value,” says Thursby.

Weymark explains there are many historical buildings that can be worked into a modern setting, while also enhancing their history and the area surrounding it.

While all of this may have been avoidable, Harriet Cock and her home are now a lost piece of Oshawa’s history. Currently, RioCan is beginning to build a shopping centre where Harriet’s House once stood and have agreed to install a plaque to signify who once owned the land. Granny Cock has become yet another historical woman who will be forgotten.


The land where we stand is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

Durham College‘s newspaper, The Chronicle, launches a new feature series called The Land Where We Stand, about the hidden stories that shape our region.

Some of the articles found on this blog have been provided through partnerships with external sources, and we welcome reader engagement through comments.  The views expressed in such articles/comments may not necessarily reflect those of the OHS/OM.

The North Oshawa Skatepark Isn’t Just About Skateboarding

Feature and Images by Shana Fillatrau, Durham College Journalism Student

To some, a skatepark just seems like a slab of concrete, but to others, it’s a place to exercise, make new friends and express their passion.

​David Galloway, a long-time volunteer at Skatelife, a faith-based organization that works with local skateboarders in different communities across Canada, is at the North Oshawa skatepark at least once a week.

Galloway’s favourite moments from the park are conversations. “Sometimes I show up, especially when there are a lot of guys here, and guys I know, I don’t even necessarily get on my skateboard right away. I’m just making rounds talking to people,” says Galloway.

It’s not always about the skateboarding, says Galloway, but it’s about connecting with people and building a community. Treflips, nose grinds and varial heels are all terms you would hear and tricks you would see at the North Oshawa skatepark.

It’s a place for the young, the old – the beginners and also, the professionals.

The 10,000 square foot skatepark opened in 2010. The park was built by New Line Skateparks, a municipal skatepark design and construction company who have finished over 200 projects

The park includes, rails, manual pads, hubbas and quarter pipes, as well as space to pump in order for the skaters to keep their momentum.

Skatepark construction 101:

Mitchell Wiskel, an Oshawa parks development supervisor, says planning to build a skatepark is similar to any other parks’ development project.

“In the case of a skatepark,” he said, ”we would typically start off by determining if there’s a need for the city through surveys or outside studies.”

While being relatively inexpensive, the parks give youth a place to spend their time and it promotes physical activity. Wiskel didn’t work on the park, but is knowledgeable about the process and says skateparks are beneficial to city’s urban development.

Once it’s determined there is a need for the skatepark, parks development would then decide what the best location is. After that, Wiskell said, they would then focus on the design of the park

Next, an expert skatepark designer has to be brought in. To accomplish this, Wiskel said a request for proposal (RFP) is sent out. Designers pitch their ideas and skills to parks development. This would be contracted out and parks development would oversee this process

Another RFP is sent out to contractors but their pitch is based on price. Parks development hires the least expensive, qualified contractor.

After the design is finished, parks development hires general contractors to build the park. Parks and development decides what company would be hired, as well as the construction process itself.

Once the skatepark is finished, parks development ends their involvement and the city’s parks operation staff looks after the facility.

Wiskel said parks and development is only brought back onto the project if something broke or the park was to be renovated.

Other duties of parks development include organizing public consultations (whether that be through city hall meetings, local surveys or speaking to interest groups – skateboarders), speaking to other city departments that may have a stake in the process and fiscal responsibilities.

“It’s so important to stay involved and to stay involved with the development side of things for Oshawa,” says Wiskel, “because if we didn’t have that involvement, from a public standpoint, there wouldn’t be that buy-in, through the process.”

Wiskel says with strong community feedback we can build much better facilities. “Because we’re building for exactly what those users want.”

A skater’s experience:

Fillatrau_Hatherly

Kyelle Hatherly started skating in 1986. He stopped when he started high school. Back in the eighties, Hatherly said skateboarding was a fad, and he wanted to try it.

Three years ago, Hatherly picked up the board again, since he didn’t have a license and needed a way to get around.

Hatherly says he didn’t have many skateparks around when he was younger, so when he saw the North Oshawa skatepark, he wanted to try it out. He started coming to the park three years ago when he started skating again.

His favourite part of the park is the funbox (a manual pad), but he says, “Yeah, I think it should be bigger, but there’s not really space to add it unless they took out some of the parking lot or something, but yeah, it’s a little small.”

Hatherly tries to make it to the park every day he has off from work.

Who is David Galloway and what is Skatelife?:

David Galloway started skating in 1988. He went to O’Neill. This is where he found his passion. One day he saw students doing a trick called a boneless down a set of stairs.

Even though he said it was a small set of stairs. “They were flying through the air and I’m like, ‘man, I want to be a part of that,’” recalls Galloway who says the North Oshawa skatepark is an integral part of his skating experience now.

He was there skating at the park before it officially opened in 2010.

He tries to be at the park at least once a week, but tries for several times a week.

Galloway says he wants a flatbar added to the park and has heard other people feel the same.

He started volunteering at Skatelife in 1997 in British Columbia, while attending school in Abbortsford. His school gave credits for volunteer hours, so he joined when he saw Skatelife being advertised in a local skateshop.

Skatelife is a non-profit, faith-based organization that works with local skateboarders in different communities across Canada. SkateLife promotes community and friendships. They hold weekly skate clubs where local skaters can meet up, spend time together, learn new tricks, film, etc.

​Galloway says Skatelife focuses heavily on the 13 to 18-year-old age range, but the organization also caters to younger children, as well as adults.

His favourite part is connecting with the skaters. Being a mentor to them and helping them make positive life choices, career paths is important to him.

“Some of these guys don’t have a positive male figure in their life, says Galloway, “and I feel that’s really important, just to be that to those guys.”

Looking at the park, you wouldn’t know the stories of the people who skate there, but taking the time to learn more reveals the Oshawa skatepark has an impact on people in the community.


The land where we stand is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

Durham College‘s newspaper, The Chronicle, launches a new feature series called The Land Where We Stand, about the hidden stories that shape our region.

This article originally appeared in The Chronicle, February 28, 2018.

Some of the articles found on this blog have been provided through partnerships with external sources, and we welcome reader engagement through comments.  The views expressed in such articles/comments may not necessarily reflect those of the OHS/OM.

The Land Where We Stand

On Wednesdays, the OM is excited to offer a new feature series called The Land Where We Stand, a partnership with Durham College.


By Teresa Goff, Journalism Faculty, School of Media, Art & Design – ‎Durham College

The land where we stand is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

Uncovering the hidden stories about the land our community is built on is what The Chronicle’s new feature series, The Land Where We Stand, is about.

We have talked to Oshawa Mayor John Henry, Oshawa Museum archivist Jennifer Weymark, former City Councillor Lousie Parkes, chair for Heritage Oshawa, Laura Thursby.

The Chronicle launched this project with Julie Pigeon, an advisor at Durham College’s Aboriginal Student Centre.

We sat down with Pigeon to participate in a smudging ceremony, to expand our knowledge or the history of the land and to learn how to make tobacco ties to give to elders when asking for information and stories about the land where we stand.

This series uncovers Durham Region’s lost stories and explores the impact history has had on shaping where we live.

You’ll read about famous buildings like the Hotel Genosha and Regent Theatre and discover places such as Harriet House, Oshawa’s first post office and the Oshawa skate park.

The Land Where We Stand series explores themes such as the impacts of World War II in Durham Region, businesses’ role in shaping our communities, the development of farm lands and maintenance of historic buildings.

Tune into Riot Radio (https://www.ustream.tv/channel/sariotradio) on Thursdays from 3 to 4pm for segments with guests like mayor John Henry.

We have a story map for you to check out online at www.chronicle.durhamcollege.ca<http://www.chronicle.durhamcollege.ca/>.

Follow us on Twitter @DCUOITChronicle and use #thelandwherewestand to join the conversation, ask questions or send us more information.

Student Museum Musings – Nicole and Mary

This semester, we are happy to host two students from Durham College’s Library and Information Technician program who are able to get hands-on experience in the workplace while offering valuable assistance where we need the help.  Read on to meet Nicole and Mary!

Nicole

Hello, my name is Nicole Bray and I am a second year student in the Library and Information Program at Durham College.  I chose to have a field placement at the Oshawa Museum & Archives after I saw Jennifer’s presentation for one of my classes.  She made working at the archives sound fun and interesting.  And everyone has certainly lived up to my first impression.  At the moment I am working on the Education in Oshawa e-publication.  It’s really interesting to read up about all the different schools that were once in Oshawa.  I look forward to the rest of the time I’ll spend here at the Archives.

Mary

Hello all! My name is Mary Sherlock and I am a 2nd year Durham College student in the Library and Information Technician program. This is my last year in the program and I am excited for what the future may bring! I am here as a placement student in the archive and am loving every second of it so far! I have a great love for history, especially Canada’s history, which makes me all the more excited for my time here. This placement will  give me a great opportunity to see if working in an archive or museum setting is something I wish to do after I graduate, also to gather as much educational experience as possible to apply towards school, work, and life.

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Durham LIT Students on a Fall visit to the Oshawa Museum

Student Museum Musings – Durham LIT Students

Their semester has wrapped up, but before they were finished, two students from the Durham College Library & Information Technician program shared their experiences as interns at the Oshawa Museum.  Here’s what they had to say.

Jenn

As part of the final year at Durham College’s Library and Information Technician program, I am at the Oshawa Museum completing field placement hours. I have had the opportunity to work on the museum’s newest publication – The Annotated Memoirs of Rev. Thomas Henry. I got thrown onto this project as a sort of “happy accident:”  I was originally slated to be working in the archive, but help was needed elsewhere.

The book is being annotated by Laura Suchan, Executive Director of the Oshawa Museum, and Stoney Kudel, president of the Oshawa Historical Society. I have been designing the overall layout of the book.

A973.13.1_1
A973.13.1 – Elder Thomas Henry

As an out-of-town student, working on this book has been my introduction to the history of Oshawa and the Henry family. I can’t begin to say how much research has gone into this publication. On my part, it was mostly because I was unfamiliar with a lot of the stories that I was reading about, and I wanted to relate what was happening in Oshawa (then East Whitby Township) to what I knew about the history of Ontario and Canada as a whole.

The museum is fortunate enough to have a lot of the Henry family’s history. I’ve had the opportunity to search through letters, early censuses and photographs, all in the sake of finding information for this book. I’ve enjoyed learning the different histories – being told to sit down and do research has been a dream these past few months.

Unfortunately, with the semester ending, I am finished my internship at the museum, and as of now, the book is not yet complete, though it should be soon. I look forward to seeing how all the work we’ve done comes together in print.


Amanda

I’m a firm believer in what we learn from our past will guide us in the future so history has always been a huge interest of mine. Learning about how an archive and museum are run in class was fun, but actually getting to come into the archives and be able to see and touch history with my own two hands was another experience all together. From my time at the archives I was able to see the real behind the scenes of how an archives is run and operated daily. Through the task I was assigned I got to see what it was like to actually go through a donation and learned the value of recording everything. I also got a chance to see just how much time one project can take. From going through the newspapers, clipping, photocopying, and encasing them it took around 19 hours. With how little staff and money is usually given to archives you can see how much one person needs to do.

I’m very grateful for the experience! and now when I go to museums/archives I will truly know the value of them, not just from a preserving history stance.


Thank you to Jenn and Amanda for sharing their stories!

Want to know more about our Winter Semester post-secondary students? Jenn, Peter, Sarah, and Elora introduced themselves in an earlier post!