Scroll down to the bottom of this page to download a Walking Tour that showcases the interesting history of Liberty Village.
Liberty Village Beginnings
The Liberty Village area 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 Canadian National) Railways. Until 1858 it was the site of Toronto's Industrial Exhibition, which later moved south and renamed the Canadian National Exhibition.
It was home to institutions; even to industrial institutionalization. Central Prison, set back from Strachan Ave( and often called the Strachan Avenue Prison), was built by the province in the early 1880s — not only to incarcerate inmates but to put them to work, apparently in the hope of penal profits from their labour. It was closed down in 1911.
The area was home to the Andrew Mercer Reformatory Ontario Reformatory Facility for Females. Ironically, Liberty St was the road that ran between the two prisons. The Mercer Reformatory was torn down after being condemned in 1969, and as now the location of Lamport Stadium, named after a former Mayor of Toronto, Allan Lamport.
North of Liberty St on Dufferin Street was a factory built in 1916 by the Russel Motorcar Company to manufacture fuses for bomb shells for use in World War I. The factory operated 24 hours, 7 days a week, and employed 4000 people and most of these were women as the men were away at War. This site is now a parking lot.
The passage of time has done very little to change Liberty Village's footprint.
The Toronto Carpet Factory was built between 1899 and 1920 by the Hayes family according to classical English Industrial style with the operational buildings encircling the Boiler house. The Barrymore brothers manufactured woven carpets from this location, although they did convert the looms to make blankets and coats during both World War I and II. They also manufactured furniture just down the street on Atlantic Ave. York Heritage Properties purchased the Toronto Carpet Factory property in the 1980’s and converted it into office and commercial use. York Heritages' adaptive reuse of this historical property maintained the great architectural features of the building including its high ceilings, operable windows, wooden floors, and exposed bricks and columns.
The "Castle" building was built in 1912 by the E.W. Gillett Company for production of Magic Baking Powder, Royal Yeast Cakes, and perfumed lye. The building was built in the Medieval Revival design, similar to a style used in the building of Casa Loma. It is known in the surrounding community as 'The Castle'.
This was the Edwardian Arlington factory which manufactured gentleman’s collars and cuffs.
Built in 1906 by the SF Bowser Company, this factory manufactured oil storage containers.
This was originally built as a winery for St David’s Wine Growers. In 1991 Artscape acquired the building for their Head Office operation and 44 artist studios. This artist component was important in defining Liberty Village as an arts district. Today Artscape remains an anchor for area artists and for the Liberty Village community as a whole.
This building was built in 1890 of post and beam construction. In 1905 the Brunswick Balke Collender Company used this site to manufacture floors for bowling alleys. In 1910 they bought Canada's oldest and largest manufacturer of billiard tables, the Samuel May Company, where tables, cues, balls and all manner of billiards accessories were made until 1959. In 1991, the Academy of Spherical Arts opened as a unique and upscale billiards and dining establishment.
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.
In 1881, John Inglis and Sons opened their Strachan Avenue / Hanna Avenue facilities to expand their successful business of building machinery for grist and flour mills. In 1902, they discontinued this product line and switched to the manufacturing of marine steam engines and waterworks pumping engines. The Inglis company was a significant contributor towards Toronto’s industrial and cultural progress. Two years later, an American named Major J.E. Hahn, purchased the John Inglis Company and began manufacturing the Bren Light Machine Gun used by British and Canadian infantries during World War II. At its peak, more than 17,800 people were employed at this plant.
When the war ended in 1946, the company began to manufacture consumer products for the first time. Fishing tackle, house trailers, oil burner pumps and domestic heaters and stoves were among the diverse products offered. In the same year, John Inglis Co. Limited negotiated with Nineteen Hundred Corporation (later Whirlpool Corporation) to manufacture home laundry products. The wringer washer was introduced in 1946, and in 1950, production of the automatic washer was added. The line of appliances expanded quickly to include electric and gas dryers, and dishwashers. In 1981, the company moved from this site to Mississauga.
In 2003, Lifetime Urban Development Group purchased the building and is currently transforming it into a retail and commercial complex, called the Liberty Market Building.
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.
This was originally the Head Office site for Irwin Toy, a family run manufacturing and marketing company of a range of leisure products including toys and sporting goods. The building is now being transformed into the Toy Factory Lofts residential complex. Lanterra Developments' Toy Factory Lofts won the 2005 Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association award for Condominium Project of the Year.