Sunday, May 26, 2019
Dawes Road in Toronto has an unusual piece of history in the form of a grain elevator. While grain elevators were common a hundred years ago, very few still survive. With a new proposal put before the city in March to develop the site for two condo towers it seemed like a good time to photograph it before the developers arrive. The picture below is an aerial photograph from 1968 which shows the mill circled in yellow. Danforth Avenue runs across the top of the clip while Dawes Road runs on a slight angle as far as the former Grand Trunk Railway tracks to the south.
When it comes to research on the internet it is easy to find conflicting information. Construction dates range to as early as the 1850s with 1890 also being a prominent date. The city’s land use maps suggest 1906. The land developers have to present a historic context in their proposals and they also claim it to be a 1906 wooden crib grain elevator and feed mill. The use of construction materials would suggest that the 1906 date is correct as the first-floor cement would not have come into popular use until after 1900.
The mill was operated under at least two names starting with Chalmer’s Milling Company which is listed in the 1920 Federal Register of Mills in Canada. The register wasn’t published every year but Chalmer’s appears in it until the 1948 edition. After that, the next edition is 1954 and it shows Elizabeth Flour and Feed Mill Co. at this site. Two years later there is no operating mill listed here nor was there again up until 1972 when the registry was discontinued. The upper floors were divided up into 9 silos for different feed grains. These were brought in through the front door and lifted to the upper floor by means of the elevator in the corner.
The sign on the side of the building is badly faded but it provides a clue as to what was in the nine silos. It reads: We carry complete lines for racing pigeons, budgies and other birds. Best mixtures available. Racehorses, dogs, all other animals. Grits, Gravels, Flax
The inside of the grain elevator may look something like the elevator at Roblin’s Mill in Black Creek Pioneer Village where the following picture was taken. The belt and cups were used to move flour and grain from one floor to another.
Two condo towers are proposed for the site 26 and 33 stories. The grain elevator will be retained and given to the city as a public asset within the parklands that will surround the site.
Chalmers Milling Company was listed in the 1947 directory of flour mills as producing 60 barrels of flour per day. The brick structure that housed the grinding rollers is currently divided into three rental residential units. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have the historic designation of the grain elevator beside it and isn’t likely to get one. The two story former flour and grist mill will be demolished to make way for the new condo towers as will three buildings to the north of the site.
The image below is from the development submission to the city and shows the old grain elevator looking insignificant beside the 33-story tower.
On the positive note, at least the grain elevator will survive as a cultural arts centre. I wonder what kind of interpretive signs will be installed, if any.
Google Maps Link: 10 Dawes Road
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