Latest News

Remembering Harriet Cock

After historic house bulldozed, owner gets recognition

 

Heritage Oshawa has proposed a plaque be put up near the site of the former home of Harriet Cock, one of the area’s first female entrepreneurs. Her home, seen here, was torn down last year to make way for a new retail and housing development.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It’s a small token for a woman who had a big influence on early Oshawa.

Harriet Trevithick Cock was one of the area’s first female entrepreneurs, and after immigrating from England in 1846 with her daughter and son-in-law, set about making a home and a name for herself.

One of her first orders of business was purchasing hundreds of acres of land along what would become Winchester Road and in East Whitby Township. She built a home for herself along Simcoe Street North. It was this building at 2300 Simcoe St. N. that remained standing up until last year, when the developer’s bulldozer knocked it to the ground to make way for a shopping mall and further housing developments as part of RioCan’s massive project in the city’s north end. It was one of the city’s earliest pieces of architecture.

Now, Heritage Oshawa is proposing a plaque be erected in the area to honour the woman who was a pioneer of her time in Oshawa. The plaque will honour her accomplishments and her role as an early farmer and land owner in the area.

“Harriet herself is a pretty amazing story,” says Jennifer Weymark, archivist for the Oshawa Museum.

“She wasn’t the only female landowner, but she certainly was one of the most prolific.”

And while Weymark acknowledged it was sad to see the last remaining testament to Harriet’s accomplishments torn to the ground, it is sometimes the reality of the situation. She was hopeful the city could do more to save it.

“I understand that you can’t save every old home,” she says. “But I thought with her’s, we might be able to because it’s such an interesting and different story.”

The unfortunate reality is that a consultant report form 2012 found the home was stable enough and could be moved to a safer location at an approximate cost between $40,000 and $45,000. However, after nothing was done for almost four years, a further letter from RioCan requested that the home be torn down in order for the project to continue. The request came along with a $15,000 donation to the city in order to help preserve the legacy of Windfields Farm, the former owner of the house. The money is being used for a heritage display at Fire Hall 6.

While no practical details have yet to be set regarding the plaque’s location, Weymark stresses the importantance of this bit of recognition.

“I just really think it’s important that we recognize that she came here and did this and her house kind of stood as a testament to this wonderfully amazing woman.”