Points of Interest > Don Valley Brick Works

The Don Valley Brick Works is located on the west side of the Don Valley, at the edge of the Moore Park Ravine. William Taylor and his brothers John and George Taylor established the Don Valley Pressed Brick Works at this site in 1891, making use of the area's rich clay deposits. The brick works changed hands a number of times over the next century, finally ceasing operations in April 1984.

Don Valley Brickworks
Don Valley Brick Works, c.1910 Courtesy of the East York Foundation Collection, Todmorden Mills Museum, City of Toronto

During the depression years of 1930 and 1931, the Brick Works and the surrounding river flats became the site of what was then called a "hobo jungle"--a huge encampment of unemployed men living in caves and make-shift dwellings. In the fall of 1930, a small group of men were granted refuge in the brick works buildings in the valley. As a Toronto Daily Star reporter described, "last night during bitter winds and near-zero weather, forty-two homeless, jobless, and penniless wandering men slept on 'hot-flops' in the Don Valley yards of the Toronto Brick [Company]." Bricks baked in a series of huge chambers, or kilns, often took up to a week to cool. While they cooled, the men apparently climbed inside the kilns and slept on the hot bricks. By June 1931 the number of men living inside the brick works factory had expanded to one hundred men; an additional two hundred slept, as the Star described, "on the banks of the muggy Don river with the sky as a blanket and the earth as a mattress." In the fall of 1931 the Province initiated a Trans-Canada highway project in Northern Ontario to provide work for unemployed men. By the beginning of October, 1931, the hobo camp had been demolished and its residents transferred to northern camps or removed to temporary shelters.

Homeless Men on Don flats
Homeless men on Don Flats, c.1931. Courtesy of the East York Foundation Collection, Todmorden Mills Museum, City of Toronto

Homeless Shack
Makeshift shelter on Don flats, c.1931. Courtesy of the East York Foundation Collection, Todmorden Mills Museum, City of Toronto

Today, the forty acre site and remaining industrial buildings are owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and operated by the City of Toronto as a cultural and natural heritage site. The site is currently undergoing extensive renovations as the future home of "Evergreen at the Brick Works," an ecological community and education centre planned and operated by Evergreen, a non-profit organization supporting urban sustainability. More details on the project can be found at Evergreen Brick Works.

Evergreen Rendering
Aerial view from the south of the planned Evergreen Brick Works site.
Photo credit: DTAH

Text: Jennifer Bonnell, April 2009


Evergreen Brick Works

Brick Works Park, Lost Rivers, Points of Interest along Lost Creeks

Sauriol, Charles. Remembering the Don: A rare record of earlier times within the Don River Valley. Scarborough: Amethyst Communications, 1981.

The Toronto Daily Star, "300 Jobless Sleep Nightly Along Don River's Banks," 19 June 1931.

Twentieth Century Todmorden: A Community in the Don Valley, Virtual Exhibition, Virtual Museums Canada


© Jennifer Bonnell & Marcel Fortin, 2009. A member project of NiCHE in partnership
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