Oshawa Creek: Industrial History

June 24th, 2023 – January 7th, 2024

Oshawa Creek Flooding in the “Hollow”, 1922, The Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Clean and healthy waterways contribute to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of a community. Oshawa’s main watershed, the Oshawa Creek, has a history of contamination connected to early industrial development. The creek flows 50 kilometres from its headwaters in the Oak Ridges Moraine to its mouth on Lake Ontario, and played a central role in Oshawa’s historical foundation as a settler community. The lake and the creek were an ideal source of power for early industries but had an environmental impact polluting the waterway with metals and other contaminants. Industrialization along the creek also had an impact on the Indigenous populations who used the Creek for transportation and subsidence, with dams and pollution making the pathway less accessible and healthy. Recreational use of the creek was also effected with quality of water being connected to quality of life for early residents.

GTR Bridge Over the Oshawa Creek, 1910, The Thomas Bouckley Collection.

The Creek was deemed polluted and unsafe for human consumption as early as 1902 due to over 50 years of industrial activities along it. Since 1958, the health and quality of the Oshawa Creek has been monitored closely by the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, and today in cooperation with the City of Oshawa. This exhibition pulls together a selection of photographs to reflect on the history of industry along the Oshawa Creek and to consider the effects rapid development has on the quality of health and life in a growing city.

The Thomas Bouckley Collection is a photographic collection originally compiled by Oshawa historian and collector Thomas Bouckley. It consists of over 3500 images that depict the visual history of this community and is searchable online.