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Block Magazine

Creativity has its place
Spring/Summer 2021
issue 22

Some Strike It Hot

Stoves built in the Gurney foundry helped spark Toronto’s industrial revolution.

BY: Sydney Loney

 

Black and white historical building image vs. an exterior shot of building in 2000.
Left:Image courtesy of Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries, Right: Photo by Derek Shapton

In 1843, Edward and Charles Gurney launched a very, very small stove manufacturing business in Hamilton, Ontario. (They employed two men who produced two stoves a day.) Things went well. In 1872, the brothers bought several empty lots along the muddy track that was then King Street West in Toronto and put a 14-storey foundry there. They employed hundreds of workers who manufactured everything from the company’s sought-after stoves to hot-water boilers and castings—all of which were shipped across the province by horse and wagon. (Today, Gurney stoves are collector’s items, and some historic buildings in the city still use Gurney radiators.)

The building itself was equally impressive, with its Victorian red-brick facade, elegant patterns of yellow bricks above the windows and decorative pilasters. By the time Allied Properties acquired the building in 2000, all of those architectural attributes were concealed under drab grey tin siding. Allied restored the property both inside and out, resurrecting the two-tone brick exterior, replacing cornices with metal trim and turning the oak floors and old-growth Canadian pine beams into prominent design features. The building is now home to marketing agencies, digital media brands, renowned retailer Patagonia and eBay Canada. Today, it thrums with the same forward-thinking energy that epitomized the industrial revolution it starred in nearly two centuries ago.

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