Toronto's Distillery District: History by the Lake

Hardcover | June 1, 2008

bySally Gibson

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About the book

The Distillery Historic District, with its historic associations and thriving arts scene, is one of <_st13a_place _w3a_st="on"><_st13a_city _w3a_st="on">Toronto’s most intriguing places.  Between the 1830s and the 1890s, the firm of Gooderham & Worts grew from a small windmill in the wilderness to the largest distillery in the <_st13a_place _w3a_st="on">British Empire and, for a time, in the world.  In the process, it built some of the finest Victorian industrial architecture in <_st13a_country-region _w3a_st="on"><_st13a_place _w3a_st="on">Canada.  Today’s district contains over 40 heritage buildings on a 13-acre site that once formed a vital part of Toronto’s busy commercial waterfront.  With the cultural renaissance of the distillery site and the prospect of a revitalized waterfront, we can now explore the people, buildings, events, industrial artifacts and processes that made Gooderham & Worts Distillery such an important part of Toronto’s history.  What is mashing … a rack house … a scale tank … a corbel … or a tie plate?  Read on.  Who were James Worts, William Gooderham or David Roberts, Sr. and Jr.?  Read on.  What is the oldest building still standing on the site?  When did the railway arrive?  What happened on October 26, 1869?  Read on.   <_o3a_p>

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About the Author

<_st13a_personname _w3a_st="on">Sally Gibson is Manager of Heritage Services for the Distillery Historic District, where she is immersed in all aspects of the history of this National Historic Site. She has written two previous books about <_st13a_city _w3a_st="on"><_st13a_place _w3a_st="on">Toronto.  More Than an Island: A History of the Toronto Island was praised by urban thinker Jane Jacobs as “city history at its very best.”  Inside <_st13a_city _w3a_st="on">Toronto: Urban Interiors 1880s – 1920s was short-listed for the City of <_st13a_city _w3a_st="on"><_st13a_place _w3a_st="on">Toronto Book Award and received Heritage Toronto’s Award of Excellence in 2007.

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From the Jacket

About the bookThe Distillery Historic District, with its historic associations and thriving arts scene, is one of Toronto’s most intriguing places.  Between the 1830s and the 1890s, the firm of Gooderham & Worts grew from a small windmill in the wilderness to the largest distillery in the British Empire and, for a time, in the world.  ...

Format:HardcoverDimensions:181 pages, 12.02 × 9.58 × 0.77 inPublished:June 1, 2008Publisher:P_Distillery Hi_rictLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0980990505

ISBN - 13:9780980990508

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Read from the Book

A walk through today’s revitalized Distillery Heritage District is a journey through Toronto’s past and future.   Over 175 years ago, James Worts and William Gooderham built Toronto’s first windmill on the edge of Toronto Bay, and formed the partnership that ultimately became the Gooderham & Worts Distillery.  In January 1861, the great Stone Distillery, now the oldest and largest historic building on site, was opened.  This expansion propelled the company into becoming the largest distillery in the British Empire and, for a time, the largest distillery in the world.  Construction continued apace, adding the red-brick Victorian buildings that give today’s site its distinctive feel:  the malt house, still houses, tank and barrel storage houses, offices and ancillary buildings.  The twentieth century saw war, prohibition and construction of the final two buildings in 1927.  Although the glory days were over, Gooderham & Worts continued pumping out alcohol until the plant was finally shut down in 1990.  By then, many of the buildings had ceased to be operational and much of the equipment had become obsolete.  The site was a shadow of its old, bustling, forward-looking self.  It survived, but faced an uncertain future.   In 1988, Gooderham & Worts Distillery was designated as a National Historic Site for being “an outstanding example of Victorian industrial design in terms of integrity, historical association and aesthetic qualities.” Such designation underlined the heritage importance of the site.  But more was needed. Could, and how could, Canada’s largest enclave of Victorian industrial buildings be preserved and strengthened?  If “new life” couldn’t be given to “old buildings,” economics dictated that the site would be abandoned or wiped out altogether.   Over the last few years, dramatic, positive change has come to the Distillery District.  Rather than disappearing,  over 40 heritage buildings look toward a bright future. By 2008,  an astonishing 350,000 square feet had been restored and adapted for new uses; and over 50 galleries, visual and performing artists, retailers, restaurants and other tenants had been attracted to the now-vibrant, historic district.  That process continues.  The 45 slightly revised “heritage snippets” gathered into this book first appeared during the site’s 175th anniversary in 2007. Their purpose was and is to reveal and celebrate the District’s unique history.  They are presented in their original order and cover a great range of topics, including the people, places, events, buildings, artifacts and processes that made Gooderham & Worts Distillery such a important part of Toronto’s history.   As you read them, amble over to the places mentioned and inspect the features highlighted.  Let your mind drift back to the earlier times that shaped today’s Distillery District, where history and modern life vibrantly intermingle.

Editorial Reviews

Spacing Toronto Gift Guide:A new book by Toronto archivist and historian Sally Gibson explores the Distillery District - "History by the Lake" - from its beginning in the 1830s to the present day.  The book is not just a history of the distillery itself, but of Toronto's evolution, using the Distillery as a way to look at cholera outbreaks, city development, and life in Victorian Toronto. Those with specific interests in distilling also won't be disappointed, as the book includes a look at the minutia of thhe site - the "office safe" even -- and includes many rare photos and illustrations.Ontario Heritage Connection:In the 1800s Toronto's Gooderham and Worts distillery was the largest in the world. Now it is a beautiful, restored and "repurposed" neighbourhood full of galleries, exciting shops, theatre and restaurants and is home to many special events.  Sally gibson has written a gorgeously illustrated book called Toronto's Distillery District: History by the Lake about this impressive area.Andy Barrie, CBC, Metro Morning:What a gorgeous book!