Industry Toronto History

What industry used to look like in Toronto

A dominant motif in our series of historical Toronto posts is the slow erosion of industrial architecture from the cityscape. We've tracked this process in places like Liberty Village and on streets such as King West, Queen's Quay and Dupont. Despite the dwindling evidence, most of us know intuitively that Toronto was once a bustling industrial city, complete with thick smog that hung above the core on humid days. Not only did smokestacks dot the landscape, but much of the city's economy could be traced back to industrial and manufacturing pursuits.

At the turn of the century, agricultural implement manufacturer Massey Manufacturing Co. (later Massey Harris and then Massey Ferguson) was the largest employer in the city. Its factories sprawled along King West from Strachan Avenue to near Dufferin Street. Further west and slightly north, the mighty John Abell Engine and Machine Works took up much of what is now the condo-heavy West Queen West Triangle. During the war effort, hubs like the Gooderham & Worts Distillery and the John Inglis plant were repurposed to build bombs and guns, respectively.

The city's industrial character wasn't limited to just downtown areas, either. Those driving along Laird Avenue in Leaside should still be able to spot the humble remains of what was once a well-established industrial area. Similarly, an area like Mount Dennis was once absolutely bustling on account of all the factories it once housed, the last remains of which can now be seen in the abandoned Building 9 at the former Kodak plant.

As I've mentioned in past articles, there's not much point lamenting the loss of this particular brand of industry in Toronto. Heavy manufacturing went global long ago, and cities like Toronto are now sustained by other economic stimulators — be they of informational or sheerly financial character. What is, however, regrettable, is that we have so little connection with this crucial bit of our past.

PHOTOS

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Pumping machinery, 1890s

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Pumping Machinery, 1890s

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Timothy Eaton factory, 1910

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John Abell factory, 1910s

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Massey Harris, 1910s

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Congers Coal Dock

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Elias Rogers Coal

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Munitions factory, 1916

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Airplane factory, 1916

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Airplane assembly, 1916

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Maple Leaf Milling, 1916

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Gooderham & Worts Distillery, 1918

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Toronto Shipyards, 1918

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Leaside aerial, 1920

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Toronto Bay, 1920

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Dundas and Edna, 1922

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Steam plant machinery, 1925

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Royal York Heating plant, Ca. 1930s

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Port Lands refineries, 1930

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Willys Overland plant on Weston Road, 1930

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Kodak plant in Mt. Dennis, 1930

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Lansdowne and Royce, 1932

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Veronica Foster, Bren Gun Girl 1940s

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Toronto Star printing press

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Toronto Hydro building on Carlaw Avenue, 1950

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Inglis boilers, 1956

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Hamilton Gear (Dupont & Dovercourt), 1957

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Hearn Generating Station, 1960s

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Leavens Brothers Aviation, 1960s

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Massey Ferguson, 1964

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Redpath Sugar, 1970s

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King West before the condos, 1980s

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Liberty Village before the condos, 1990s


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