Toronto’s Brick Works

An abandoned brick factory and clay pit in Toronto has been turned into a vibrant space for people and nature. As you may have guessed, we were there as part of the Garden Bloggers Fling back in June.

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Now called simply Brick Works, the site is the work of a Canadian non-profit called Evergreen. The group is committed to restoring healthier urban environments, with an emphasis on the watershed of the Don River in the Toronto area.

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One of the first things we saw was a striking sculpture and vertical garden representing that very region.

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Fissures in rusted metal represented river and stream beds.Plants sprouted out of them, reminding us that there is no life without water.

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Now part of the old factory contains a farmers’ market, though we weren’t there on a market day. There is also a cafe and a native plant nursery on the grounds.

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Behind the factory, there is now a quarry garden where the clay pit had been. The pit was 150′ deep when it closed in the 1980s.

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The pit, which was partly filled with rubble and trash while the property lay derelict, has been transformed into a pond with boardwalks.

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The garden is full of critters of all kinds, on the ground and in the air and water. Here’s a couple of turtles sunning themselves.

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And a rather nasty-looking snapping turtle.

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The water lilies were beginning to bloom.

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In addition to the Quarry Garden, there was a Children’s Garden so delightful that I wanted to borrow some stranger’s child so I could have an excuse to hang out in it.

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Love the coneflower sculpture.

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Every Children’s Garden needs a teepee.

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We had lunch outside, catered by Brick Works’ own cafe.

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Part of the old factory stands as a sort of a memorial to the industrial enterprise and its workers, who created the bricks that went into most Toronto buildings for a period of decades.

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It was hot, backbreaking work. Workers had to walk between kilns heated to 1,800 degrees.

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Others stacked about 12,000 bricks a day using bare hands, because gloves slowed them down.

This old industrial site does seem to have undergone a successful rebirth through Brick Works.Β It provides community, creativity, and beauty – while contributing to a healthier environment. Nice job.

 

 

 

58 Comments on “Toronto’s Brick Works

  1. You seem to have so many places of interest in your area, probably the most inspiring schemes in the UK are the reclamation of the many old slag heaps and now defunct mine works although some of the old brick work sites have been turned into attractive lakes.

  2. It is a nice job of taking a huge eyesore and turning it into a useful area. What is that green stuff growing up the metal wall? It looks unreal. The old pit is deep enough to hold it’s own monster.

    • I never did find out what those plants were, I’m guessing thyme and various rock garden plants. They’re not growing up the wall, they’re spilling down from cracks.

  3. i live next-door to an old brick pit and it is currently full of rubble. This is amazing!! Such potential. What was done here kind of blows my mind. Well done Toronto!

    • There should really be a requirement that all pits, mines, and quarries should be reclaimed to some degree – though something as ambitious as Toronto Brick Works could not be done everywhere.

  4. What an interesting site. I love it when sites are reclaimed and turned into an amenity for people and wildlife. I love the turtles.

  5. Thanks for another great post on an area I never even knew existed. Will definitely plan a visit there the next time we visit TO. Did you change your theme? I’m looking to change mine and am having a hard time figuring it all out. I’d like to be able to display more pictures vertically as yours shows, that second picture on the vertical garden is amazing!

    • Yes, I did change my theme. I actually hired a friend of my son to customize a theme a little bit. One of the things I learned in doing this is that no matter what your theme. there is a “read more” button you can click which will make people click a link after the first paragraph (or wherever you put the break).

      • Yes, I do have the “read more” button on every post. So in other words if you go to my homepage, you can just scroll down many posts, and then if you want further info on a certain one, you just hit the “read more” button. Somehow though, I don’t see your “read more” button, and I don’t see a homepage for you either? Does this particular theme not allow for a homepage? What is the name of your theme? Your friend’s son did a brilliant job, I do like the way your photos are displayed in this theme. Just so much to learn, I want to change my theme, but am so afraid it will mess up other things πŸ™‚ I need your son’s friend πŸ™‚

      • I think the whole thing is the home page, except for the “About” page. Honestly I don’t even know the name of the theme, which was tinkered with a bit. Odd about the Read More button.

  6. Jason, as a photographer I know I would want to get shots devoid of people, but is this being used by the local people? Is this a parks area, non-profit, or a commercial venture?

    • There were plenty of people – not crowded, but well used. I just cut them all out. We were asked not to photograph the children. And the adults weren’t photogenic πŸ˜‰ Or maybe they were. I tend to focus on nature – though in a place like this, built for people, it does create a sense of emptiness.

  7. This place looks great – what an inspired idea. The kids’ garden looks just the kind of place my kids would have loved when they were smaller. The entrance with the vertical planting is very striking.

  8. Wonderful post (particularly loved the Echinacea flower appearing in the window above the children’s garden. Good to know that there are people out there doing good things too …!

  9. Wow, I would love to have been there. It looks so interesting and I absolutely love the sculptural map of the region. Your photos are quite enticing. Thanks for sharing them. Great post.

  10. What a wonderful space – I love the scale and materials in the old structures! And that vertical garden in the front is fabulous!

  11. love your new header, Jason. It’s such interesting to convert old brick work factory to a museum and wonderful vertical evergreen garden. I also liked a teepee!

  12. This was an interesting place. I took the long walk out in the nature preserve shown behind your image of the Weston Quarry Garden sign. There were some really great spots out there too. More ponds and some sculpture along with wildlife like birds.

  13. What a creative, thoughtful, and lovely addition to the area. It’s funny how many of the old industrial sites had a certain beauty underneath what must have been very grim working conditions. Kudos to the Evergreen group.

  14. It’s so fantastic when a derelict factory building is made into something so beautiful for everyone to enjoy. The public will have a super place to relax in and visit with their families.

  15. It sounds like the workers there had a rough time of it! I simply loved the vertical planting on the stunning sculpture, when I first saw it I thought it looked like a tree. The pond is lovely too, good to know it’s teeming with wildlife. What a fun children’s area….good to inspire them! A marvelous place! Just shows what can be achieved eh?xxx

    • The place certainly benefited from some creative thinking. It was rough work in the days of the brick factory,. I hope the children and grandchildren of those workers have better jobs.

  16. I love when old neglected and polluted sites are turned into brilliant open spaces. My favorite part is how they left the skeleton of the building to enclose the new plantings and farmer’s market. Shelter and a museum all in one.

  17. What a cool place! It’s amazing how a derelict place can be brought back to life. Hope for the rest of the planet?

  18. It’s hard to pick a favorite garden from the Fling, but this was definitely one of my favorites! However, it seemed like we barely scratched the surface with this unique property. If I ever get back to Toronto, I’d love to spend a day at Evergreen Brick Works–hiking and touring other areas of the property that we didn’t have time to explore. I believe that second photo is the best one I’ve seen of that delightful sculpture depicting Toronto’s ravine system. Nicely done!

    • Thanks! Agreed it would have be great to have more time to explore Brick Works, though that is true of several of the public gardens we visited.

  19. This was my favorite armchair stop on the Toronto Fling. Thanks for another glimpse of this inspirational project.

  20. There was so much to see &, like Beth, I could have used a lot more time to explore. I’m hoping to go back next spring with my family and spend the day now that I know about this TO treasure.

  21. I’m a bit late replying to this post, but it was interesting to see such a successful restoration project in a city while we are in Melbourne….every city needs those bits of space, greenery and places for kids.

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