Tag Archives: Connaught Labs

Gooderham Architecture

Sunday, July 18, 2020

Three generations of the Gooderham Family made their mark on Toronto through the distillery of Gooderham and Worts.  Their factory is remarkably well preserved in The Distillery District but they also left their mansions and some major projects, including the King Edward Hotel built in 1903.

The oldest surviving architecture that can be attributed to the Gooderham Family is the church at 245 King Street East.  Situated just a little north of the Gooderham and Worts distillery the church was founded because many of the factory workers and others in the community couldn’t afford to pay pew fees to attend Bishop Strachan’s Anglican Church.  With the assistance of these two families the Little Trinity Church was built in 1843.

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The four buttresses that form the corners of the bell tower are repeated at the rear of the original church.

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Beside the church stands the rectory that was home to the priests who served the congregation over the years.  The rectory was built in 1853 and is an example of Romanesque and Gothic Revival architecture combined.

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Charles H Gooderham was the eighth, and youngest son of William Gooderham and in 1882 he had a home built at 592 Sherbourne Street.

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George Horace Gooderham built the house at 504 Jarvis Street in 1891 in the Romanesque Revival style that was popular with the family architect David Roberts.  Roberts and his son would design the majority of the buildings at Gooderham and Worts Distilery. George H. was the grandson of the company founder and added his home to a growing list of The Mansions of Jarvis Street.

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The Gooderham Building is one of the best known structures from the early days of Toronto.  It is also known as the Flatiron Building after the more famous one in New York City.  Interestingly, the Gooderham Building predates the NYC one by a decade.  It was built to house the offices of Gooderham and Worts when the business was booming and had outgrown the offices at the distillery.

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George Gooderham took the office in the top of the five story building where he had a commanding view east along Front Street toward the distillery and the Don River.

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The Gooderham Building was completed in 1892 and was adorned with plenty of carved stone.  It was built for $18,000 and served as the offices Gooderham and Worts until 1952.  It has been protected by a heritage easement since 1977.  Heritage easements are agreements that are placed onto the title for a property and set out details of building which must be maintained in perpetuity.  They may also spell out conditions for renovations.

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The Flatiron Building has one central window on each floor on the back end of the building.  In 1980 a Canadian artist named Derek Besant won a competition to create a public mural for the building.  He chose to paint a reflection of the Perkins Block across the street which gives the building the appearance of having more windows that it actually does.

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The Perkins Block was designed as a warehouse extension and storefront for a wholesale grocer named Frederick Perkins.  It was completed in 1875 and faced the original three story building named The Coffin Block that stood where the Gooderham Building would be constructed.  Notice the Italianate brickwork with multiple arches on the fourth floor windows.  These can be seen on the Flatiron Building mural.

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Between 1890 and 1892 George Gooderham built an imposing mansion on the corner of Bloor Street and St. George Street.  He had inherited the distillery when his father passed away in 1881 and was involved in the world of finance.  He founded the Bank of Toronto which is now the TD Bank.

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The house features a domed witch-hat tower, similar to the one on the Gooderham building.  Fancy brickwork on the chimney is complimented by the carvings around the tower base.  When George passed away in 1905 his widow Harriet sold the house and it has been home to The York Club since 1910.

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By the turn of the century the affluent neighbourhood had moved north of Bloor Street and the area of Rosedale became home to the new rich families in the city.  Edward D. Gooderham was one of the sons of William George Gooderham and he built his home in 1907 on Sherbourne Street North among the mansions of Rosedale.

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Built in 1908 the home at 112 Waren Road in Forest Hill represented a presence for the  Gooderham Family in the next wealthy neighbourhood.  The house features seven bedrooms in its two and a half storys.

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Albert Edward Gooderham was a grandson of the founder and had joined Gooderham and Worts as a clerk in 1879 at the age of 18.  When his father passed away in 1905 he became the Managing Director and in seven years was Toronto and in 1915 he bought 85 acres at Dufferin and Steeles.  Here he built and equipped Connaught Labs to produce tetanus antitoxin.  The labs later became the production facility for Toronto Penicillin which benefited countless diabetics.  The buildings below are part of the Gooderham architectural legacy.

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Both the buildings that George Gooderham completed in the early 1890’s are adorned with conical towers but also fantastic details that present little surprises as you study them.  The red stone from The Credit Valley has been intricately carved such as this example above a window opening on George’s home.  A pair of lion heads and the head of a man who looks a little surprised to see them there.

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The Gooderham Family has made a lasting impact on the architecture of the city with another forty-five buildings in The Distillery District that bear exploration.

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Connaught Labs

Thursday March 12, 2015

Thanks to my friend James, who hooked me up with historian Christopher Rutty, I was able to have a lunch hour tour of the museum at Sanofi Pasteur.  I have worked at Dufferin and Steeles for 17 years and often wondered about the history of the fancy old buildings near the south east corner.

Fisherville was named after the Fisher family.  Jacob Fisher emigrated from Pennsylvania with 22 members of his family in 1797. They were granted lots 25 and 26 which were on both sides of Steeles, east of Dufferin street. They ran a saw mill on the West Don River and later a grist mill which operated with different owners until about 1912.  By the 1870’s the property had been divided and was under several owners with the Fisher house and mill in the hands of G. H. Appleby.

John G. Fitzgerald was born in 1882 in Drayton Ontario.  He attended the University of Toronto medical school where he graduated at the young age of 21.  In 1913 he became the professor of hygene at the university.  Using his wife’s inheritance money he built a back yard stable on Barton street and acquired a couple of horses.  He began to produce the antitoxin for diptheria which he sold to the Canadian Government at cost for free distribution.  The university decided to back him and in 1914 the Antitoxin labs were opened.  The original stable was in danger of being demolished and has been moved to the Fisherville site. One side of the stables has no windows because it used to stand against another building in it’s original location.

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Inside, the old stable has been restored and served as a museum to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the antitoxin labs.

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Albert Gooderham was the grandson of William Gooderham of Gooderham and Worts distillery and served as chairman of the Ontario branch of the Red Cross.  With the outbreak of World War 1 there was a shortage of tetanus shots for the soldiers.  In order to increase production, space was required to increase the number of horses that could be cared for.  Albert took John G. Fitzgerald for a country drive one day in 1915 and ended up at the old Fisher farm, now abandoned, but still complete with the mill and pond.  Albert bought the property and built the labs and stables which were opened on October 25, 1917.  The Connaught Antitoxin Laboratories and University Farm was named after the Duke of Connaught, Canada’s governor general during WW1.

The cover photo was borrowed from the Sanofi Pasteur Canada Centenary Facebook page which I highly recommend for additional information on this historical site.  It shows the antitoxin labs with the company truck, also donated by Gooderham, which made the 20 mile trip back and forth to the university a couple times per week.  The photo below shows the labs today.  The middle section between the two towered ends of the right hand building contained stables while labs and production facilities were located in the rest of the two original buildings. The original 1913 stable has recently been relocated between the two 1916 buildings to form a heritage square.

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Horses were essential to the production of antitoxins.  Horses can be safely injected with small amounts of toxins that have no negative effect on the animal.  Their bodies produce an antitoxin that can be removed and administered to a human to make the person immune to the toxin. Horses were bought by Fitzgerald that were headed for the glue factory and given new life as living antitoxin producers.  For example, one horse could produce enough tetanus serum for 15,000 soldiers during WW1.  The picture below is from a January 25, 1928 Macleans article, but taken from the same Facebook page as the cover photo, describing how this horse and one other produced enough meningitis serum for all of Canada.

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Prior to the discovery of insulin a person who had diabetes pretty much had a death sentence. In 1920 Dr. Frederick Banting had the idea that led to the discovery of Insulin.  He brought the idea to the University of Toronto where a small experiment was set up using dogs.  When human trials were successful a large scale production method needed to be perfected. Connaught Labs had the ability and in 1923 they began a sixty year history of supplying all the insulin used in Canada.  The historical insulin vials in the picture below are on display at the museum.

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Fitzgerald passed away on June 20th 1940.  His desk, chair and an early ledger have been preserved in the heritage museum.  The picture above the desk shows the early days of Connaught Labs and he kept it above his desk at the university.

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Connaught Labs pioneered the process of growing the poliovirus in rocking glass bottles that became known as the Toronto Method.  It involved culturing the virus using a purely synthetic tissue culture known as “Medium 199,”.  In 1962 Connaught Labs licensed the Sabin oral polio vaccine.  I was likely among the first people to be administered this vaccine.  Connaught Labs also played a key role in the eradication of small pox.  Povitsky bottles used for the Toronto Method are seen in the lower right of the display below.

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In 1972 the University sold Connaught Labs to the Canadian Development Corporation making it a “for profit” company for the first time.  Mergers and expansions in 1989, 1999 and 2004 resulted in the formation of Sanofi Pasteur which employs 1,100 people in it’s Toronto facility. Over the past 100 years they have played a key role in the development of public health in Canada and have a vision of a world in which no one suffers or dies from a vaccine preventable disease.  Nearly a hundred buildings, including research facilities, have been constructed on the compound which can be seen outlined in red in the recent photo below.  The two buildings that started it all are in the lower right of the property.

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The farm where Jacob Fisher settled his family and built his mill has been used to save the lives and reduce the suffering of countless millions of people around the world.  I think Mr. Fisher would be very proud of how the farm he worked so hard to clear over 200 years ago is being used today.