Description of Historic Place
J. E. Seagram's Distillery Administration and Maintenance Buildings is located at 83 Erb Street West, on the southeast corner of Erb Street West and Euclid Avenue, in the City of Waterloo. The buildings were designed in the industrial architectural style and were constructed in 1851 and 1858 respectively.
The buildings were designated, for their historic and architectural significance, by the City of Waterloo, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 97-11).
J. E. Seagram's Distillery is associated with one of Waterloo's pioneering families. Members of the Seagram family played important roles in the history of Waterloo, as industrialists, politicians and philanthropists. The patriarch of the family, Joseph E. Seagram, moved to Waterloo from Hespeler to look after the business interests of his wife's uncle, William Hespeler. At the time the business was owned by Hespeler, George Randall, and William Roos and named the Granite Mills and Waterloo Distillery. In 1883, Seagram purchased the business from the original owners and renamed it, “J. E. Seagram's Distillery”. Seagram later closed down the flour mill and dry goods store that had been part of the business since its inception, to focus his attention on whisky making, as it had become the most profitable product.
The Seagram Company had a long-standing tradition in Waterloo. From 1857 to 1992 the distillery operated continuously, on the corner of Erb and Caroline Streets, in the heart of Waterloo. As one of the community's leading industries, the Seagram plant provided regular employment to as many as 250 local citizens. Though the family is no longer in the alcohol distilling business, the Seagram name is known around the world.
The two-storey administration building was used as a coopers shop with barrel and lumber storage before being converted to a machine shop in 1950. The building was renovated, in 1981, to house the administration offices for the distillery. The one-storey maintenance building has also been used as a foundry, stables, storage, cooperage, and lastly as a machine shop.
Both the administration and maintenance buildings are unique representations of early industrial architecture. The administrative building is a two-storey structure with brick detailing and gothic arched attic windows. The building fronts the highly travelled and historic Erb Street. The maintenance building is a one-storey brick building with engaged pilasters, corbelling and spandrels with segmented arched double-hung windows.
Sources: City of Waterloo By-law 97-11; City of Waterloo Heritage Designation Notice, City of Waterloo; City of Waterloo Building Description, LACAC; City of Waterloo Website. History of the Seagram Plant in Waterloo.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of J. E. Seagram's Distillery Administration and Maintenance Buildings include their:
- impressive masonry, on the Erb Street façade and Euclid Avenue elevation
- brick detailing on the exterior of the buildings
- arched Gothic windows
- segmented arched windows
- engaged pilasters, corbelling, and spandrels surrounding the windows and the entrance