Abandoned bread factory on the brink of demolition is getting one final tribute

An abandoned bread factory in Leslieville is opening its doors to the public for a photo show this month before it's gutted to make room for new condominiums.

‘It was important for us to get the community back into the building one last time’

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      If you've ever wondered what the inside of a bread factory looks like, you're in luck.

      The historic rise and fall of an old Wonder Bread factory in Leslieville is being commemorated this month.

      Weston Bakery facility, known for the delicious aroma that used to waft from its walls, was a sort of landmark in the east end before it shut down four years ago.

      Since then, it's been sitting vacant.
      The Weston Bakery facility, near Eastern and Logan avenues, is being gutted to make room for residential and commercial condo units. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

      Still furnished with its original bread-making machinery, the factory's doors are being opened to the public for a photo show on the weekends of May 12-13 and May 19-20. 

      The exhibit is part of Scotiabank's CONTACT Photography Festival and will feature photos from Toronto photographer Laird Kay. 

      "It was actually quite wonderful seeing the guts and seeing all the machines, all of these wonderful conveyor belts flying through the building," Kay said in an interview with CBC Toronto.
      An exhibit paying tribute to the factory will feature abstract photos of the building's original machinery. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

      "I wanted to capture the movement and the feeling of the space — abstract the machinery and show them as sculptures," he said.

      Although portions of the building's frame will remain intact for historic and nostalgic purposes, it's being gutted to make room for new condominiums being built next year. 

      That, in part, is why Neil Pattison of Graywood Developments, felt "it was important for us to get the community back into the building one last time."

      'People are not comfortable with change' 

      "We wanted to celebrate the history of the building," Pattison said. "I remember driving down the street, walking past, you'd see people wearing their white coats, wearing their hair nets."

      It's a history that dates back to 1887, when the factory first opened.
      The history of this Wonder Bread factory dates back to the 1800s. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

      And community members have mixed emotions about the plan for this plot of land. 

      "People are not comfortable with change," Pattison said. "It wasn't compatible with the neighbourhood."

      Resistance from the community turned into a long battle with the Ontario Municipal Board over the structural details for the new condos, which will now be eight storeys and include a combination of commercial and residential units.
      Developer Neil Pattison said there was resistance from the community over structural plans for the new condos. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

      "It wasn't exactly what the developer wanted and it wasn't exactly what the community wanted," said Coun. Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth). "It was a true Toronto compromise." 

      'I support it' 

      Community member Sheree Spence has been living in the neighbourhood for 18 years and has mixed feelings about the development. 

      "I'm going to miss the bread factory," she said. "Every day I would step out of my house and smell it in the air and it was just a wonderful smell, it's like home." 

      And while she worries the condos will bring additional traffic to the area, she admits the new development will be better than an empty factory. 
      The building's machinery will either be donated or recycled. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

      "It's life, it's evolution," she said. 

      Helen Yabu agrees. 

      "A condo in that area would certainly be much more pleasing to the environment than an abandoned factory," she said. "I support it." 

      With files from Lisa Xing