Sunday, March 5, 2023
The Conboy Carriage Company Limited started in Vallentyne Ontario in 1860 before moving to Uxbridge. In 1884 it moved again, this time to Toronto to take advantage of the local market and the easy access to all the rail lines on the waterfront that allowed export of its products to other markets. The town of York had started as just ten blocks in 1793 but by 1797 it had started to expand beyond that to the north and west of the original site. When the town was founded, it was guarded by Fort York which was established along with the Garrison Common, a large military reserve land between it and the town. By 1833 the War of 1812 was a fading memory and plans were put into place to develop part of the Garrison Common for additional housing plus some estates for the wealthy along the lakeshore. When the railways arrived in the period between 1850 and 1880 much of this area was redeveloped for industrial purposes. In 1884 Daniel Conboy purchased Lot 3 and built an industrial building for his company the Conboy Carriage Company. The map below shows the area as it appeared on the 1884 Goads Fire Map. Also shown here is the Military Burying Grounds featured in a separate blog post. The map was taken from the submission to the city for historical designation of the Conboy building. The blue arrows shows the location of the building.
Conboy bought the one-story rough cast house at 413 King Street West and had the three story carriage factory built on the vacant lot at 407 King Street West. The business did very well and in 1897 Daniel commissioned a new home at 493 King Street West which was designed by the architect James Augustus Ellis. By this time the street had been renumbered and the factory was known as 485 King Street West.
In 1900 he had the original factory extended and added a new building at the rear of his house running perpendicular to the original building. The new structure is formally known as 495 King Street West and is currently being retained as part of a development being completed on the front of the property.
It wasn’t long before the business outgrew the original building and Conboy built a new factory on the east side of the Don River near Queen Street. The building suffered a fire in the 1920s and was restored a few years later. Unfortunately, it has been demolished and replaced with a condo development. When automobiles became more popular the company changed its production to manufacture auto bodies for Buick, Hudson and Rolls Royce. It was the first company outside of Britain to build the body of cars for Rolls Royce. In 1914 the company produced the most expensive car built in North America up to that time. It was called The Swan and sold to a Toronto client for $13,000. The image below is from their 1915 catalogue and was taken from the submission to the city for historical designation of the Conboy building.
It was constructed on the east side of the property to leave room for an alley along the west side of the building. Two delivery doors faced the alley and broke up the the sets of windows which lined all three floors. Originally the interior was lit by gaslight and so windows were provided to increase the amount of natural light available. The joists stretched across the building leaving no interior support and allowing a large amount of open space inside for moving materials around. When Conboy moved out of the building it was occupied in 1907 by the Imperial Paper Box Company.
Daniel Conboy died in 1917 from the Influenza epidemic and his company was taken over by his three sons. It was unable to survive the market turbulence of World War 1 and closed in 1918. Meanwhile, the same year saw the building on King Street taken over by The National Cabinet Company. They would change their name to The National Radio Cabinet Company before vacating the building in 1957. In 1958 the building was under the ownership of Pauline Pattenick who renovated the front face and interior of the structure. Between 1960 and 2014 it was occupied by the Du-Sel Importing Company under the ownership of the Pattenick family. The original windows were two over two sash windows with arched heads. The only adornment was a brick pediment on the top of the King Street face of the factory. In 2013 the front windows were boarded over and the side windows had previously been filled in with concrete blocks. White paint had been added to the front and part way down the west side.
The building has had an historic designation and has now been restored. Although the building is almost 140 years old and the Imperial Paper Box Company only occupied it for 11 years they are commemorated on the side rather than the Conboy Carriage Company.
Fortunately the King-Spadina Heritage Conservation Area has protected the row of historical factory buildings along this section of King Street.
Associated stories: Military Burying Grounds,
Google Maps Link: Conboy Carriage Company Building
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