For nearly a century, The Don Valley Brick Works produced millions of bricks every year. Located in the Lower Don River Valley just northeast of downtown Toronto, Canada, the surrounding land was created by a glacial river mouth during the last ice age depositing dirt and sand. The heavy weight of the glacier compressed the underlying contents into clay. In the late 1800s, the clay was discovered then mined and fired in kilns to produce a variety of colored bricks. In 1904, a great fire destroyed much of Toronto's downtown area. Afterward, laws required masonry construction for most buildings. Don Valley's manufactured bricks assembled many of Toronto's buildings until 1984.
Don Valley signature brick
During peak production, there were 6 smokestacks and only 1 still stands.
Many of the homes in Toronto are built from Don Valley Bricks
When the clay was completely mined, the industrial site was abandoned. The surrounding area was toxic, the buildings fell in disrepair and graffiti scrawls filled the walls. (A common sight in many industrial nations.)
In 1991, the organization Evergreen began planting trees with a mission of 'inspiring action to green cities.' Today, Evergreen Brick Works is a "community environmental center that inspires and equips visitors to live, work, and play more sustainably."
Open daily and year-round, visitors can hike or bike nature trails, shop the garden store and a Saturday Farmer's Market or explore the factory with the old brick kilns and graffiti art-covered walls.
Panoramic view from the top of what was once an open-pit clay mine. Downtown Toronto in the distance.
The bottom of the quarry, now a wetland.
Shopping, Biking or Exploring
Inside the factory, Kilns, Graffiti and an Art Exhibitions (left wall)
Evergreen Brick Works was a unique experience that should become a standard blueprint for the world's depleted industrial spaces. In a short time, a toxic site became an urban green space through vision, dedication, and the help of many volunteers. In the spring sunshine, many families were enjoying the nature trails, composting playground, and industrial art spaces. While touring Toronto, Brick Works was my favorite outdoor destination for 2 reasons; the far-reaching positive environmental impact and... I collect historic bricks.
Found along the roadside as refuse, these bricks are from all over Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico.
Evergreen desires to help people restore the natural health of their communities. "In 2014, 8500 volunteers planted over 17,000 trees and shrubs and over 2300 wildflowers across Canada." If you are interested in visiting, volunteering, donating, or learning more about the organization visit www.evergreen.ca