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Behind the boarding at the Canada Linseed Oil Factory

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 13, 2012

Linssed Oil Factory TorontoThe Canada Linseed Oil Factory has stood on Wabash Avenue for about a century, and for nearly half of its lengthy existence it has been abandoned. The hulking shell of a former industrial complex sits at Sorauren Park, silently calling out to all urban explorers and curious adventurers. The building's ominous presence is a testament to Toronto's diminished and now largely forgotten industrial past.

The factory equipment that once inhabited this building has long-since been removed and replaced with graffiti, debris, and people like me who mill about the space admiring a tangible piece of history.

Linseed Oil Factory TorontoAs we walked through the factory's back yard littered with broken hockey sticks, empty bottles, and a few bicycles, we approached the building itself and were greeted by an absurdly creepy figure: a pink, plush bunny rabbit hanging off the wall with half of its stuffing leaking out a wound in its side. Undeterred, we easily located the makeshift entrance through which inquisitive travellers access a not-so-stable wooden ladder down to the dark, chilly basement of the factory.

Linseed Oil Factory TorontoOnce inside, we perceived the companion of the rodent sentry outside, a blue bunny rabbit lying supine next to one of the many puddles in the building. I was glad to be wearing my work boots. We entered through what was a window, and looking around the interior I tried to conjure up a sense of what the factory would have been like when it was operational. This was easy enough to do in parts, looking at doors, ramps and hallways and such. And yet, most of the rooms are big empty spaces that, after the thrill of being in an unknown and abandoned building wears off, aren't exactly enthralling.

The main attraction would have to be the graffiti, which adorns much of the building, both inside and out. One of the less artistic examples was a sentence stating, "once yr in you can't get out". A statement that doubtlessly adds to the atmosphere, but is nonetheless patently untrue as exiting the building proved easier than entering.

Linseed Oil Factory TorontoI would still love to know how exactly these graffiti artists (or vandals, depending on your point of view) got to the roof and inside parts of the elevator shaft. Unfortunately, I was unable to solve that riddle. Perhaps I could have done so were I there a bit longer. We were, however, put off by another person (or people) stomping about in the factory after we had entered. I figured that anybody else who was there was probably on site for the same reason I was, but still, when you're in an abandoned factory, the imagination does have a tendency to run wild.

The factory was built in 1915 and processed linseed oil (also known as flaxseed oil). Linseed oil was a popular ingredient in such industrial products as oil-based paint, wood finisher, and linoleum (which derives its name from linseed) as well has livestock feed and cough syrups (which also often contained a tincture of cannabis, laudanum, and chloroform...they didn't mess around back then).

Linseed Oil Factory TorontoAs linseed oil became less popular (perhaps due in part to its propensity for occasional spontaneous combustion) and as Toronto moved away from a manufacturing-based economy, the factory closed in the 1960s (various sources date its closure in the range of 1965-1969). Sorauren Park, which sits adjacent to the factory, used to be a barn for housing TTC busses, and the Wabash Building Society hopes for a similar reclamation for the land on which the factory sits. The City of Toronto purchased the land for $2 million in 2000.

While original plans suggested that the city wanted to convert the building as it stands, a 2009 report suggests that parts of the building would need to be torn down. Given the city's negative cash flow situation at the moment, I'm not sure if revamping the Linseed factory into some manner of community centre constitutes "respecting the taxpayer," so if you're interested in checking this place out, it'll probably remain abandoned for the foreseeable future.

Writing by Jesse Templeton / Photos by Charissa Tosio



the lemur / May 13, 2012 at 10:07 am
Roncesvalles and Brockton don't meet.
youth / May 13, 2012 at 11:44 am
RIP Ninj
G / May 13, 2012 at 02:10 pm
There is nothing old or historic about a run down factory. Maybe if Toronto appreciated it's historical buildings a little more people wouldn't be forced to explore a linseed oil warehouse.
dammitdolls4life / May 13, 2012 at 02:11 pm
Whoever took these photos are amazing.
dixielee / May 13, 2012 at 04:16 pm
Great article, well written and interesting. Gave me a creepy feeling of being there. Good Pics too.
Tom / May 13, 2012 at 04:35 pm
There used to be a DIY skatepark there... RIP Toilet Bowl
Nat / May 13, 2012 at 05:34 pm
Good article. I've always wondered about the history of this building and enjoyed reading your write-up.
The Photomat / May 13, 2012 at 08:07 pm
Nice write-up! The graffiti really is the star attraction at this place. Here's my set from a few years ago:
aeudet / May 13, 2012 at 09:58 pm
I've been in there, it was really cool but I was afraid of getting some pigeon borne diseases as the floors were covered in bird crap. It was around March or so when I went in and the basement was still frozen. There was about 2 feet of ice on the ground with furniture and junk poking out. Never seen anything like it. Really amazing.
Pk replying to a comment from G / May 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm
wow, G. You sound like an awfully friendly person.
Jeff Jones / May 14, 2012 at 08:58 pm
Like your research on the Linseed Oil Factory, enjoyed reading it. Hope they don't turn it into a dumb-ass Yuppie Place!Did up more.
BeckySue / May 14, 2012 at 09:04 pm
I enjoyed the information on the Linseed Oil Factory, I was not aware of this wonderful place and would love to find out what else this city has lurking in the shadows!
saipapyped / June 27, 2012 at 03:25 pm
I'm waiting allowing for regarding the ending of Euro 2012. All spoke with regard to Ukraine - a be!
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