Description of Historic Place
The collection of 16 buildings at 550 Bayview Avenue, known as the Don Valley Brick Works, is situated in Toronto on the northwest side of Bayview Avenue as it curves east and north toward Pottery Road. The 16 industrial buildings on the site were constructed over time from 1891 to ca. 1972.
The exterior, selected elements of the interior and the scenic character of the industrial pad are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the City of Toronto under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-Law 986-2002). It is owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).
The Don Valley Brick Works is significant for its association with the historical development of the Don Valley and the history of brick making in Toronto and Ontario. Founded in 1889 and opened for a century at this location, the Don Valley Brick Works was one of the oldest and largest brick works in the province and was the longest operating facility in Toronto and Ontario. Brick produced by the company encompassed technological innovations of the industry and were used in many of Toronto's landmark buildings, including Casa Loma, Old City Hall and Queen's Park. Clay and shale were extracted for brick production from the quarry to the north of the buildings, the north slope of which is of particular geological significance. Founded by John F. Taylor and his brothers William and George, the brick works introduced new equipment to the operation enabling at the peak of production to produce 43 million bricks annually. Production innovation expanded in the following decades to make it the only plant in Ontario to produce soft-mud, stiff-mud and dry-press processes simultaneously. During World War II German prisoners of war were used as labourers. The company changed hands numerous times, expanding operations and incorporating new technologies along the way. In the 1980s operations declined as the quarry's resources became exhausted. It closed in 1989. Between 1994 and 1997 the quarry was filled in and a public park was created.
The Don Valley Brick Works is significant for its important collection of 16 industrial structures. The associated brick-making machinery represents a century-long operation and the additions and modifications to the building stock reflect the capabilities and needs of the site over time. Constructed of various materials including brick, corrugated metal, steel, terra cotta, cast iron, rubble stone and wood, the structures are related to the continually evolving needs of the brick making process. The clay grinding building is the oldest structure on the site and was built in 1891. In 1906 the “valley” chimney was constructed (the only chimney left on the site) and remained in use until the 1960s. In 1910 the office, lunchroom, screening and dust collection building and stock brick dryer building were built. In 1912-13 the sand-lime storage building was constructed, followed by the clay-shale storage building and the welding shop building, in 1925 and 1926 respectively. In 1956-57 the dry-press brick production plant and tunnel kiln and dryer building were constructed. In 1960-62 the sand-lime brick production plant, sand-lime brick storage building, holding room and the wire-cut brick production plant were constructed coinciding with expanding production capabilities. The final building constructed was the brick storage shed in 1972. The interior of many of the buildings retain their original equipment including kilns, drying tunnels, grinders, hoppers, conveyors, shale bins, surge bins, fans and brick cutting machines. Of particular value is the John Price Soft-Mud Press which was originally used at the John Price Brickyard from 1912 until 1962. It is identified as the most historically significant piece of machinery due to its age, the process it represents and its association with a famous brick manufacturing firm.
The entire site possesses archaeological potential associated with the intense industrial use of the site.
Sources: Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement; City of Toronto By-law 986-2002.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Don Valley Brick Works include its:
- complex of 16 industrial buildings built over time ranging from 1891 to 1972 including the Office (Building 1), Welding Shop (Building 3), Sand-Lime Storage Building (Building 4), Lunchroom (Building 5), Sand-Lime Brick Production Plan (Building 6/7), Sand-Lime Brick Storage Building (Building 8), Clay-Shale Storage Building (Building 9), Clay-Grinding Building (Building 10), Screening and Dust Collection Building (Building 11), Stock Brick Dryer Building (Building 11B), Holding Room (Building 12), Brick Storage Shed (Building 13), Wire-Cut Brick Production Plant (Building 14), Dry-Press Brick Production Plant (Building 15), Tunnel Kiln and Dryer Building (Building 16), Valley Chimney and Chimney Court (Building 17)
- expansive collection of industrial machinery ranging in age and reflecting production capabilities of the site. Machinery including the John Price Soft-Mud Press, Kilns, Clay and Shale Storage Hoppers, Storage Bins, Brick Presses, Metal Ceiling Fans, Industrial Style Pendant Ceiling Light Fixtures, Electrical Panels, Motorized Conveyors, Metal Containers, Grinders, Office Booth, Sieves, Dust Collectors, Dust Bins, Shale Bins, Wire Brick Cutter
- archaeological features and remains related to the industrial use of the site
- location in the Don Valley
- proximity to other industrial sites, such as Todmorden Mills