Hello Old Friend – Returning

Author Axle - Last updated: 02.05.2013

It’s always great to go back to a location you used to explore and see it legally…and in daylight. The Don Valley Brickworks was a staple of Toronto Urban Exploration for many years before Evergreen began it’s award winning transformation of the place. Someone had left the gate to the old kiln building open which gave me a chance to show friends Chris and Tim one of my old exploring playgrounds. It was great to see that the kilns and other small reminders of the place had been left.

The Don Valley Brickworks was established in 1889 and operated for almost 100 years before finally shutting down. The Taylor brothers who purchased the land in the 1830s had originally wanted to establish a paper mill, however upon finding good quality clay while digging a fence post hole, and checking with a local brickworks realized they could make a high quality brick. The Don Valley Pressed Brick Co. opened in 1889, a quarry and plant was soon established on the property. Their bricks won prizes at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and the Toronto Industrial Fair in 1894. After a fire destroyed much of Toronto’s downtown in 1904, Don Valley provided most of the bricks for the reconstruction. By 1907 the company was producing between 85,000 to 100,000 bricks per day. In 1909 the Taylor brothers sold their company to Robert Davies who renamed the company the Don Valley Brickworks, and built the iconic four chimneys that spell out the name, only one of these are still standing today. The 1920s saw major expansion with the addition of electricity to the plant and a sand-lime plant added that allowed for the making of a less expensive brick for interior construction. The Brickworks were sold to an investment firm in 1928, changing the name of the company to Toronto Brick Company. By this point production peeked, the company outputting 25 million bricks per day. Production continued on through the second world war, and increased again as the building boom after the war increased the demand. A fire in 1946 destroyed the sand-lime plant, and three of the four chimneys were knocked down, various buildings were demolished to re-organize and consolidate the plant. In 1956 the site was sold to United Ceramics Ltd of Germany who continued to operate the site, building a new sand-lime plant, and an antique brick company moved to the site as well. But by the 1980s the raw material had been quarried, and after 100 years of service shut down. The site was acquired by Torvalley Associates and managed to get the site rezoned to residential for possible housing developments which never materialized. The site was expropriated in 1987 by the Toronto and Region Conservation authority who began to revitalize the area. Brampton Brick purchased the remaining equipment and operated a retail outlet on the site until 1991. By 1994 the quarries began to be filled in with clean fill from the Scotia Plaza tower excavation, and landscaped. A series of ponds, and trees soon were planted and trails created a unique urban park. The buildings however remained abandoned. Evergreen acquired the property in 1997 and in the early 21st century began to turn the abandoned complex into cultural centre focusing on the environment. Creating a unique area where people can enjoy the natural landscape of the ongoing restoration of the Don Valley Watershed, and learn about the environment and green ideas and technology. The complex was reopened in 2010.

I do need to go back here this summer to fully explore the entire site now that I can.

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1-8: Nikon FM2 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 – Kodak Tri-X 400 (HC-110 Dil. B 4:30 @ 20C)
9-14: Bronica SQ-Ai – Zenzanon-S 80mm 1:2.8 – Shanghai GP3 (Xtol 1+3 5:30 @ 20C)

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