The Grimsby Homebuilding Co-operative was not the only one of its kind in Ontario. For example, students at the Institute of Social Action in Ottawa had already formed the Marrocco Homebuilding Co-operative Society after Father Marrocco challenged them to use the guide they had written. This was the “flagship” co-op homebuilding group. The students built 34 homes across the river in Lakeview Terrace, Deschênes, near Aylmer (Gatineau, Quebec). The homes were interspersed with those of Veterans Land Administration (VLA) residents. Today, the vibrant community still acknowledges this rich heritage.
In August 1954, the 16 Maryknoll subdivision families in Lindsay moved into their co-operatively built homes. It was in Lindsay that the Grimsby homebuilders discovered the 4-bedroom house plan. The Lindsay builders shared that plan, in the true spirit of co-operation. It was known ever after as “The Lindsay.”
In Toronto, 14 families from the Parkdale neighbourhood formed the Family Home Builder Co-operative Ltd. and purchased land from the Catholic Archdiocese in Wildfield near Brampton. Using the same “sweat equity” methods, the families built their houses together on 1- to 2-acre lots on Marysfield Drive. Their subdivision was shaped like a rosary, in a testament to their faith.
In Hamilton, several co-op people knew each other from their workplaces, where the homebuilding message spread effectively by word of mouth. Harry Day of the Sherbrien Co-op in Greensville (in Dundas, Ontario) recalled knowing Bob Walsh of the Grimsby Sherbrien Co-op. Walsh, he said, was “known as Mr. Co-op.” The Greensville group built differently, starting with prefab buildings. They provided the labour by working for the contractor as employees.
Eight hundred families built “sweat equity” homes throughout Ontario in the 1950s. These included areas in Peterborough, Kingston, Sharon, Oshawa, and Orillia. Their stories are included in the book, The Light from One Candle, by Rita Larsen Marrocco.
Don Gay – Lindsay: sharing their house plans (subtitles available in FR and EN). Watch the video with the transcription (EN).
Harry Day – Knowing Bob Walsh of the Grimsby Co-op (subtitles available in FR and EN). Watch the video with the transcription (EN).