Jacob Cooke was born in England in 1908 and emigrated to Canada in 1927, eventually settling in Burlington, Ontario. He worked as a carpenter’s helper for Pigott Construction (based in Hamilton, Ontario), and later specialized in the laying of hardwood floors. In 1935, he purchased a hand operated block making machine and began manufacturing concrete blocks in the evenings in a shed at the back of his home at 3 New Street (now 2109 New Street). The blocks were to be used as bases for Christmas trees that decorated Brant Street that Christmas season.
In 1937, he installed his first power-operated block machine. He purchased sand and gravel from Frank Scheer on St. Matthew’s Avenue. The demand for concrete blocks continued, so what had begun as a small cottage industry expanded to larger premises on St. Matthew’s Avenue in Aldershot, on lands purchased from George Filman. An adjacent 55 acre gravel pit provided the raw materials needed for the rapidly expanding operation.
Jacob Cooke purchased property in Aldershot, Oakville and Hamilton. He and employee Brant Coleman developed these properties and sold them to builders. In 1952, they developed the Glen Acres survey (Birdland) on the Filman property. The streets were named after birds in honour of William Filman, who used to have a bird sanctuary on the property. As the business expanded, Jacob Cooke purchased Joe DeLuca’s farm which became the site of the Cooke Business Park at 35 Plains Road E.
By 1953, J. Cooke Concrete Blocks was the largest producer of concrete blocks in Canada, each day producing enough to build 30 houses. The company was in operation around the clock and produced ten million eight-inch blocks per year. Jacob Cooke, retaining the land development company, sold the concrete block business in 1958. His son William (Bill) stayed on to manage the company with his brother Eugene Barrymore (Barry) as Plant Manager. The company was sold again in 1977 and 1998.
At the age of 62, Jacob Cooke visited family in Australia and decided to pursue opportunities there. Convincing his son Barry to join him, Jacob purchased, cleared and planted thousands of acres of land. Jacob Cooke died in Australia on 6 November 1976.
William Jacob Cooke (Bill) was born on Maple Avenue in Burlington on 1 June 1931. He and his brother Eugene Barrymore (Barry) attended Maplehurst Public School and Waterdown High School. Bill married Mary Elizabeth Gray (Bette) on 19 February 1955. Bill carried on the concrete block business after his father and brother moved to Australia, and also became involved with land development.
Some of the areas developed in Aldershot by the Cooke family are Birdland, Harbour Heights, Oaklands Estates, Fairwood Place West, and the Cooke Business Park adjacent to the former concrete block plant. The Cooke family developed over 800 residential lots in the Aldershot area. The property now known as Oaklands Estates on Burlington Bay was purchased by Jacob Cooke in the early 1950s and was later developed into a residential street by Bill. Bill lived at 160 Oaklands Park Court, the home he built there in 1959. In the Fairwood Acres survey on North Shore Boulevard, Bill named the streets after his children: Daryl, David, Lynn and Lee. Bill’s wife Mary died in 2000; he later married Louise Oates. He died in Burlington on 12 May 2005 at the age of 74.