Eugene O'Keefe

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Eugene O'Keefe
Born (1827-12-10)10 December 1827
Bandon, County Cork
Died 1 October 1913(1913-10-01) (aged 85)
Toronto, Ontario
Occupation businessman and philanthropist

Eugene O'Keefe (10 December 1827 – 1 October 1913), baptized Owen Keeffe, was a Canadian businessman and philanthropist. He founded the O'Keefe Brewery Company of Toronto Limited in 1891.

Born in Bandon, County Cork, he moved with his family to Canada when he was five eventually settling in Toronto. He married Helen Charlotte Bailey in 1862. They had a son and two daughters.

From 1856 to 1861, he worked at the Toronto Savings Bank. He later was president of the Home Bank of Canada. In 1861, he was one of the purchasers of Toronto's Victoria Brewery (founded by George Hart and Charles Hannath c.1840s as Hannath & Hart Brewery[1]), at the corner of Victoria and Gould Streets, with had an annual production of 1,000 barrels. In 1891, he incorporated it as O’Keefe Brewery Company of Toronto Limited. The brewery would expand to a capacity of 500,000 barrels. He sold the business after his son died in 1911. The company would later be part of Carling O'Keefe Breweries.

In 1909, Pope Pius X made him the first Canadian layman to be made a private Papal chamberlain. He died at his home on Bond Street in 1913, aged 85.

The O'Keefe name is well established in Toronto due to the many charitable donations Eugene O'Keefe made throughout his life. He donated millions of dollars to the Catholic Church in Toronto; built five churches in Toronto; built the St. Augustine's Seminary in Scarborough; and built Toronto's first low-income housing development. The O'Keefe name was used as a tribute on the new O'Keefe Centre when it was built in 1960 by E. P. Taylor, then the head of O'Keefe Brewing Company. In 1996, the name was changed to the Hummingbird Centre. In 2007 the name was changed to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. His former mansion (O'Keefe House), located across from the former O'Keefe Brewery serves as a residence for students at Ryerson University and the brewery itself is now the Image Arts faculty building.

Since then, a handful of individuals have been actively trying to reestablish the O'Keefe name due to the vital role the man played in shaping the city during the Victorian period. It was not until 2006, when the official biography was written on O'Keefe; the delay due in large part to scant information and lack of personal and company records.