Bread and Roses… The Button Factory
This co-op was established in 1990 and includes a provincially designated heritage building. Located at the corner of Queen and Courtland, it is a significant heritage landmark in Kitchener .
This heritage building was built in 1879 by Emil Vogelsang as a Button Factory. The factory was called the Canadian Ivory Button Works, and was the last of 4 button factories built by Mr. Vogelsang. In 1884 the factory was taken over by the shirt manufacturers, Greene and Rome. They built an addition to the original structure in 1893. The building was used as a barracks during WW 1, and was sold to the Rumpel Felt Comany in 1919, who built the third structure. Over the years, other industries occupied the building, including a mattress factory and an electrical supply company, MacDonald Westburne Electric.
The buildings feature many unique architectural features, such as the different coloured brickwork, a fieldstone foundation, segmentally arched windows and different roof lines.
The history behind the name…
Bread and Roses acquired its name from a union song that was written and sung by textile workers in the 1920’s. These workers, mostly women, toiled in unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the textile factories in the United States. The song, Bread and Roses, was composed to support their struggle for better wages and working conditions. The song contains a phrase “hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!” This phrase was the initial inspiration of the founding Board of Directors whose vision created the co-op in the late 1980’s. The heritage building is closely connected with the textile industry in Kitchener, and the working conditions would have been fairly similar to those experienced in the United States. The founding board recognized that people needed affordable housing (the bread) as well as community and beauty (the roses).
(Information and photos provided from the Bread and Roses Housing Website)