Toronto

Step back in time inside the Wellington Destructor as the city mulls the landmark's future

The City of Toronto has launched public consultations about what to do with the former industrial hub overlooking Fort York. And as staff make plans for its future, CBC Toronto wanted to take you back into its past for inspiration.

The city launched a public consultation about the future of the 667 Wellington St. W. hub Tuesday

The Wellington Street Destructor, shown here in 1925 - the year it was built - is on the cusp of a renewal. Before it was decommissioned in the 1970s, it acted as an incinerator for the city's garbage. (City of Toronto Archives)

Sunshine spears in through the old windows, illuminating decades of graffiti and the memories of a gaping pit into which horsedrawn buggies unloaded the city's garbage in the decades following the First World War. 

The smokestacks at the 667 Wellington St. W stopped belching their fumes in the 1970s. And 10 years later, the site was decommissioned. 

But it will get a rebirth. 

The past

The City of Toronto launched public consultations about what to do with the former industrial hub overlooking Fort York Tuesday. 

And as city staff make plans for its future, CBC Toronto wanted to take you back into its past for inspiration. 

Garbage carriers used both horsedrawn buggies and automobiles to bring the waste to the incinerator, as seen here in 1928. (City of Toronto Archives)
The Wellington Destructor, shown here in 1929, burned garbage until solid waste incineration was banned in the 1970s in Toronto. It provided steady jobs in the area at the time. (City of Toronto Archives)
The ovens, shown here in 1929, can still be found in the existing building. Coun. Mike Layton said he would love to see them wrapped in to the redesign of the site. (City of Toronto Archives)

The city designated the former incinerator a heritage building in 2005. While nearly 30 years of vacancy, peeling paint and graffiti have taken their toll on what was not an architectural masterpiece to begin with, the building's value lies in the stories it's preserved from the past, architect David Lieberman said. 

"The value of the building is that it was a critical part of the infrastructure that made the city function when it was first built in 1925 and continued to do so for many years."

The Wellington Destructor site may not be a 'beautiful' historic building from the outside, architect David Lieberman said, but it's a testament to the city's industrial history. (City of Toronto Archives)

The future

The site can also become an icon for the present community, he said, much like the Evergreen Brick Works and Wychwood Barns.

Residents have suggested the brick building, which still has its massive ovens and industrial beams, could be converted into a community health centre, a theatre, or a school.

Studio space.

A library.  

Affordable housing.

"It has something that we can look back and something that we can look forward," Lieberman said.

The Niagara neighbourhood went through several iterations, shaped by the immigrants and the industry that moved into it over the years, Coun. Mike Layton said. 

"It's actually quite striking when you're inside," the Ward 19 councillor said. "And you realize the kind of potential we'd have with a site like that."

The Wellington Destructor has sat vacant since the 1980s. After it was designated a heritage site in 2005, it was mothballed to keep it from deteriorating any further. (Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins)
The Wellington Street Destructor has sat abandoned for more than 30 years, but a public consultation about its future as a heritage site signals its coming rebirth. (Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins)