History of the Boyd Brothers Company

The history of the Boyd Brothers Company begins in Osgoode, Ontario, in the early years of the twentieth century. Edward Boyd, a local farmer, gave up farming to become a masonry contractor working in the Osgoode area.[1] One of his buildings, the old Union Bank Building (1906), still stands on Main Street in Osgoode village today.[2]

At the age of eighteen, Edward’s son, James Henry (Harry) Boyd, began working as a carpenter’s apprentice in Deseronto, Ontario.[3] In 1907, Harry and his brother, William Boyd, became interested in concrete block construction. At the time, Edward Boyd had been considering the idea of building a concrete block house for himself. Upon his suggestion the sons decided to purchase a concrete block-making machine for the project.[4] After examining catalogs from several companies, they ordered a machine from the Ideal Concrete Machinery Company, a company from Cincinnati, Ohio which had just opened a branch office in London, Ontario.[5]

Harry and William set up their block-making machine in a small shed on a vacant lot In Osgoode village.[6] They began experimenting with the machine and recorded making their first block on May 21, 1907.[7] The brothers decided to go into business that year and formed Boyd Brothers Company. Their journal reveals that they began selling chimney tiles made in purchased moulds in May, and were selling machine-made concrete blocks by October.[8] The brothers took their first building contract In 1907 and built a small house for George Gibson of Ottawa.[9]

During the next few years, the brothers’ business gradually expanded as a growing number of clients hired them to construct concrete block structures. The company’s records show that there was a steady increase in purchases of equipment in order to meet the demand for concrete blocks. In 1909, they purchased a small tub mixer and a second-hand block machine. In 1910, they bought an Eaton’s gas engine and a cement mixer, as well as moulds for casting concrete vases and veranda columns. By 1911, they had made their first addition to the factory followed by another addition in 1912.[10] Canada Cement Lafarge Ltd. records their first sale of a freightcar-load of cement to the plant in 1912.[11]

By 1913, a third Ideal block machine and attachments was purchased.[12] During these years, the company job list records a steady increase in the sale of houses, schools, apartments, churches, and banks in Osgoode and Ottawa, as well as in several of the surrounding towns.[13]

In 1913, the Boyd Brothers Company was featured in Ideal Ideas, the trade publication of the Ideal Concrete Machinery Company. The cover photo is captioned, “Two Boys from Osgoode”, and shows Harry Boyd on his new Indian motorcycle in front of his Boyd block house in the village of Osgoode. No doubt, the Boyd’s company was considered quite a success by this time.

In 1914, Harry Boyd bought William’s share of the business.[14] Harry continued to operate the company, white William focussed his attention on a haulage business which provided much of the transportation service for the Boyd Brothers Co. factory.[15] The transportation of raw materials to the Boyd factory seems to have played a role in the spread of Boyd block buildings into regions outside of the Osgoode-Ottawa area. As the factory began to use a type of white stone aggregate from the Galetta area (located northwest of Ottawa), the job list begins to show entries of houses being built at Galetta and in surrounding towns.[16]

The Boyd Brothers Company continued to be successful in its sales of concrete blocks, and in its construction endeavours. One exception was in 1920 when the journal notes that labour was very scarce and cement difficult to get, so much so that the plant had to shut down for three weeks (presumably an aftereffect of World War I).[17]

photo by Bev Wigney, 1992

In 1921, Boyd Brothers built a factory at 5450 James Street in Osgoode, Ontario. The new building required 8,428 concrete blocks. It was built on a 3 acre lot purchased from Albert Nixons for $1,000.[18]

In 1933, the Job List of the company’s journal contains an Informal summary of completed jobs “to date” since the beginning of the company[19]. It lists:

186 houses
9 churches (and 5 trim for churches, i.e lintels)
9 schools
28 garages and additions
5 oil stations
11 stores and additions
7 offices
5 cheese factories
11 other buildings
5 halls
8 silos
37 other buildings

The company’s success continued into the 1950s as the popularity of “Boyd Block” houses grew throughout the Ottawa Valley. In 1955, Fred Inglis, in a report for the Ottawa Citizen, wrote:

At present the firm’s plant on the southeast side of Osgoode makes an average of enough blocks to build a house a day, and has six gangs of masons who do nothing but build houses … Twenty men work in the shop and forty are on the road.[20]

In 1954, the business was purchased from Harry Boyd by a partnership consisting of his sons Alfred, Frank, Donald and Harry Jr, and his son-in-law, Oscar Kingston.[21] In the 1960s, the company discontinued making concrete block houses. One reason cited by Oscar Kingston, the firm’s office manager, was that:

… the block-making Involved too much labour … Material had to brought from a lead mine 50 miles away at Galetta. It had to be screened and washed, which meant a pumping team at the mine. When the blocks were made, excess cement had to be washed off the aggregate. In addition, there was considerable work involved in drafting the block houses. The whole process just became too costly.[22]

As the company began to discontinue its concrete block-making production. It turned to the manufacture of pre-cast concrete silo sections and septic tanks.[23] The company was eventually sold to the Schoenfeld family who continue to operate the company to the present day.


1. Margaret Robb. From Then To Now. p. 15.

2. Ibid, p. 33.

3. Margaret Robb. from Then To Now.. p. 15., and Ideal ideas, pp. 3-4.

4. ideal Ideas, p.3.

5. Ideal Ideas.p. 4.
from Public Archives of Canada (PAC) File: MG 28. 111. 71. Vol. 1.5 Boyds purchased their first machine
— a 16″ x 8″ Ideal Block Machine and 100 pallets for $ 123.00.

6 Ideal Ideas, p. 5.

7. PAC File: MG 28. III. 71. Vol. 1.5.

8. ibid.

9. PAC File: MG 28. III. 71. Vol. 1.5.
Ideal ideas.p. 4.

10. PAC File: MG 28. III. 71. Vol. 1.5.

11. Michel Perreault. “Profile of an Old and Valued Customer”, Crossroads. Vol. 7, #2, April 1976, p. 8.
in PAC File: MG 29. D18.

12. PAC File: MG 28. III. 71. Vol. 1.5., The price of the new machine and attachments was $105.00 in 1913.
To put the price of the machine into perspective. Harry Boyd bought his first “Indian” motorcycle
for $238.50 in 1912-

13. PAC File: MG28.ill.71.Vo1. 1.5. — JOB LISTS.

14. PAC File: MG28.111.71.Vo1. 1.5. — EXPENSES.
Harry Boyd bought William Boyd’s share of the business valued at $7,1 10.54 including stock in 1914.

15. Margaret Robb. From Then To Now. p. 16.
PACFile: M628.lll.71.Vo1. 1.5. —EXPENSES. Ledger entries of payments for haulage.

16. PACFile; MG28.IH.71.Vo1. 1.5. — EXPENSES. Purchases of Mica spar from Crown Point – 1920;
and stone from Galetta – 1921.

17. ibid.— EXPENSES. Entry in 1920.

18. PAC File: MG 28. Ill- 71. Vol. 1.5.

19. PACFile; MG28.IH.71.Vo1. 1.5. — JOB LIST. Entry in 1933.

20. Fred Inglis. “Boyd Concrete Plant is the Community’s Only Industry”, from The Citizen, in Osgoode Township Museum “Boyd File”.
The newspaper clipping is undated, but has 1955 Christmas postage stamps on the end of the clipping.
Probable date, December 1955.

21. “Boyd Bros. 1907-1973”. Unpublished essay by Oscar Kingston, (son-in-law of Harry Boyd, and long-time
office manager of the business). In “Boyd File” of the Osgoode Township Museum Archives.

22. Maureen Johnson. “Castles of concrete” in The Citizen (Ottawa)., Jan. 8, 1977,p. 77.

23. ibid.