Saturday at the Toronto Archives and a walk in Liberty Village

Spring is finally arrived, so how did I plan to spend my Saturday? Inside at the Toronto Archives poring over plans and pictures looking for reference material for building’s I’m going to be modelling in Liberty Village.

The Toronto Archives on Spadina Road. A view of the exterior and a couple of shots of the vault from the reading Room windows.

Sadly, I didn’t have much luck at the Archives. Because there are not staff working in the storage stacks on Saturdays in the winter when the Archives are open, you have to pre-order boxes during the week, and you can only order a maximum of five. On top of that, I forgot that when you order certain Blueprint/Building plans that are stored flat, they do not bring out the box, but literally just the drawings you asked for. That mean instead of three boxes of images/documents and two of plans, I literally had two plans and three boxes. The two plans weren’t even of the part of the building I was really looking for, so they didn’t do anything for me.  For the images, there were lots of interesting images of Liberty Village that I hadn’t seen before because they weren’t scanned, but they yet again failed me in my near epic quest to find pictures of literally the only critical building on my layout which has been demolished.

The Gillett Mill and Elevator circled on an image from the Toronto Archives (Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 75), and a company postcard image of their plant.

The building now known as “The Castle“, was originally built by the Gillett Company, makers of Magic Baking Powder, a product you can still buy, now made by Kraft I think. most of the complex still exists, including the former Power House on what is now Pardee Avenue on the east side of the building. What doesn’t exist, and which of course in an example of Murphy’s Law, the only building on my entire layout which is getting built complete and at full-scale is the part of this building on Pardee Avenue that has been demolished.

4683081283_b2d2267f4d_o.jpgLook, the 3 and 4 storey parts of the Mill and Elevator Buildings in 1983!!! Literally all it tells me is the 4 storey part is the same height as the remaining part of the complex! (Image Courtesy Patrick Cummings via Flickr)

Someone has to have images of this building that are better than what I’ve found, it’s just finding the right people to connect with. As far as I can tell, the building lasted until around 2004, which means I even worked but didn’t live in Toronto yet. If I’d wanted to model Liberty Village 15 years ago, I might even have been able to get pictures before it was demolished!

IMGP1629RawConvCan anyone help me fill in this hole with pictures of the Mill and Elevator Buildings? I’d love if you reached out to me via the comments if you have pictures of Pardee Avenue and these buildings before they were demolished!

After the disappointment at the Archives, I went and did a couple of other odds and ends, then went for a walk to take more reference photos of the buildings of Liberty Village. The nice thing is, the rest of the buildings are now at little risk of being demolished as the way we look at old industrial buildings and their reuse and future has changed. They may be modified or expanded, but rarely are they completely demolished anymore. While I was walking around I also focused on getting some pictures of the limited reminders that there were once railways throughout the area cris-crossing streets and serving the industrial buildings. Rails and track show up in odd places throughout Liberty Village where they never got removed as businesses stopped using them and the railways stopped serving the area.

L-R: Tracks crossing the south end of Mowat Avenue, once the point where CNR trains entered from the yard where Exhibition GO now stands; the spur between buildings at the Carpet Factory, partly still rail, partly replaced by interlocking brick; and, the rail stops at the north end of Mowat Avenue at King Street, the old end of the line.

The final thing I noticed in my walk about was the street signs. The City of Toronto partners with the Business Improvement Associations to co-brand street signs where there are BIA’s. I know they aren’t new, but I’d never really looked closely at them before. I really like the Liberty Village co branding, the graphics that use the skyline of the old industrial buildings and smokestacks are part of the visual environment that lead me to choose this area to model.

IMGP1627RawConvLiberty Village BIA branded streetsigns in Liberty Village.
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