The Evergreen Brickworks stands on Toronto's East end, bordering northern neighbourhoods of Rosedale and the Danforth. Surrounded by both the nature of the Don Valley trails and the automobile commotion of the Don Valley Parkway, the Brickworks is hub for community initiatives, environmental practices, and all sorts of civic events and activities.
Despite being surrounded by forests, ponds, and trails, the Brickworks was once an entirely industrial area. As the name suggests, it was one of the city's major brick factories, upon the discovery in 1882 that what was previously farmland was sitting upon the resources to craft bricks. The bricks produced there were the source for many of Toronto's notable buildings that still stand today, such as Massey Hall and Casa Loma, until its closure in 1984.
Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, the relics of the Brickworks, unused by the city, was an attractive space for raves and graffiti artists. The graffiti still exists painted on the brick today, incorporated into the property's redevelopment. In the mid-90's, the surrounding quarry area was turned into the conservation nature park it now is. This stimulated the idea that perhaps the ruins of the Brickworks had the potential to become something greater. Throughout the 2000's, community initiatives such as farmer's markets and summer camps were held in the space and continuous redevelopment followed until it officially opened to the public in 2010 as the eco-centre it is today. I love the sheer irony that it once was a location that contributed to the industrialization that cascaded into environmental degradation, yet it now stands as a centre wholeheartedly devoted to the environment.
What I find to be special about the Brickworks is that it's one of Toronto's best examples of creatively reusing abandoned spaces. The repurposing honours what the building once was used for and since the ruins of the factory still remain, you feel the historic past of the property. It's more or less untouched and it's incredibly humble and community (and not Instagram) oriented. Other historic districts of the city (cough cough Distillery District) have been so hyper-gentrified that while they still are beautiful and crisp and clean, they rarely are tributary to the past. The Evergreen Brickworks celebrates the local community and attracts people of all kind to spend some time there. On Saturdays they hold a farmers market, every now and then they'll have bike repair tutorials or yoga classes, and over the summer they've been holding artisan markets and even an Etsy pop-up shop. The Evergreen Brickworks is quintessentially down-to-earth, and frankly, that's what I'd like to see more of in Toronto.