If you lived in Oshawa in the 80s and 90s, you probably have one.
Maybe it’s become a laundry basket, maybe it holds holiday decorations, or perhaps you’re actually still using it as it was intended – to carry your groceries. Yes, we’re talking about the Knob Hill Farms black basket with the distinct bullhorn and wheat sheaf logo – what many ferried their produce, meat and dairy home in, back when Knob Hill was one of the first food terminal-style grocery stores in the GTA.
But the story of Knob Hill Farms Oshawa goes back to 1872, when the original building was built. It housed Ontario Malleable Iron Company, an “immense works” on Prospect Street (which we now call Front Street), making castings for both the agricultural and automotive industries. Founded by the Cowan brothers, it was was soon doing brisk business and at it’s height employed upwards of 800 workers. Despite a devastating fire in 1894, the iron works reopened in 1898, but after several changes of ownership, the company finally closed in 1977.
Enter Steve Stavro, who founded Knob Hill Farms, a grocery chain based in the GTA. The Knob Hill Farms Oshawa location was a whopping 226,000 square feet and sold groceries, household goods, and offered in-store services like a pharmacy, dentist, video rental and card shop. The store was a destination for discount groceries, however, by the late 1990s the “superstore” concept had become increasingly popular with other retailers like Loblaws and Costco. Due to increased competition Stavro closed all Knob Hill Farms stores in 2001.
The building was abandoned, but still stands today in a sea of weeds that creep through broken asphalt – a monolith of white steel siding, broken glass, and the distinct original brick facade that remained from the Ontario Malleable Iron Company.
However, this historic location will soon find new life from an unlikely source: Metrolinx. In 2024, when the GO Train Lakeshore East line expands into Bowmanville, the iron works/food terminal will become Oshawa’s newest train station linking Oshawa residents to the rest of the Golden Horseshoe. And as a nod to to the importance of the original iron company to the Oshawa area, they’ve promised to keep the historic facade.