distillery district toronto

The Distillery District in Toronto once produced booze and bombs

The Distillery District was not always a collection of boutique shops, galleries and other touristy attractions.

Most everyone knows the district once did as its name implies: it was home to a distillery.

What's less commonly known is that during prohibition in Ontario, which started in 1916, the plant was given to the government to produce ingredients key to explosives of the day (like smokeless gunpowder).

Operated by British Acetones, the plant manufactured roughly 1000 tonnes of acetone in the final years of the war.

Eventually it would return to operate as a distillery, and was sold by the Gooderham family to Harry C. Hatch and associates in 1926. Just a year later, that company went on to acquire Hiram Walker's, who would continue to run the distillery until the late 1980s when it was sold to Allied Vintners.

Shortly after the sale, the distillery ceased operations and was left unoccupied for the majority of the 1990s. And then, thankfully, in 2001 Cityscape Holdings purchased the site with an eye toward transforming it into the destination that it has become today. 

Here's what the Distillery District used to look like.

distillery district toronto

The Esplanade and Distillery 1874

distillery district toronto

What the Gooderham and Worts Distillery looked like in 1896

distillery district toronto

Molasses tank 1915

distillery district toronto

Buildings of the distilleries, 1918

distillery district toronto

Rectifying columns 1918

distillery district toronto

Tank houses 1918

distillery district toronto

Trinity Street 1918

distillery district toronto

Elevator 1918

distillery district toronto

British Acetones of Toronto office 1918

distillery district toronto

Aerial View of Distillery and area 1926

distillery district toronto

In 1937

distillery district toronto

Jumping way ahead to the 1990s

distillery district toronto

An alleyway between buildings, 1990s

distillery district toronto

The Distillery District in the 1990s, before it was named as such

distillery district toronto

Photos by

The Toronto Archives, Wikimedia Commons, and Distillery Heritage. With files from Derek Flack.


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