Distillery District

Why is the Distillery District historic?

The Distillery District in Toronto is one of the city’s most exciting destination spots. But more than its allure, it also tempts many tourists with its interesting past and history.

Let’s take a look at how the Distillery District came to be the place that it is today.

History of the Distillery District: Fast Facts

  • In 1832, James Wort and William Gooderham built a brick windmill that soared 22 meters from the ground. Guess broken air conditioners weren’t much of a problem back then with icons like this one! 
  • Gooderham was left on his own when Wort met an untimely death in 1834. However, like most points in history, it’s only the beginning of a new journey. 
  • In 1837, there was high production of grain amongst the farms of Upper Canada. Gooderham knocked on a new opportunity by adding a distillery to the gristmill, which would soon produce 2 million gallons of whiskey per year by 1861.
  • Gooderham’s son and nephew had joined Wort in this endeavor in the thriving distillery. For a time, they became the world’s biggest maker of spirits – perhaps producing enough for every bar in Toronto and beyond Canada.
  • As the early years of the 1960s came, the original brick windmill was demolished, but it paved the way for more redbrick buildings. The most skilled of architects would agree that the Victorian buildings were a marvelous touch.
  • Things took a tough turn for the distillery business during World War I and the Prohibition Era. Even today’s standards and employment laws can’t wring the business out of the mud. 
  • Post-war, alcohol prohibition forced Gooderham and Worts’ son to sell the business. While many will argue it’s a terrible decision, it gave the original founders a more concrete financial foothold as times were tough then. 

Distillery District as an Icon of the Past and Present

  • The Gooderham and Worts Complex was then assigned as a Canada National Historic Site in 1988. After 153 years of production, the distillery was officially closed in 1990
  • Videographers and filmmakers alike had their fair share of using the already closed distillery complex as inspiration. In fact, it’s said that more than 1,700 films were shot in this place, despite it being closed. 
  • Cityscape Holdings purchased the distillery in 2001 to renovate and restore the place back to its former glory. It will soon be known as the iconic Distillery Historic District that people know today. 
  • The Distillery District was reconstructed as a neighborhood that celebrates art and entertainment. It’s also become an epicenter of cultural bloom in the city and for the residents soon to flock the place. 
  • In 2003, the Distillery District was opened to the public, making it a top destination. It’s a picture-perfect background too for thousands of photographers across the world.
  • Spirit of York Distillery Co. reclaimed the Gooderham and Worts malting room in 2017. Since then, it’s been the home of the new distillery.

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