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Sweat Equity – The Grimsby Homebuilding Co-operative 1953-1956

Sweat Equity is the story of 81 families who came to Grimsby to build their own homes together, by hand, from the ground up. It is a tale of planning, building, struggle, and most importantly, never-ending collaboration.

The title Sweat Equity was chosen because it underlines just how difficult the project was. It was also the term used for labour as equity when it came to down payments. To succeed, the co-op project required intensive labour, countless hours, and the sharing of knowledge and skills. These 81 families were among 800 across Ontario who used their own sweat as equity to build homes for one another. Their efforts made them pioneers. The result was one of the largest homebuilding co-operative movements in the province.

Discover how it all started with the co-operative movement in Nova Scotia, how it took root in Ottawa and how it then spread across the province. It is the compelling story of people committed to social action. The stories told by the Grimsby co-op builders offer unique insights into the families’ experiences. What is clear is that these 81 families built more than just homes: they built a strong community and everlasting friendships.

Black and white photograph of two women each carrying a child

The women were essential to the co-operative endeavour. Dorothy Forbes and Pat Chave with their very young children visit the site during construction.


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This exhibit was created by the Grimsby Museum and Janet Muise, Co-op at 60 Working Group