Evergreen Brick Works

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April 4, 2011

Toronto's skyline is speckled with bricks from the former Don Valley Brick Works yard. In the 1960s and 70s, the company produced more than 43 million bricks each year. But after business slowed in the 1980s, the yard was forced to shutter its doors and the thus no-longer-maintained, 12-acre site fell into disrepair. Today, however, it's back up and running—though with a new directive—with the help of Canadian nonprofit Evergreen. Renamed Evergreen Brick Works, the site is designed to be a community, environmental space where sustainable businesses can establish themselves and grow; artists can work; and locals can come to explore the site, take a walk, ice skate, buy local produce at the farmers' market, and meander around the 16 buildings being rehabilitated. Here we take you along on our recent walk through the site.

 

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  Evergreen Brick Works is located in Toronto's Rosedale neighborhood and is accessible by foot, bike, car, or via a free shuttle bus that runs each day from the nearby Broadview subway station. Greeting visitors is the Welcome Hut, designed by Toronto firm Levitt Goodman Architects (the firm behind the sustainable Adams-Fleming Residence featured in our May 2010 issue).  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Evergreen Brick Works is located in Toronto's Rosedale neighborhood and is accessible by foot, bike, car, or via a free shuttle bus that runs each day from the nearby Broadview subway station. Greeting visitors is the Welcome Hut, designed by Toronto firm Levitt Goodman Architects (the firm behind the sustainable Adams-Fleming Residence featured in our May 2010 issue).

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The Welcome Hut reuses a shipping container to provide visitors with information about Brick Works. When Evergreen took over the site in the early 2000s, it was impossible to look around and not see graffiti, but instead of repainting remnants of the original buildings, Levitt Goodman Architects decided to celebrate the site's history and incorporate materials like these old doors as they were. (Watch our slideshow about the Welcome Hut to see more of its details and the reclaimed materials used in the space.)  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The Welcome Hut reuses a shipping container to provide visitors with information about Brick Works. When Evergreen took over the site in the early 2000s, it was impossible to look around and not see graffiti, but instead of repainting remnants of the original buildings, Levitt Goodman Architects decided to celebrate the site's history and incorporate materials like these old doors as they were. (Watch our slideshow about the Welcome Hut to see more of its details and the reclaimed materials used in the space.)

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The Watershed Wall art piece by Ferruccio Sardell maps Toronto's ravine, river, and creek network and acts as a 30-foot-by-45-foot living sculpture.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The Watershed Wall art piece by Ferruccio Sardell maps Toronto's ravine, river, and creek network and acts as a 30-foot-by-45-foot living sculpture.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The piece, dubbed the largest map of Toronto's watershed, catches rainwater from the roof and guides it down through the work, watering the succulents and other flora planted on the wall.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The piece, dubbed the largest map of Toronto's watershed, catches rainwater from the roof and guides it down through the work, watering the succulents and other flora planted on the wall.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Beyond the Watershed Wall is the Young Welcome Center building.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Beyond the Watershed Wall is the Young Welcome Center building.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  In addition to the visitors reception area and exhibition space, the Welcome Center houses a brick press circa the early 1900s. Workers would have mixed clay with water then fed it into the machine, which would have pressed the wet material into wood molds to form bricks.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    In addition to the visitors reception area and exhibition space, the Welcome Center houses a brick press circa the early 1900s. Workers would have mixed clay with water then fed it into the machine, which would have pressed the wet material into wood molds to form bricks.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  A model inside the Welcome Center shows the site, which had its grand opening in September 2010.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    A model inside the Welcome Center shows the site, which had its grand opening in September 2010.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Walking through the site, sustainable building techniques, systems, and sensibilities are ubiquitous. Here, a rainwater cistern clearly states its purpose.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Walking through the site, sustainable building techniques, systems, and sensibilities are ubiquitous. Here, a rainwater cistern clearly states its purpose.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  In another area, a pile of Douglas fir salvaged from the South Carleton Village School, built in 1913, lies waiting to find a second life in a new building.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    In another area, a pile of Douglas fir salvaged from the South Carleton Village School, built in 1913, lies waiting to find a second life in a new building.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The paved entrance to the site features bricks made when the Brick Works was a functioning brickyard and highlights the variety in color and type that were produced.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The paved entrance to the site features bricks made when the Brick Works was a functioning brickyard and highlights the variety in color and type that were produced.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Behind the buildings is the Weston Quarry Garden, the Don Valley Brick Works Park, and wide terrain featuring a series of trails, all open to the public.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Behind the buildings is the Weston Quarry Garden, the Don Valley Brick Works Park, and wide terrain featuring a series of trails, all open to the public.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  As you head east from the Weston Quarry Garden, you pass one of the 16 brick buildings that once housed the Don Valley Brick Works company.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    As you head east from the Weston Quarry Garden, you pass one of the 16 brick buildings that once housed the Don Valley Brick Works company.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Beyond lies a stretch of land that belies the Brick Works' location so close to bustling downtown Toronto.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Beyond lies a stretch of land that belies the Brick Works' location so close to bustling downtown Toronto.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Even on a chilly day in March, the park enjoyed visitors trekking along the small hills and walking around and above the frozen ponds.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Even on a chilly day in March, the park enjoyed visitors trekking along the small hills and walking around and above the frozen ponds.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Several new bridges let visitors traverse the ponds behind the Brick Works buildings. While the water bodies are not open for ice skating, an outdoor skating rink will be set up in one of the pavilions for use during the winter.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Several new bridges let visitors traverse the ponds behind the Brick Works buildings. While the water bodies are not open for ice skating, an outdoor skating rink will be set up in one of the pavilions for use during the winter.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  A climbing tower provides challenges for visitors who participate in activities organized by Evergreen Brick Works partner Outward Bound Canada. While we were there, leaders were going through training in anticipation of summer programs.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    A climbing tower provides challenges for visitors who participate in activities organized by Evergreen Brick Works partner Outward Bound Canada. While we were there, leaders were going through training in anticipation of summer programs.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The Chimney Court was closed to public access during our visit and was instead inhabited by a tepee, wood-burning fires, and a group of students on the March break from school and attending one of the Evergreen Brick Works camps.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The Chimney Court was closed to public access during our visit and was instead inhabited by a tepee, wood-burning fires, and a group of students on the March break from school and attending one of the Evergreen Brick Works camps.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Some of the walls of the Chimney Court still bear the marks of decades of neglect. Here, as in the Welcome Hut, rather than wash away the graffiti, Evergreen has embraced it.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Some of the walls of the Chimney Court still bear the marks of decades of neglect. Here, as in the Welcome Hut, rather than wash away the graffiti, Evergreen has embraced it.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Back toward the entrance, a large building holds the kilns—one of the most fascinating spaces at the site.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Back toward the entrance, a large building holds the kilns—one of the most fascinating spaces at the site.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The 52,000-square-foot building is where the majority of the action took place when the yard was churning out bricks. Inside lie three former tunnel kilns and six single-track drying tunnels.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The 52,000-square-foot building is where the majority of the action took place when the yard was churning out bricks. Inside lie three former tunnel kilns and six single-track drying tunnels.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Built in 1957, the kilns ran with impressive stats. More than 375 feet long and fired by natural gas, each tunnel held up to 38 carts (a single one carrying 3,000-3,300 bricks). Over the course of two days, a cart would travel through the kiln's five zones, which included preheating, firing at 1,880 degrees Fahrenheit, bleaching, cooling, and sorting (by hand) into cubes of 500 bricks each.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Built in 1957, the kilns ran with impressive stats. More than 375 feet long and fired by natural gas, each tunnel held up to 38 carts (a single one carrying 3,000-3,300 bricks). Over the course of two days, a cart would travel through the kiln's five zones, which included preheating, firing at 1,880 degrees Fahrenheit, bleaching, cooling, and sorting (by hand) into cubes of 500 bricks each.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  In the drying tunnels (which were heated with waste heat from the kilns that was redirected in pipes during the cooling process), the goal was to reduce the brick's water content to reduce the chance of steam causing them to explode in the kilns. Each brick remained in the drying tunnel for 36 hours before moving to the tunnel kilns. For more about Evergreen Brick Works and planning a trip (one well worth making), visit ebw.greenworks.ca.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!   Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    In the drying tunnels (which were heated with waste heat from the kilns that was redirected in pipes during the cooling process), the goal was to reduce the brick's water content to reduce the chance of steam causing them to explode in the kilns. Each brick remained in the drying tunnel for 36 hours before moving to the tunnel kilns. For more about Evergreen Brick Works and planning a trip (one well worth making), visit ebw.greenworks.ca.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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