Our city is home to about 240 distinct neighbourhoods. That is the reason why Toronto is known as the “city of neighbourhoods”, due to the strength and vitality of our many communities. We sometimes forget the story behind our neighbourhoods, as we traverse through them each and everyday. And then there are some that we simply have not been to. See, that’s the beauty of Toronto: you could have been born and raised here, but still wander through an unknown street and end up discovering a whole new side of Toronto that you didn’t even know existed. Today we are excited to launch a series that re-tells those stories of Toronto’s communities…
the distillery district
This 13-acre (52,000 sq. m) district comprises more than 40 heritage buildings and 10 streets, and is a national historic site and represents the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America. Formerly known as The Gooderham and Worts Distillery, this facility has played an important role in the growth and wealth of both the city and nation, at one time contributing more to the national Treasury than any other enterprise in the nation.
It was in 1832 that the Gooderham and Worts Distillery was founded by James Worts and his brother-in-law, William Gooderham. By the 1850’s, the Gooderham and Worts distillery was thriving and its numerous facilities included flour mills, a wharf, the distillery, storehouses, an ice house, a cooper shop and a dairy. And by the late 1860s, it was the largest distillery in the world. Once providing over 2.1 million gallons of whisky, mostly for export on the world market, the company was bought out in later years by competitor Hiram Walker Co., another large Canadian distiller. The entire area was once the industrial centre of Toronto and a transshipping hub as its location on the side of the Canadian National Railway mainline and at the mouth of the original route of the Don River outlet into Lake Ontario, provided transport connections to the rest of Canada (and the world).
However, during the 20th century, the distillery’s fortunes would be severely affected by World War I and Canada’s short lived prohibition era that brought production of alcohol beverages to a standstill. Thus beginning of the de-industrialization of the surrounding area in the late 20th century, and the eventual closure of the distillery. In 1990, after 153 years of continuous production, the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, once the largest distillery in the British empire, ceased operations. The closure of the distillery resulted in industrial and commercial buildings and structures being demolished, yet it also created redevelopment and investments opportunities. During this time, the Distillery became the number one film location in Canada, and the second largest film location outside of Hollywood. Past productions include Chicago, X-Men, Cinderella Man, Against The Ropes and The Hurricane. In the late 1990’s, despite numerous setbacks, 2 residential condominium buildings were constructed on the border of the district.
In 2001, the site was purchased by Cityscape Holdings Inc., which transformed the district into a pedestrian-only arts, culture and entertainment neighbourhood. In 2003, the district was reopened to the public to great acclaim. The new owners refused to lease any of the retail and restaurant space to chains or franchises, and hence why the majority of the buildings are occupied with unique boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, jewelery stores, cafés, and coffee shops, including a well-known micro brewery: the Mill Street Brewery A new theatre, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts has opened as well and serves as the home of the Soulpepper Theatre Company and the drama productions of nearby George Brown College. Throughout the year, the Distillery hosts celebrations and special events such as the Distillery Jazz Festival, Partigras, Roots Music Festival, Antique Festival, Art exhibitions, Nuit Blanche and much more.
The recent redevelopment of surrounding vacant lands is expected to expedite the district’s transformation from an abandoned industrial site into one of Toronto’s most distinguishing communities.
From East: Don Valley Parkway to Richmond St. exit, west on Richmond to Parliament, south on Parliament to Mill St. (one block south of Front St.), then left onto Mill St.
From West: QEW east to Gardiner Expressway. Take Jarvis St. exit, then north on Jarvis St. to Front St., East on Front to Parliament St. then south on Parliament to Mill St. , Left onto Mill St.
From North: 427 south to QEW. QEW east to Gardiner Expressway. Take Jarvis St. exit, then north on Jarvis St. to Front St., East on Front to Parliament St. then south on Parliament to Mill St., Left onto Mill St.
Subway: take subway to Castle Frank station on the Bloor line. Connect to Bus 65A Parliament. Ride bus straight down Parliament. Exit at Front St. and walk one block south to Mill St.
King streetcar: Take 504 King street car. Exit at King and Parliament. Walk 2 blocks south on Parliament to Mill St.
Cherry St. Bus 172, Front & Bay St. to Cherry Beach via The Esplanade and Mill St.
For more info: http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/