Redpath Sugar an icon from Toronto's industrial waterfront days

The changing Toronto landscape has seen the erosion of the once-industrial port. But Redpath Sugar continues to stand as a fixture on the city's waterfront.

Refinery still accepts about 21,000 tonnes of sugar from Brazil twice a month

The Redpath Sugar refinery in Toronto accepts an average of two shipments of 21,000 tonnes of raw sugar each month. (CBC News)

The Redpath Sugar refinery stands as a testament to Toronto's industrial past, a time before city development encroached on what had been a bustling and operational port.

With condo buildings as neighbours, the refinery now finds itself in a vastly more residential strip on Queen Quay East than when it was first built in 1959, its president said

"We are, of course, one of the last men standing in terms of industrial manufacturing and certainly the last one on the waterfront. So, we think we're an important part of the city," Jonathan Bamberger said.

"It just happens to now be in the middle of the city," he said.

Today, the refinery still sees an average of two shipments of sugar each month, sailing up from Brazil via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Each of those boats carries about 21,000 tonnes of raw sugar to be processed into a fine, white powder, Redpath museum curator Richard Feltoe told CBC News.

Unloading those shipments can happen at any time of the day or night, but Bamberger said the refinery has worked with its increasingly residential neighbours to make sure they can co-exist.

"We've done a lot of work on that to make sure that we make our facilities as quiet as possible," he said

Redpath Sugar has met with developers in the area to ensure that new buildings were constructed with plenty of soundproofing so "that people won't be disturbed at night," he said.

Move from Montreal

The refinery was founded in Montreal by Scotsman John Redpath in 1854.

He first came to Canada in 1816 as a stonemason and made his fortune by taking on progressively larger construction jobs.

He had a part in building many of Montreal's landmarks including McGill University and Notre Dame Cathedral, Feltoe said.

"We know that one of the very first jobs that he did as a building contractor in Canada was digging out toilets, outhouses, but he parlayed that money back into the business," he said.  

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