Tucked away amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto is none other than the Distillery District. As a well-renowned National Historic Site, it contains one of the largest collections of Victorian-era buildings. The Distillery District has stood tall and proud since the early 1800s, with the construction of condominiums and lofts beginning recently. The area is known today as a pedestrian-only neighbourhood with an abundance of art, cuisine, and entertainment, and is respected as a culturally rich environment.
So, how did this area come to be? Moreover, where did these immense stone buildings come from and why were they built? Here is a brief history of the area and what the future holds. The Gooderham and Worts Distillery is the base of what the Distillery District stands for today. It all started when James Worts emigrated to Canada in 1831 to start a grist mill. A year later, his brother-in-law, William Gooderham, joined him by investing $3,000 into Worts’ mill business. From then on, the family partnership spanned an incredible 153 years.
Unfortunately, two years after the beginning of their partnership, Worts’ wife died during childbirth. Completely grief stricken, Worts threw himself into the company well. Despite the loss, Gooderham continued business, partnering with Worts’ eldest son. In 1837, they decided to add a distillery and they make their very first batch of whiskey. This led to the construction of the famous five-storey distillery, which continues to stand to this very day. The distillery was built in 1859 and topped off by a 100 foot chimney. Newspaper records from the time state that the building and its contents were worth approximately $200,000, which was a very significant investment at the time.
The distillery then caught fire ten years later. The entire wood interior was destroyed, but the limestone exterior remained intact. It cost $100,000 in repairs. By 1871, Gooderham and Worts’ Distillery was producing over 2.1 million gallons of whiskey and spirits a year, and by 1877, they had become the largest distillery in the world.
The early 1900s brought some trouble to the company. They stopped production during the first World War in order to manufacture acetone, thus, completely shutting down for a brief time during Canada’s prohibition period. Despite these set backs, the distillery lasted a few more decades before officially closing down in 1990.
The site has become extremely popular for many in the film industry. In the years gone by, over 1700 films have featured the site, and for a while, back in the 1990’s, Toronto’s Distillery District was the second largest film location in the world outside of Hollywood. With the dawn of the millennium brought about change to the area. In 2001, Cityscape Holdings Inc., later partnering with Dundee Realty Corporation, took on the task of revitalizing the area and making it into the jewel it has become today. The area then reopened to the public as the Distillery District in May 2003.
Owners have banded together – not allowing any chains or franchises to occupy available space in the district. The area is now vibrant with independent boutiques, art studio space, fine cuisine, cafes, gallery space, entertainment venues, jewellery stores featuring local artisans’ work and the famous Mill Street Brewery. The area has everything that one can only imagine – when looking for a perfect community to live in. It is only recently that developers have begun to take advantage of the colourful neighbourhood.
After years of planning, Cityscape and Dundee, in partnership with developer Chase & AJA have begun construction on their condominium developments in the Distillery District. Gooderham Condominiums at the Distillery and Clear Spirit will both stand tall, just west of Cherry Street and south of Mill Street. Award-winning architect, Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance, designed the condominiums. Without a doubt, they will surely accent the area remarkably, while at the same time, respecting its rich history. Clear Spirit is scheduled to be completed by 2012, with Gooderham Condominiums at the Distillery being completed a year later.
All in all, the Distillery District is one of the most interesting, historically rich, and respected areas in Toronto. It is definitely exciting to see new condominiums being constructed in the area. To be a part of this kind of community is a fantastic opportunity, so be sure to check up on the developments’ progress. Distillery District living is truly living.
Select Images come to us Via The Distillary Historic District.Google+