16 The Chronicle March 6 - 12, 2018 chronicle.durhamcollege.ca Community Photograph provided by ERA Architecture Photograph by Aly Beach The Harriet House before it was demolished. The land, on which the Harriet House used to sit, as it looks now. 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. Aly Beach The Chronicle 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. 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 1800’s, 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. Soon after immigrating, Granny Cock started buying land. Over the course of her lifetime, it is estimated she owned over 250 The Harriet House 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 1830’s.” 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 1840’s. 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. Follow us @DCUOITChronicle and use #LandWhereWeStand to join the conversation, ask questions or send us more information.
Community chronicle.durhamcollege.ca March 6 - 12, 2018 The Chronicle 17 The importance of the post office Photograph by Heather Snowdon 40 King Street used to house Oshawa's first stand-alone post office, which was torn down in 1957. Today the property is home to a burger joint, income tax and jewerley store. The land where we stand is the traditional territory of the Mississauga’s 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. Heather Snowdon The Chronicle When Bryan Jacula was ten years old his parents, Mary Nee Rudka and Michael Jacula, owned a store. Located on King Street and Westmount Avenue in Oshawa, it was a sub post office, which means it was a post office as well as a general store. Now in his fifties, Jacula still lives in Oshawa. “It’s been so long since I’ve thought about that store,” says Jacula. It was 1835 when Edward Skae came to Oshawa. Back then it wasn’t known as Oshawa, the town was small and was just starting to grow. Skae was well liked by residents and the town became known as Skae’s Corners. As Skae’s Corners grew, there was a need for a post office and in 1842 Skae sent in an application to Home District in parliament, a form of government at the time, asking for one. In the 1800s, it was common for residents to go to general stores to pick up mail. Many small towns didn’t have stand-alone post offices. Sub post offices, located in general stores, were the norm. To avoid confusion, parliament told him he could have a post office if Skae’s Corners changed its name since there were too many towns in the area with the name ‘corner’. The townspeople held a meeting and many wealthy residents in Skae’s Corners were in attendance, Moody Farewell was one of them. He was a farmer and large hotel owner in Oshawa. Legend has it he asked his native friends what the name of the town was and they told him it was called Oshawa. Another legend says Farewell was angry with the natives for coming to the meeting and there was a confrontation between them. Jennifer Weymark, archivist at Oshawa’s Community Museum, says one of the legends is likely true. The natives named the town Oshawa, which was translated from Ojibwa, an Algonquian language, means to portage or to take the canoe out of the water and go over land. Other translations include the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail. Skae opened Oshawa’s first post office in 1845, known as a sub post office, because it was located in his general store. He became Oshawa’s first post master. Skae was post master for three years, following his death at the age of 44. In the 1800s, mail was delivered by sleighs and stage coaches, which are horse drawn carriages. Before that, men on horseback delivered mail from Kingston to Toronto on what we now know as Highway 2 or King Street. It took 18 days for mail to reach Quebec from Pickering, Ontario. Lake Ontario became a lifeline to early settlers who used it as their only means of transportation, and in 1822 settlers began to establish themselves along Highway 2. I'm glad we were a part of it. It wasn’t until the 1850s that Canada would start the Trans-Atlantic mail delivery and in 1856 Canada opened the Grand Trunk Railway and mail was no longer carried by stagecoaches or on horseback. The closure of Skae’s post office sparked a change in Oshawa. In 1872, a new sub post office was opened on King Street. As Oshawa continued to grow, there was a need for a larger post office. In 1907, Oshawa acquired its first stand-alone post office, located on 40 King St. E. It was running until 1950, when the City of Oshawa decided to sell it. A fire in 1955 left no one to bid on the property and in 1957, the first stand-alone post office was demolished and left Oshawa forever. The actual whereabouts of Oshawa’s first sub post office, in Skae’s General Store is unknown. Myths surrounding its location suggest the building was put on the corner of King and Queen Street in 1825. According to an archival article, written in 1949, by Oshawa’s Daily Times Gazette, was torn down for a grocery store in the early 1950s. There was a demand for a post office in Oshawa after the closure of the 40 King Street’s post office in 1950. In March 1951, the Jacula family opened a sub post office in their convenience store, located at 399 King St. W. “It was a tight fit, putting the post office in the convenience store,” says Jacula. According to an article provided by Eva Saether, local history and genealogy librarian at Oshawa public libraries, in 1950 two residents living on Church and William Street in Oshawa were asked to vacate their homes for a new post office. In 1952, the new stand-alone post office was built. But it was only temporary. Many postal closures happened in 1986. In Oshawa, there were 5,955 rural and urban post offices. By the 1990s, there were 93 urban and 1,442 rural post office closures, leaving 14,000 workers in the postal services without jobs. From 1989 to 1992, 2,250 rural post offices closed and there were 153 urban closures from 1992 to 1993. Canada Post fired an average of 47 workers per month in 1992. Canada Post was planning to shut down public post offices by 1996, saying it would make sense economically to have one public post office. A new post office was opened at 47 Simcoe St. S. in 1954. This building is still being used today, and this location is the implemented plan from Canada Post. In Oshawa, there is now only one public post office. Bryan Jacula says his parents were adamant about the importance of having a post office in Oshawa. “I’m glad we were a part of it,” says Jacula. Follow us @DCUOITChronicle and use #landwherewestand to join the conversation, ask questions or send us more information.