1861 – 1945

Joseph Simpson Knitting Mills

This was the site of Toronto’s first knitting factory. Joseph Simpson had first established his company in the early 1860’s. In 1868, he built the first structure on the Berkeley Street site for his rapidly expanding business. The site was adjacent to transportation and power. The recently completed landfill carried the railroad past its doorstep. New shipping docks were built in close proximity. Fuel was available on adjacent properties with coal and oil on the west and the gasworks on the north.

The rapid expansion of the knitting trade and thus the factory is clearly expressed in the numbers of structures built between 1868 and 1923. At least twelve were evident at the time of the renovation. C.S. Gibson was the architect for a number of the structures. It appears that a conscious effort was made to create the open yard for a functional purpose, probably shipping, receiving and storage. Most of the façade was the original prior to the start of the renovation, although the deterioration of masonry and wood windows was extreme.

The expansion of the factory was somewhat analogous to a similar major expansion of the town’s waterfront. Landfill projects pushed the waterfront hundreds of feet into the bay, facilitating transportation and allowing new and old industries to establish and grow. For reasons, which we do not know, the factory was sold around 1945.