I have visited Toronto’s Distillery District twice in the past two weeks. When you step through its main gates on Trinity Street, you feel as if you have stepped back in time.
It holds obvious charm for photographers and steampunk types 🙂 , but its appeal reaches far and wide.
It “represents the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America” and was designated a National Historic Site in 1998.
The Gooderham and Worts Distillery began operations in 1837. By 1871, ” the…Distillery’s annual whiskey and spirits production total[ed] a whopping 2.1 million gallons – close to half of the total spirits production in all of Ontario”.
“Production continue[d] to grow and its booming export business ship[ped] millions of gallons to clients in Montreal, Saint John, Halifax and New York as well as Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and other ports in South America. At one point, it [was] the largest distillery in the world”.
The complex continued to thrive for the rest of the 1800s and into the 1900s. However, everything changed in 1914 when World War One began. “In order to support the war effort, the distillery convert[ed] its operations to manufacturing acetone. Then in 1920, just when things are getting back to normal, Canada’s short lived prohibition era br[ought] production of alcohol beverages to a standstill.”
Prohibition ended in 1927 and the Gooderham and Worts Distillery continued operations with new owners. Production continued until 1990, when the Distillery closed operations for good.
However, “the Distillery [found] a second life as the number one film location in Canada, and the second largest film location outside of Hollywood. Over the years, more than 1700 films use[d] the site.”
In 2001, the land was purchased by Cityscape Holdings Inc. “They undert[ook] an incredibly ambitious project – to restore The Distillery and its more than 40 buildings and transform it into a pedestrians-only village entirely dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment”.
In 2003, the Distillery Historic District opened and “quickly bec[ame] a vital part of the city and one of Canada’s top tourist attractions.”
Even on a snowy day like today, a visit is worthwhile.
Today’s distillery District contains many unique and outstanding shops, many which feature handmade and/or artisan items. There are also a good number of restaurants and cafes. But the inclusion of art, theatre, and entertainment into the area are (in my opinion) what makes the District extra special. The Young Centre for the Performing Arts on Tank House Lane is the home of Soulpepper Theatre Company – one of the best in the city – and also the training ground and showplace for George Brown Theatre School’s acting students.
There are also galleries, artists’ studios, and shops to purchase the art made on site.
Additionally, the District is also host to numerous community events such as the Christmas Market (see my previous post about this at https://hotaruchan20.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/toronto-christmas-market/) and the upcoming “Leslieville Flea” market this coming Sunday (March 16th).
This is Trinity Street – the “Main Street” of the Distillery Historic District – as it looks today:
Quotes and information taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distillery_District and from http://www3.thedistillerydistrict.com/