Toronto Real Estate — Focus on Liberty Village
by Amy West
Liberty Village is a unique community located in Toronto’s West End that features diversity framed within a historical district. It’s bordered by King, Dufferin, the Gardiner Expressway, and Strachan.
Liberty Village has grown significantly over the past two years, both in new residential and office spaces. Because the neighbourhood is an abandoned industrial area, these developments have primarily been built inside old factories. It has become a trendy spot for young professionals who are pushing further west into less established areas, while remaining a short ride from the city core.
Throughout its history Liberty Village has undergone social and economic transformations, but what has remained are the unique Victorian-era industrial buildings, which have made this area a memorable visual link to Toronto’s past.
Beginning in the late 19th and continuing into the 20th century, this area was a major manufacturing centre in Canada. It underwent rapid industrial growth during the mid-1800s thanks to its proximity to the railways and harbours. By the turn of the century, a mixed collection of ramshackle wooden buildings gave way to massive brick structures – the heart of Canada – industrial revolution.
The district was also home to industrial institutions. Central Prison, set back from Strachan Avenue, was built by the province in the early 1880s, not only to incarcerate inmates, but to put them to work in the hopes of profiting from their labour. It closed in 1911, but the old chapel can still be seen at the corner of Pirandello and East Liberty Streets.
The area was also the site of the Andrew Mercer Reformatory and the Ontario Reformatory Facility for Females. Ironically, Liberty Street ran between the two prisons. The Mercer Reformatory was torn down after being condemned in 1969 and is now the location of Lamport Stadium.
North of Liberty Street on Dufferin was a factory built in 1916 by the Russell Motorcar Company that manufactured fuses used in bomb shells in World War I. South of Liberty Street was the Dufferin Liberty Centre. It manufactured electrical lights to send overseas during and after World War I.
In 1881 John Inglis and Sons opened facilities on Strachan and Hanna avenues, thus expanding its successful business of building machinery for grist and flour mills. In 1902 it switched to manufacturing marine steam engines and waterworks pumping engines.
Two years later, an American named Major J.E. Hahn purchased the company and manufactured the Bren lightweight machine gun used by British and Canadian infantries during World War II. In 2003 Lifetime Urban Development Group purchased the building and is transforming it into a retail and commercial complex called the Liberty Market Building.
The site at 43 Hanna Avenue was the head office of Irwin Toy. It was transformed by Lanterra Developments into the Toy Factory Lofts, which won the 2005 Greater Toronto Home Builders Association award for Condominium Project of the Year.
Until 1858, Liberty Village was also the site of Toronto’s Industrial Exhibition, which later moved south and was renamed the Canadian National Exhibition.
Today Liberty Village is alive with new companies, new people, and new style – a hotbed of high tech and culture in the new economy, enjoying a revival as one of the fastest-growing employment centres in the city combined with new urban living. The village is an example of smart growth, with residents and businesses expanding together, supported by accessible transportation and a growing retail community.
Incoming search terms