In February, I was in Toronto, and while there ended up going skating with my mom at the Toronto Brick Works, something we hadn’t done in years, and for the first time at this newly spruced up community hub. The Toronto Brick Works was a huge boon to the city during the late 19th and early 20th century, providing the necessary bricks for the spread of neighbourhoods, particularly in the east end like Riverdale and Leslieville. A city-wide fire decimated much of Toronto’s downtown in 1904, and as a result many of the buildings reconstructed afterward were also made with bricks from the Brick Works. When demand waned, the Brick Works slowed production, and eventually closed entirely in 1984.
For twenty years, the Brick Works stood more or less empty, though not abandoned. Photographers and hikers made use of the unusual space, and an environmental organization called Evergreen completed some small-scale renovations and greenworks. In 2008, the Brick Works was re-opened to the public as a community learning centre and market. Three years later, it is open all year round, and has a local farmers’ market, a skating rink in the winter, yoga, classes in green living, and events.
When we went, it was a cold, clear day and full of young families and dogs. What is beautiful is the way that the space has been renovated to accommodate the neighbourhood, but still maintains a sense of decrepit charm. Broken windows around the kiln can be seen, and such amazing finds at the cupola shown above. There is such forward-thinking technology, like solar panels and green roofs, but there are also the entire rows of firing kilns still intact. It shows that ‘new’ does not preclude history.
Just like you might imagine happening at a community hub, we ran into people we knew while skating and stayed longer than we thought. Then it was off to the farmers’ market for lunch, and a walk around the pond. And even though the light meter was off the chart with the sunlight and the snow bouncing it all back again, we managed to get a few really nice shots of the day on the old Ricoh Singlex.
This architectural shot I can’t take credit for, as it was taken by my mom. Having had the camera for, oh, thirty years or so, she’s clearly a great shot. All in all it was a lovely place to visit, and a look into what can happen when urban spaces are revived with such care, both for their history, as well as the environment.