stockyards

Junction Stockyards – Industrial heritage site.

Site Location: Keele Street & St. Clair Avenue, The Junction, Toronto.

Boundary History: The Union Stockyards began as 30 acres and quickly expanded to nearly 200 acres. In 1944, the Ontario government nationalized the stockyards as the Ontario Public Stockyards, then later renamed them as the Ontario Stockyards. Most of the area is west of Keele Street on both sides of St. Clair Avenue.

Historical Description: In 1902, when the Western Cattle Market in downtown Toronto became inadequate, a group of cattle dealers and businessmen from The Junction in West Toronto agreed to form the Union Stockyard Company. Very important to developments was the Rountree family, who were in real estate and cattle dealing with others in The Junction area; most were members of the West York Agricultural Association. By 1903, the alliance had acquired acreage at the southwest corner of the intersection, moved the existing houses across Keele Street to the east side, and opened the yards with frame and timber structures. A fire in 1908 destroyed most of these, but they were quickly replaced by others with concrete foundations and platforms. The CPR put in a spur line and gained a monopoly. The dealers wanted competition and invited the Grand Trunk Railway to install a spur north of St. Clair, leaving the CPR south of St. Clair. After much controversy, the railway board gave full clearance to the GTR to proceed. Packing houses – Gunn’s, the Harris Abattoir, and others – built along the north side of St. Clair. Maple Leaf arrived in 1927. Swift’s Canadian Company of Chicago had moved in by 1911, created a plant, and occupied most of a block. The stockyards expanded in 1908, 1913–14, and 1917–18 and took over property at Symes Road and St. Clair. During World War I, the stockyards had been taken over for military use as a corral for thousands of horses. The army controlled the site for five years until 1919. From almost the outset, the site had contained an important horse exchange, which remained throughout the war years and resumed normal operations after the war. In 1944, the Ontario government nationalized the stockyards as the Ontario Public Stockyards, then later as the Ontario Stockyards, expropriating the properties and compensating the former owners. In the mid 1980s, the railways began to get out of transporting livestock, leaving the field to trucks. In January 1994, the Ontario government closed the yards; demolitions were mostly complete by March. The horse exchange was demolished in December 1994. An administrative building, erected in 1904/05, was demolished in 1995. The last manager of the stockyards moved to the CNE in 1995. The CN (formerly Grand Trunk) closed their siding in September 1994, and the Iron Highway moved out in 1999, leaving CP Rail, which still moves tank cars to the site.

Relative Importance: The importance of this large site is without doubt, as it was the largest stockyards in Toronto, Ontario and Canada and a major employer of people in the region. With the railroads it was the leading influence on the development of West Toronto. Its years of operation are the stuff of legend.

The Future? Might we suggest The Ale Yards!

AleYards_01stockyards_slider2Read a quick history of The Junction with a timeline of important events here : https://wtjhs.ca/junction-history/

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