Early records show that the Crown made land grants available on some 200 acres of land around Skae’s Corners in 1828. Richard Woon obtained some of this property and in circa 1855, he built the Commercial Hotel. Located on King Street West, it was a small hotel but adequate for the needs of the town’s people and travellers at that time. John Cornelius Woon obtained the hotel from Richard Woon, and upon the death of John Cornelius Woon in 1898, the hotel was willed to his nephew, John B. Cummins. John Cummins did not own the property long before selling it to Van Buren Woodruff in 1900. At this time the hotel boasted of having twenty large, airy and well appointed rooms, steam heat and being lighted by electricity and gas. The rates were from $1.50 to $2.00 per day and the service and menu were well received.
Van Buren Woodruff leased the property to John Smith in the early 1900s. John Smith set aside a sample room for the commercial salesmen to display and sell goods to the town’s people to attract more business to the hotel.
Shortly after the turn of the century, the Cooper family of Oshawa purchased the hotel and operated it until 1923. From 1923 to 1936, the hotel was owned and operated by the McTaggart family. Under the ownership of the McTaggart family, the hotel underwent some renovations. Around 1929, the building was extended out to the street line, a distance of six feet, and two new store fronts were added. The extension offered an enlarged space in the dining room and an arched entrance was added to the lobby. The ceilings downstairs were fireproofed and the front of the building was fitted with copper store fronts with plate glass and also the roof was redone with Spanish red tiles.
In 1936, Charles Lancaster and his family purchased the hotel. The Lancaster family had spent a lifetime in the hotel business in such places as England, Montreal, Toronto, and Oshawa. When the Second World War ended, Charles Lancaster’s sons, Charles Jr. and Reg, returned from the Canadian Army and took over the operation of the hotel.
The Lancasters made some major changes to the property during their ownership. Besides additions to the building and the purchasing of additional property for parking, excavation work for these changes was done in 1956. The name of the hotel would soon be changed in 1957 from the Commercial Hotel to the Lancaster Hotel.
In 1964, Reg Lancaster passed away and his brother-in-law, Ralph Knox joined the hotel to continue the family operation with Charles Jr. In 1975, the Hotel Lancaster was sold and the new owners were John Pasemko and John Shach. The hotel was demolished five years later in 1980, and today the Michael Starr Building is located at this site.
Oshawa Community Archives
Oshawa Museum Archival Collection
Oshawa Times, June 24, 1967
Oshawa Times, October 13, 1979
Oshawa Times, February 24, 1979
Oshawa Daily Times, December 1, 1928