Forged in Creativity.
Originally home to heavy industry, Liberty Village has undergone a startling transformation and emerged as the creative and innovative heart of Toronto. Where once machines hummed and physical labour ruled, today an exciting new reality is crafted from that enduring collaborative spirit and passion for creativity.
Liberty Village Beginnings
Liberty Village has a long history as home to industry because of its access to the main downtown lines of the Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk (now CN) railways. Until 1858 it was also the site of Toronto’s Industrial Exhibition which later moved south across the rail corridor and is now the beloved Canadian National Exhibition.
In a darker chapter of our past, Liberty Village was also home to industrial institutionalization. Just west of Strachan (now the LV Townhomes), the Men’s Central Prison was built by the province in the early 1880’s – not only to incarcerate, but to put inmates to work in the hope of penal profits from their labour. It was shuttered in 1911.
1915 Liberty Street looking east from Dufferin Street
Situated just north of Liberty St. along Dufferin St. was the Russel Motorcar Company factory. Built in 1916 to manufacture fuses for bomb shells for use in World War I, it operated 24 hours, 7 days a week, and employed 4000 people – most of whom were women as the men were away fighting in the trenches. This site is now a parking lot.
Aerial view of the Liberty Village Area
The passage of time has done very little to change Liberty Village’s footprint.
The Toronto Carpet Factory, 67 and 77 Mowat Avenue
The Toronto Carpet Factory (built between 1899 and 1920 by the Hayes family) is a classic example of English Industrial style, with the operational buildings encircling the boiler house. The Barrymore brothers manufactured woven carpets but converted the looms to make coats and blankets for our soldiers in both World Wars. They also manufactured furniture just down the street on Atlantic Ave. York Heritage Properties purchased the Toronto Carpet Factory in the 1980’s and converted it into office and commercial use taking great pains to maintain the historic and architectural features of the building including its high ceilings, operable windows, wooden floors and exposed bricks and columns.
The “Castle” at 135 Liberty Street
Known by the community as the “Castle”, this building was erected in 1912 by the E.W. Gillett Company for the production of Magic Baking Power, Royal Yeast Cakes and perfumed lye. Built in the medieval revival design, it is strikingly similar to another famous Toronto landmark, Casa Loma.
145 Liberty Street
This was the Edwardian Arlington factory which manufactured gentleman’s collars and cuffs.
147 Liberty Street
Built in 1906 by the SF Bowser Company, this factory manufactured oil storage containers.
60 Atlantic Avenue
Originally built as a winery for St. David’s Wine Growers, Artscape purchased the building in 1991 for their head office and 44 artist studios. This artistic component helped define Liberty Village as an arts district and even today, Artscape remains an anchor for area artists and indeed all of Toronto.
99 Atlantic Avenue & 38 Hanna Avenue
Built in 1890 of post and beam construction, this building was purchased in 1905 by the Brunswick Balke Collender Company to manufacture floors for bowling alleys. In 1910, they purchased Canada’s oldest and largest manufacturer of billiard tables, the Samuel May Company, and subsequently made tables, cues, balls and all manner of billiards accessories here until 1959. In 1991, a unique and upscale dining establishment, The Academy of Spherical Arts, opened and the street has been renamed Snooker as a nod to its history.
25 Liberty St
In 1901 G.M. Miller built this building for his The Ontario Wind, Engine and Pump Company where he used wind power to pump water and grind farm animal feed.
37 Hanna Avenue/171 East Liberty Street
John Inglis and Sons opened this facility in 1881 to expand their grist and flour mill machinery business. Switching in 1902 to the manufacture of marine steam engines and waterworks pumping engines, the Inglis company was a powerful force in Toronto’s industrial and cultural sectors.
In 1904, the American, Major J.E. Hahn purchased the company and began manufacturing the Bren Light Machine Gun which was used by both the British and Canadian infantries during World War II. At its peak, more than 17 800 people were employed at this plant.
After the war ended in 1946, the company began to manufacture consumer products for the first time including fishing tackle, house trailers, oil burner pumps and domestic heaters and stoves. In the same year, John Inglis Co. Ltd negotiated with Nineteen Hundred Corporation (later Whirlpool Corporation) to manufacture home laundry products. The wringer washer was introduced in 1946 with the addition of the automatic washer in 1950. This line of appliances expanded quickly to include electric and gas dryers and dishwashers.
In 1981, the company moved from this site to Mississauga and in 2003 it was purchased by the Lifetime Urban Development Group who transformed it into a retail and commercial complex – the Liberty Market Building.
41 Hanna Ave
Hinde & Dauch Paper Mill, maker of corrugated cardboard boxes was located here until 1962. Then Domtar, another Paper company, took over the building for a few years.
43 Hanna Ave
Originally the head office for Irwin Toy, a family run manufacturing and marketing company of a range of leisure products including toys and sporting goos, the building has now been transformed in the Toy Factory Lofts – winning Lanterra Developments the 2005 Greater Toronto Home Builders’ Association award for Condominium project of the year.
The Dufferin Liberty Centre, 219 Dufferin Street
Built in 1908 for the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Canada, this building later became the Canadian head office for the General Electric company and produced electric clocks, fuses and yes, light bulbs!
Now known as the Dufferin Liberty Centre, this brilliantly renovated turn of the century manufacturing facility stands testament to our city’s rich heritage – an exceptional example of early 20th century industrial design with flourishes of Edwardian classicism.