The Secret Life of Cedar Dale United Church

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Drive south on Simcoe Street and you may not even notice the  unassuming, single storey church with a small spire on the west side.

But the building we know as Cedar Dale United Church holds a secret.  It actually started life as a school, educating children living in the bustling area of Cedar Dale, which had grown around the Grand Trunk Railway.

Not yet part of Oshawa – Cedar Dale was a separate community until the 1920s – the original log cabin school was constructed in the early 1800s and was known as School Section #2.

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(c) The Oshawa Community Archives Collection

As more and more families settled in the area, the log cabin had to go.  And, according to the half-moon builders’ stone still easily visible from the road, a brick schoolhouse was built in 1867 to replace it. But, as the population of the area increased, the two room school simply was too small for all the children in the area, and a new school was built across the road.

The second, larger school, named Cedardale Public School, was located at 827 Gordon Street just off of Simcoe Street.  It was open from 1920 until 2002, when it finally closed its doors for the last time, with area children now to attend what was then the brand new Bobby Orr Public School.

But what happened to the little brick schoolhouse across the road?  Enter George McLaughlin, the elder brother of GM magnate Col. Sam McLaughlin, purchased the empty building in 1927  and donated it to the United Church.  Despite remodelling, traces of the original brick schoolhouse wainscoting and woodwork remain, and the church is still used to this day.  And interestingly, Cedardale Public School also has a new lease on life.  It’s now a unique rehearsal space for musicians owned by a company called the Rehearsal Factory.

For more information about the history of Cedar Dale, visit the Oshawa Museum blog

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