industrial toronto 1970

The industrial grit of Toronto in the 1970s and 80s

If there's been a predominant trend in Toronto development over the last 30 years, it's the conversion of industrial lands to high rise residential housing. Before this took place, signs of industry were far more prominent in the city, often quite close to downtown.

It's almost shocking to see scenes of empty lots and warehouse buildings in areas that are now dotted with new office and condo buildings just a few decades later. There were so many old brick buildings and so much open space!

toronto industrial lands

Eastern Avenue in the 1960s, when industry was still alive in Toronto.

Toronto lacked the true grit of Rust Belt cities like Buffalo and Detroit partially because it was never an industrial hub on a national level, but any city of its size showed plenty of signs of industry through the 1970s and 80s.

Condo-heavy areas like Dundas and Carlaw, Liberty Village, King West, and Queens Quay were all active industrial lands some 35 years ago, and that's just to name a few. Smoke stacks, silos, and gas tanks were all common sights back in the 1970s. 

industrial lands toronto

Former Kodak Plant Toronto, 2006. Photo by Robert Burley, courtesy of the Ryerson Image Centre.

There's an undeveloped look to the city throughout this period that's alluring. The future was waiting to be written, but the signs of change were everywhere. Even as industrial lands were widespread, it's not as if the manufacturing sector was booming. 

In fact, over the next couple of decades, the vast majority of Toronto's heavy industry quietly packed it in or moved to places where it was cheaper to operate.

Now you have to really search to find industrial life in Toronto. There's still pockets of it in places like the Junction, the Port Lands, Sterling Rd., and Mount Dennis but it's fading fast. It's hard to imagine much will remain in the city beyond a couple of decades.

Make no mistake, the slow erosion of Toronto's industrial lands has made this a better and more exciting city, but the grittier city of my early memory was one you could get lost exploring for its unfinished spaces. There was something wildly exhilarating about that.

toronto industrial lands

Toronto's industrial residue could be seen in the heart of the city in the 70s. This is near Queen and John.

toronto industrial landsParking lots and warehouses on the edge of the Financial District at Wellington and John streets, 1972.

toronto industrial landsDominion Coal at Mt. Pleasant and Merton, 1970s.

toronto industrial landsAbandoned Gooderham & Worts Distillery.

toronto industrial lands

In the late 1970s, Liberty Village was still very much an industrial zone.

toronto industrial lands

Liberty Village in the late 1970s.

toronto industrial lands

Near Liberty and Hanna, late 1970s.

toronto industrial lands

At the foot of Hanna Ave. (now the site of Toronto Police 14 Division).

toronto industrial lands

Irwin Toys back in the days before East Liberty Street.

toronto industrial lands

Looking north up Strachan Ave. beside the mighty Inglis factory, 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Closer view. The gates to Trinity Bellwoods Park can be seen in the background.

toronto industrial landsNow looking southeast at King and Strachan, early 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Massey Ferguson showroom on King West, 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Can you imagine that this is what King West (just east of Shaw) looked like 30 years ago?

toronto industrial lands

Massey Ferguson offices along the south side of King West, early 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Aerial view of far more robust industry in the Port Lands, early 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Looking east along Queens Quay beyond Redpath Sugar, 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Victory Soya Mills near Queens Quay and Parliament, early 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Looking west along Queens Quay towards downtown, early 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Entrance to Maple Leaf Mills / Monarch Flour silos off of Queens Quay, late 1970s.

toronto industrial lands

Opposite view.

toronto industrial lands

View of the Monarch Flour site from the water, late 1970s.

toronto industrial lands

Joy Oil Station and Loblaws warehouse near Lake Shore and Bathurst, late 1970s.

toronto industrial lands

Toronto Roundhouse, early 1980s.

toronto industrial lands

Dundas and Carlaw, late 1970s.

toronto industrial lands

Opposite view of the same building from Thackery St.

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives


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