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Toronto’s Waterfront at War, 1914-1918


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Toronto’s Waterfront at War, 1914-1918

| military contracts let to private waterfront concerns often fell outside the territorial and operational jurisdiction of the local port authority, and hence were not reflected in its records. Just as there was never a single, centralized agency that established policies and guidelines for waterfront development throughout the nation, there is no single repository that provides the materials necessary for a detailed examination of harbour activities during the war years.


In spite of the board’s willingness to sell inshore sites, a policy that prohibited the purchase of property fronting onto the harbour’s new dockwalls led to many manufacturers accepting the attractive benefits offered by nearby cities such as Hamilton.

Those industrial or commercial concerns that agreed to locate along Toronto’s shoreline enjoyed lease- hold rather than freehold tenure, and the port authority maintained comprehensive records of its tenants’ activities.

Toronto Harbour Commission was well-suited for this role, for it owed its existence to a protracted struggle to develop the industrial capacity of the water- front.14 By the beginning of the twentieth century it had become apparent that the existing port authority, the Harbour Trust, was an ineffective agent to deal effec- tively with the myriad problems that plagued Toronto’s waterfront. The lack of coordinated development within the harbour, coupled with the extremely disruptive activities of the railways, left wharves ramshackle and neglected
Highlight (color #D3D2EE): Located at the east end of the harbour, the bay’s 1,200 acres of marsh lands and shallow waters, long con- sidered a prime site for industrial development, was the dominant issue in the campaign for a new port authority. These local designs were not lost on the federal government,

But the harbor was only secondary to the industrial area that was to be developed, with parks third. The basic idea was to reclaim 2,000 acres of waterfront land, of which 800 were to be parks and 1,200 for indus- trial purposes.

This “basic idea” was the Toronto Harbour Commission’s Waterfront Plan of 1912, which featured the reclamation of Ashbridge’s Bay using 27 million cubic yards of dredged fi11.16 It was an ambitious undertaking estimated to cost over $19,000,000, but within months the harbour commission had won the support of both the federal and municipal governments.

The reclamation of the marsh lands began in May 1914, and the citizens of Toronto eagerly awaited the wholesale transformation of their waterfront over the next six years.

Toronto was R. Home Smith.
| residential development of large areas along Toronto’s Humber Valley,
had put Smith into contact with most of the financial titans of Britain and North America.

He had also served as a harbour commissioner since 1911, so that the sale of the British Forgings plant was a matter of more than passing concern. It proved to be a greater challenge than initially anticipated, but perseverance eventually paid off when a Welsh firm, Baldwins Limited, agreed in May 1919 to take over the site in an attempt to recapture the Canadian sheet steel and tin plate market that had been lost by Britain to the United States during the war.

The venture was unsuccessful, and the plant was leveled in the 1920s to make way for the tanks of the McColl-Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd., the predecessor of Texaco Canada Inc. The once-impressive plant would soon be remembered only by a local road named Munitions Street, but for two brief years it was the central fixture in the development of Toronto’s eastern waterfront

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