The Oshawa Children’s Shelter

Childrens shelter 1930

It’s now known as the Pinewood Centre for Addictions, but the stately, red-brick building at 300 Centre Street South was once an orphanage for Oshawa’s children. Here’s the story of the Children’s Shelter:

TBC King St Childrens Shelter

Former Children’s Shelter on King Street, photo (c) Thomas Bouckley Collection at the RMG

Nine days after Oshawa rang in the year 1930, 26 children and their matron, the firm but fair Miss Colver, moved from the overcrowded shelter on Oshawa’s King Street West, into their brand new home on Centre Street South, run by the Children’s Aid Society.

It must have been a remarkable moment for the wards of the Children’s Aid Society as they stepped through the doors, because everything, from the bottom of the basement to the top of the shared bedrooms, was new.  Not re-purposed. Not renovated from an existing structure, but utterly, completely, brand new.  The shelter had been built just for the disadvantaged children of the area, on 6 acres of land donated by Mr. J.D. Storie, and everything that chilly day in January, 1930, was unused, freshly painted, shiny and bright.

Even without decor, a newspaper reporter at the time noted that the atmosphere in the shelter was cheerful and homey, and included a comfortable sitting room with books and a piano, dining room, two basement playrooms, and shared, separate dormitory-style rooms for boys and girls.

But most impressive were the shelter’s modern comforts:  The kitchen was filled with the latest appliances of the day, as was the laundry room.  The furnace was automatic, the bathrooms were large and bright and fitted with the latest in lavatory technology, and the infirmary could be completely isolated and self-sufficient in case one of the children came down with a spreadable illness.

The shelter operated as a children’s residence until 1970, with the children attending Holy Cross, E.A. Lovell or Oshawa Central Collegiate Institute schools.  The site stood vacant until 1975, and reopened as the Pinewood Centre for alcohol addiction treatment, part of the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital’s initiative to move addiction care from a hospital setting into the community.  In 1993, the addiction treatment centre was taken over by Lakeridge Health Oshawa.