Points of Interest > The Don Valley Paper Company

The Don Valley Paper Company was one of three paper mills on the Don River originally owned by the Taylor Brothers. Constructed in 1858, the mill was located on the west side of the river north of Pottery Road. Situated between the Taylors’ Lower Mill at Todmorden [link to Todmorden Mills] and their Upper Mill [link to Upper Mill below] north of the Forks, the mill was known through the latter decades of the nineteenth century as the “Middle Mill.”

Don Valley flood north of Bloor Street, ca.1907; Don Valley Paper Company along river in background, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2477.

In the 1850s, the Taylor brothers rode a wave of expansion in the paper industry. Toronto’s population was then over thirty thousand and had become more literate and this larger reading public demanded more books and newspapers. At the same time, the expanding railway network gave a much wider distribution to newspapers. The Province had 172 newspapers and the publishing business had clearly become more complex. The Taylor mills kept pace with these developments and by the 1870s they were operating around the clock with an enormous capacity. A description of the operations in Timberlake’s Illustrated Toronto Past and Present notes that they supplied “a very large proportion of the printing paper now used for the daily and weekly papers of this city and throughout the Dominion.” In addition, they also manufactured other varieties of paper, including “coloured paper for poster bills, also all kinds of books, manilas, roll, expressing, tea and common papers and paper bags.”

The three Taylor brothers were a good combination: John managed the mills; Thomas looked after the business office at 30 Market Square; and George was in charge of the brothers’ farming and lumbering operations. John, the oldest of the three brothers, was a talented mechanic with a gift for invention. In 1854, a reward of £1,000 was offered in London, England, to anyone who could find a substitute for rags as a raw source for paper. John Taylor tried several methods of making paper out of wood pulp, and it is believed that some paper was actually made here using basswood. These innovations earned him a place as a pioneer in the technical development of Canada’s paper industry.

In the 1880s and 1890s the company’s business began to decline, likely due to a combination of technological reasons and competition from Quebec firms which used wood-pulp. In 1901, the Taylor Brothers declared bankruptcy. George Taylor’s son-in-law Robert Davies purchased the mill in 1907 and made extensive renovations. In July 1909 the mill reopened as the Don Valley Paper Company Limited. According to the Pulp and Paper Magazine of Canada, it was a model mill of its day, “refurbished on a lavish but business-like scale with up to date machinery and equipment of a class to turn out the very best product in an economical manner.” To facilitate shipments of paper and to bring in supplies of pulp and coal, a railway siding ran right into the buildings.

The Howard Smith Paper Mills Company purchased the property in 1932 and in 1961 the mill was sold to Domtar. In the early 1960s the construction of the Don Valley Parkway bisected the property. With no room to expand and modernize the operation, Domtar closed the mill in the late 1980s. The property was purchased by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in 1989. The mill was demolished and the site restored as part of the Beechwood Wetland site north of Pottery Road. 

Text: Lost Rivers and Jennifer Bonnell


Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. “John Taylor (1809-1871).” http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=5286&&PHPSESSID=ychzfqkvzape, accessed 1 May 2009.

Guthrie, Ann. Don Valley Legacy: A Pioneer History. Erin, Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 1986.

Timberlake, J., comp. Illustrated Toronto past and present; being an historical and descriptive guide-book…. Toronto: P.A. Gross, 1877.

Information concerning Domtar courtesy of Lyla Radmanovich, Web Redactor.


© Jennifer Bonnell & Marcel Fortin, 2009. A member project of NiCHE in partnership
with the University of Toronto Libraries - Map & Data Library Contact Us