Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Liberty Village - First Glance

June 2018 - Toronto ON

We chose Liberty Village to scout out this week. We haven't really been around this part of the city but we will definitely be back as we only covered it partially\

On King St. the Palace Arms built in 1890, is not likely to remain an affordable refuge for poor men to live. 

The price: $14-million. The Palace Arms went up for sale last spring, when owner Bernie Tishman decided he’d had enough of the hotel game.

“My family and I have been here for 53 years,” he says. “I think it’s time to retire.”

The Palace has been around, in some form, since 1871. In 1890, Mary Ann White upgraded from the wood-framed inn her late husband George built to the playful Romanesque Revival structure that still stands today. Two wings were added in 1897. Blue-collar workers from factories to the southwest – since converted into lofts and office space – used to stop by the in-house tavern. But now the Palace seems out of place, the peeling, pale-pink paint clashing against the modern glass and steel skyline of Liberty Village.

In the 1850s, both the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway and the Great Western Railway laid tracks across the community, cutting it off from rest of the city and altering plans to develop the area for residential purposes. 

This railway underpass is one of the oldest in the City of Toronto. Rail lines were first built through this area in the 1850s, connecting Toronto to the upper Great Lakes and points in-between. By the 1880s, multiple tracks had been constructed to carry passengers and freight to destinations such as London and Chicago and, eventually, to the edges of the continent. Rail traffic was busy enough to cause lengthy stops and dangerous crossings for pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles travelling between the City of Toronto and the Town of Parkdale. Designed by Charles Sproatt, a City of Toronto engineer, this underpass succeeded in solving the traffic problem, and was an important structure in the development of Toronto's rail and road system.

The area's proximity to the railway tracks led to its growth as an industrial area. In 1884, John Inglis and Company opened a factory to manufacture heavy machinery, boilers, and later, electrical appliances. Inglis' success led to its expansion onto Central Prison lands. In 1891, Massey-Harris (later Massey Ferguson) built a factory to produce agricultural implements. Other companies which established in the late 19th century included Toronto Carpet Manufacturing, St. David’s Wine, and Ontario Wind Engine and Pump.

This office building, constructed in 1883, is the only surviving structure from the Massey-Harris manufacturing complex. Designed by notable Toronto architect E.J. Lennox, the building combines elements of the Queen Anne Revival style (arches, coloured glass, and bay windows) with Classical features (the cornice and pediment). The Massey Manufacturing Company was begun by Daniel Massey in 1847 and merged with rival A. Harris, Son and Company in 1891.

Massey-Harris became the largest producer and exporter of agricultural equipment in the British Empire. Once an employer of 9,000 people, the Toronto plant lined the south side of King Street West between Strachan Avenue and Sudbury Street.

In the decades following the Second World War, the company faced new competition, sales declined, and in 1982, the plant closed. The property was subdivided and sold. The former Massey-Harris office building, designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, was converted into condominiums in 2003.

Instead, Liberty Village became home to several institutions, including the Toronto Central Prison, opened in 1873, and the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women (on the site of today’s Lamport Stadium), opened in 1878 for women convicted of "vagrancy", "incorrigibility", or "sexual precociousness." "Liberty Street", for which Liberty Village is named, was the first street both male and female convicts would walk once freed.

Provincial Secretary William John Hanna forced the closure of Central Prison in 1915, and all its buildings were demolished except for the paint shop and chapel.

The chapel, though, has remained vacant for years, an anomaly considering how rapidly the area has gentrified—other nearby historic buildings have been renovated into residences, offices, gyms and caf├ęs.

The prison’s paint shop, later claimed by A.R. Williams Machinery and now home to the Live in Liberty condo presentation centre also still stands.

Industry continued to flourish during the early 20th century due to the area's excellent railway access and many spur lines, as well as a plentiful labour supply from nearby Parkdale. New companies included Brunswick-Balke-Collender (manufacturer of billiard tables and bowling alleys), Irwin Toy, Canada Metal, Simmons Bedding, Hinde and Dauch Paper, and Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp (later Canadian General Electric).

Brunswick ghost sign.

The Barrymore Building, a former factory in Liberty Village, is loft-lover heaven with its prerequisite soaring ceiling, exposed fixtures, red-brick walls, hardwood floors and reams of natural light. The space is a rambling 20,215 square feet, evenly split between stock and retail space. And still, it hardly seems enough to contain the scores of on-trend design - both sensible and fanciful - throughout.

The Barrymore Building at 109 Atlantic Avenue was completed in 1912 for the firm of Gowans, Kent & Company, manufacturers of china and glassware. Throughout its existence the building has accommodated multiple tenants, including such original occupants as hardware merchant Rice, Lewis & Son, and the Page Wire Fence Company. It later housed lingerie maker J. Henry Peters Company and acted as a wool storage depot. For over fifty years, the Barrymore Furniture Company owned and occupied the building as its factory and showroom.
Originally, the Barrymore Building sat within a triangle made up of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum to the northeast on Queen Street, the Central Prison to the southeast on Strachan Avenue, and the Mercer Reformatory to the west on King Street West. It was part of a neighbourhood that grew up in the latter half of the 1800s as an area of warehousing and light industry related to the nearby Canadian Pacific Railway and Grand Trunk Railway lines. Until 1909, Hanna Avenue was called Pacific Avenue in reference to the railways.

Architecturally, the Barrymore Building is an example of early 20th-century industrial design, consisting of a load-bearing exterior brick envelope and an interior timber structure. Its repetitive window pattern and simple, shallow-arched window construction are typical of this style and era, and of much of the Liberty Street neighbourhood in which it is located.

One of the cool industrial structures of Liberty Village is here along Hanna Avenue near West Elm and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.

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.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, manufacturing operations within Liberty Village began to decline due to a shift from rail to road shipping, the need for larger manufacturing facilities, and lower manufacturing costs in suburban or offshore locations. In 1990, the Toronto Carpet Manufacturing plant on Liberty Street shut down, and the Inglis plant (owned by Whirlpool since 1985) ceased operations in 1991. The Inglis factory and Massey-Harris factory (with the exception of 947 King St. West) were demolished.

All gussied up!

For this sculpture, Francisco Gazitua chose to create an object that refers to something natural, in stark contrast to my other project in Liberty Village. Perpetual Motion refers to the area's industrial past, whereas this, Split Rock Gap, refers to the geological and natural history of Canada.

Perpetual Motion" by Chilean artist Francisco Gazitua is a prominent landmark in the neighbourhood. "I spent countless hours researching the history of the Liberty Village neighbourhood and its industrial heritage, specifically the manufacturing of washing machines," said Mr. Gazitua, "The references to water wheels and mechanical components are evident and look back to a time when this area was bustling with industry."

Swiss-born, New York-based artist Olaf Breuning’s Guardians


  1. Beautiful shots! I have only passed by that area of Toronto.

  2. It must be a very interesting area to ramble around. I like the coy terms for the offences of which a woman might be charged.

  3. Most of the manufacturing on the west side of Liberty Village was gone by the 1970s and the buildings became wonderful studios for years until gentrification started to happen. I moved into the Toronto Carpet Factory building in 1978 and it had been closed for years before that. It was the best of times with fabulous studios and spaces down all of the streets. Sad to see it all gone and turned into condo town.

    1. WOW, RedPat, how amazing that you lived there. I agree, those condos are really packed in. Now the warehouses are computer related businesses.


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