The Central Garage in Carleton Place by Terry Skillen





The Central Garage was where Mr. Mozzarella now sits—next to Wisteria—formerly Howard Johnson’s Mens Wear. This piece was not written by me but, by an amazing writer and historian Terry Skillen. I urge you to visit the Heritage Carleton Place site set up by Carleton Place’s own Dave Robertson. Amazing stories and he has put a lot of work into it.Thanks to the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum for the photos from the past.



skilDate unknown of the above picture



Central Garage, 1954
Central Garage, 1954

The following story is about Central Garage which was located at the corner of Bridge and College Streets in downtown Carleton Place. The building  ( seen below) was demolished in 1985, and a small take out restaurant was built on the vacant land at 157 Bridge Street,

The Story of Central Garage
Terry Skillen

In 1906, Albert Lowe purchased the front half of lot 11 in section C of Carleton Place, located at the corner of Bridge and College streets. The lot was part of the land granted to Edmund Morphy by the Crown in 1819. Edmund died in 1842 and the parcel of land was inherited by his wife Barbara. In 1848, she sold lots 1 through 24 for £450 to James McDiarmid, a general merchant and Allan McDonald, owner of a woolen mill in Carleton Place. In 1850, they sold the parcel to John McEwen for £500. There were no buildings on lot 11 as late as 1863. In 1867, Edmund Bourke, a cooper, sold lot 11 to Archibald McArthur, a Carleton Place merchant and former reeve of Beckwith. McArthur became the owner of a woollen mill and large stone residence in Carleton Place. In 1873, he sold part of lot 11 to John Bourke, the son of Edmund, for $400.00.  John sold the front part of lot 11 to Albert Lowe in May 1906 for $2000.00.

Albert Lowe, an Irish Protestant, sold his farm in Pakenham Township about 1890; he started a livery business in Carleton Place about 1894. In 1906, Lowe’s livery building was located on lot 18 in section C of Carleton Place; he sold the business to Mr. Angus McFarlane.

In 1906, a wooden building stood on the front part of lot 11 facing Bridge Street. The small structure was not suitable for Lowe’s purposes; he undertook the construction of a two story brick building on the property. Mr. Lowe made purchases in August and September1906 of 18,000 “h” bricks and 26,000 “s” bricks from Carleton Place Brickyard. Ten years later, in August and September, 1916, Lowe had business dealings with William A. Nichols, the owner of a lumber plane mill on Moore Street. Lowe’s livery business was listed in the 1918 telephone directory; however the 18 March 1918 issue of the Almonte Gazette reported that Mr. Lowe sold his livery “barn” in Carleton Place to McGregor Bros, to be used as a garage and machine shop. (Lowe’s daughter, Irene, was married to Colin McGregor.)

The land register for Carleton Place does not record a transfer of lot 11 from Lowe to McGregor in 1918, so the building referred to in the article was located elsewhere in Carleton Place. The newspaper article states that Mr. Lowe intended to dispose of his livery outfit at an early date. Indeed he did not sell the red brick building located at Bridge and College streets until 1925, after it was converted to a car repair garage. Perhaps, Mr. Lowe or the McGregor brothers did convert the livery building on lot 11 into an automobile garage and operated a car repair service out of it for several years between 1918 and 1925.


Bowland Garage, 1930
Bowland Garage, 1930
 Norman Leslie Bowland and Stanley Edwin Shannon bought Lowe’s garage building in 1925. The Bowland and Shannon families were neighbours on the Scotch Corners road in Ramsay Township just a mile or so off highway seven. Norm Bowland was born in 1896 the son of William J. and Evangelia Bowland.  Norm had worked for James Brothers in Perth before taking an automobile repair course in Ottawa. He moved to Carleton Place after completing the course and lived on John Street. He was twenty nine when he partnered with his friend Stan to purchase the garage from Mr. Lowe.  Stan Shannon may have worked in the Bates and Innes Wool Mill before teaming up with Norm to buy the garage in Carleton Place. He may also have worked in a wool mill in Renfrew. The purchase of the garage for $4500.00 was finalized on 9 October 1925, the occasion of Stan Shannon’s 23rd birthday. Norm was the mechanic and Stan served gasoline and did grease and oil jobs.
Albert Lowe may have first used the name Central Garage to describe the building he had converted into a garage sometime after 1918. It is certain that Bowland and Shannon were using the name by 1934 when their business is listed in the Carleton Place Directory as Bowland & Shannon, Central Garage. The name Central Garage continued to be used during the ownership of the business by Mr. Melvin Kyre from 1947 to 1949 and Mr. Alfred Skillen from 1949 to 1956.
      It may have been in 1932, that the front of the first level of the building was altered to accommodate gas pumps under the second storey overhang along Bridge Street. An advertisement in the Carleton Place Directory for 1936 describes Central Garage as the Red Indian Service Station located at 32 Bridge Street W.
      Ross McCall a resident of Carleton Place tells a story about the time a farmer from Scotch Corners brought his car in for repairs. When the engine cover was lifted a chicken was in the engine compartment. The bird had succeeded in holding on during the drive into Carleton Place without incurring injury.
      The Great Depression came only four years after Bolland and Shannon purchased the garage.  Perhaps a need to reduce their costs caused them to live on the second floor over the garage. Another undertaking to increase income was their decision to rent space at the front of the building to Ernie and Hope Peden and Russell Cooke for the purpose of selling cars. Stan and Norm charged a rental fee of $20.00 monthly and they also benefited from servicing the Star and Durant cars sold by Peden and Cooke.
      The Carleton Place Directory for 1936 identifies Mr. James Miller as the proprietor of a Dodge and De Soto dealership with a general automobile repair shop located at 157 Bridge Street. Sometime later, Miller operated the Dodge and Desoto dealership with Norm Bowland from Central Garage. He employed Helen Cole in the office. Stan Shannon seems to have left the garage business by this time perhaps to focus on the small grill and coffee shop he had recently opened at the front of the building. Mr. Miller was not selling cars from Central Garage after 1945.
      In 1946, after 21 years of business in Carleton Place, Bowland and Shannon sold Central Garage to Janice Louise Armstrong and a Mr. Lynch for the sum of $5000.00. The garage was sold fourteen months later in October 1947 to Mr. Melvin Ernest Kyer. He retained ownership of the building for only two years during which time he entered into a lease agreement with the Cities Service Oil Company. Mel Kyer sold the garage to Alfred Skillen in September 1949.
      Central Garage in 1949 was not a state of the art car repair business. The facility did not have a hydraulic jack. Instead a manual jack was used to raise either the front or rear end of the car. Mr. Ross McCall believes that Jim Miller had installed a hydraulic jack when he had leased Central Garage from Bowland and Shannon for his Dodge-Desoto dealership. Mr. McCall recalls that Miller sold the hydraulic jack to Vic Bennett who owned the Chevrolet dealership at the corner of Bridge and High Street.In the yard at the back of the building was a pit made of cement where oil changes and other under carriage work was undertaken when the weather permitted. The pit was very infrequently used and constituted a hazard that had to be covered by parking a vehicle over it.


Alfred Skillen was not licensed as a Class A mechanic in Ontario.  He hired Bert Guthrie a Class A mechanic. Bert had incurred an injury to his back which was aggravated from time to time especially when he would play baseball. His inability to always make it into work after a game, due to injury or perhaps the after game victory celebration, caused Alfred some labour problems especially when Bert had been in the middle of a job the day before.

Austin cars manufactured in England were among the first foreign motor vehicles to be imported into Canada after World War Two. Alfred entered into an agreement with Myer’s Motors in Ottawa to act as a satellite dealer for the sale of the imported cars. To enhance retail opportunities he later entered into an agreement with the Studebaker Motor Company.

Two Cities Service gas pumps were located under the second storey overhang at the front of the building along Bridge Street. In 1954, Alfred renovated the front of the building; the green and white Cities Service gas pumps were removed and the ground floor of the garage was extended by closing in the drive through area to form a showroom. Large glass windows were installed on the south and east side of the showroom. The restaurant was increased in size and extended along the front of the building. Skillen entered into an agreement with the Sunoco Company. A gas pump was located on College Street at the end of the garage. A Sunoco sign was hung from the front of the building. Alfred Skillen sold the business to Mr. John P. Andres in the summer of 1956 for $12,000.00. Thereafter the building was no longer used commercially to sell and repair automobiles.  The red brick building was subsequently sold a few more times, renovated and housed small commercial businesses until it was eventually demolished about 1985.

The foregoing is an excerpt from a more detailed research report by Terry Skillen that is available at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.
Back of Central Garage, undated photo
Back of Central Garage, undated photo
This is a undated vintage picture of the back of Central Garage with the late Frank Robertson and late Ken Robertson of Carleton Place as children.  The photo would have been taken in the late 1920’s.   A view of the Masonic Lodge on can been seen in the background– Heritage Carleton Place

Dan Williams comment

Linda. I realize this is an old post but in case you haven’t found out about the Embassy restaurant it was one of our hangouts during the 60’s. It was owned and operated by Mr Fallack (not sure how to spell that). Had a great juke box!

Albert Lowe purchased the corner property where Mr. Mozzarella’s stands now from John Burke in 1906 and ran a horse livery business. When the small structure was not suitable for Lowe’s purposes; he undertook the construction of a two story brick building on the property.

Later on the property became the site of one of the first garages in Carleton Place that was operated by Norman Bowland and Stanley Shannon. They bought it in 1925 for $4500, and Stan and his wife Viola Hart lived over the garage. There was a long lunch counter in the same building, but at a separate entrance run by Clifford “Clicker’ Peden. Later John Griffin ran the business until the building was renovated and a larger restaurant was opened. Tammy Marion said– The red building use to be a restaurant ( I forget its name) in the mid to late 70’s – that belonged to the Fallack’s in CP. Their daughter was Barbara Fallack if memory serves me right and I used to go their for lunch from school. Jo-Anne Drader Nelson replied- It was The Embassy and it was the best place to go for fries and ice cold bottle of Coke.

Photo- Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

7 responses »

  1. Well done Terry! A complete and interesting history of a part of the downtown of Carleton Place that has been imprinted in the memory of all of us that attended Central School. The Central Grill was a favourite rest stop of mine for a coke and chocolate bar halfway through my Ottawa Journal route.

    Liked by 1 person

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