History in The DistillerY
The story of the Distillery District starts in 1831, when James Worts and William Gooderham came to Canada and opened a mill for grinding grain. One year, an exceptionally large harvest led Gooderham & Worts to increase production and change the direction of their business. in 1837, they distilled their first spirit – Canadian whiskey.
By 1871, business was booming. At one point, Gooderham & Worts was the largest distillery in the world, shipping millions of gallons of spirits across North and South America.
Prohibition brought production to a standstill and the distillery was sold to new developers. In 1927, the new owners moved their production of Canadian Club Whiskey to Windsor, ON. After 153 years, the distillery officially closed its doors in 1990.
Following the closure, The Distillery District became a popular destination for film production. Over 1700 movies were shot on the heritage site, and for a time, it was the number one film location in all of Canada.
Early Industrial Architecture
The Distillery Historic District was designated a National Historic Site in 1988 but has been protected under the Ontario Heritage Act since 1976. It’s currently home to over 40 heritage buildings, making it the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America.
The Stone Distillery
Completed in 1861, the Stone Distillery is the the oldest distillery structure in Canada and a prime example of a Victorian industrial building designed to accommodate an early form of constant automated processing.
Mill Street Condominiums
The Mill Street brewery was opened in 1853. It was attributed with being one of the most important contributions to developing the manufacturing business in Toronto. Today, modern condominiums were built atop the brewery’s original frame, preserving the Victorian era architecture and heritage buildings while meeting the needs of a densely populated city.
The most interesting part about the Distillery District is that it’s constantly changing, while still holding onto and preserving historic sites. Modern art installations are always being added, juxtaposing the Victorian architecture and adding their own unique flare to the pedestrian thoroughfare.
still dancing by Dennis Oppenheim
The translucent neon bars at the bottom are meant to resemble the liquid formation from a distillery. Oppenheim himself said this work was “a combination of sculpture, architecture and theater. By combining these art forms into one work, which derives content from an association with early distillery images and their alchemical apparatus, one encompasses a work which incorporates the extraordinary transformative drama inherent in the distillery process.”
Unfortunately, Oppenheim passed away just one year after completing “Still Dancing”, but his unique point of view and artistic style of curving, spiraling structures lives on in other works, including:
Designed by: Shahed M. Yengiabad, Elaheh M. Yengiabad, Alemeh M. Yengiabad, and Mojtaba Anoosha.
This design team was inspired by nature when they conceptualized and named “The Epitonium”, which visually mimics a specific type of sea shell of the same name. The structure is meant to represent a natural shelter, as the shell does for the sea snail, that is both beautiful and functional at once. This piece not only takes literal inspiration from nature, but also from the environment itself and the ways humans are connected and interact with it.