EXPLORING THE NEIGHBOURHOOD: TOWER AUTOMOTIVE BUILDING

Posted by Stephan Petar, June 26, 2017
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credit @MOCA_Canada

It’s hard to imagine Toronto as an industrial hub with factories sprawled across the city in areas like Liberty Village and the Entertainment District. While these areas gentrified years ago, the Junction Triangle is in the midst of its transformation from an industrious hood to a booming community and arts and culture destination.



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credit City of Toronto Archives


The Drake and MOCA have previously collaborated and Mia Nielsen, curator and head of cultural programming, is excited to partner with them again.
“We had a great partnership with MOCA when we were neighbours on Queen Street West and look forward to working more closely with them at our new homes on Sterling Road. We already have a few things in the works.”
After introducing you to our new digs, we decided to venture next door to explore the history of the abandoned Tower Automotive Building, which MOCA now calls home.

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credit City of Toronto Archives


The Junction Triangle was a former industrial district with companies manufacturing paint, chemicals and auto parts. The most prominent structure is the landmark Tower Automotive Building, built in 1919 for the Northern Aluminum Company (now Alcan) by J.W. Schreiber.
According to a 1912 article by The Toronto Daily Star, Northern Aluminum Company purchased the site for only $40,000. The company erected multiple buildings before the 10-storey tower, which was reportedly the tallest building in Toronto. The structure is an art-deco masterpiece with an indented brown brick façade and concrete pilasters designed to support heavy machine parts. It was also home to Canada’s first elevator.

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credit Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive courtesy of Toronto Public Library


In the aluminum fabricating industry, the factory was described as a “hall of fame” facility that established operations and techniques for fashioning aluminum items. The company originally produced utensils such as the popular “Wear-Ever” brand that did not rust or crack and combined beauty with everyday usefulness. It eventually evolved production in the 1930s manufacturing aluminum bottle caps, appliance accessories for washing machines and auto parts for Ford Motor Company. During the World Wars the factory produced fuselages, helmets, bullets and bayonets.

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credit @alwaysbec1osing


After over 80 years, Alcan vacated the site and the building was sold to Tower Automotive Inc. in 2000. In 2005, Tower Automotive Inc. filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations in August 2006. A year prior to the business shuttering, the structure was designated a heritage property as it represented the city’s architectural and industrial heritage.

As the tower began to erode it took on a new life. The building became a place for artistic expression with photographers documenting its deterioration and loneliness, graffiti artists using the walls of the raw space as their canvas and organizations like Art Spin hosting installations.

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Credit @MOCA_Canada


By fall 2017, the tower will become the home for contemporary art as MOCA is set to move into the first five floors of the building and begin a 40-year commitment in the space. The other floors will be occupied by commercial and office space, while Castlepoint Numa, will begin construction on a mixed-use community behind the tower.

MOCA was founded from the former Art Gallery of North York in 1999. In 2005, it moved to Queen Street West where it was known as the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA). After 10 years, the museum announced it would be relocating to Sterling Road as its former site was set to be converted into - well you can probably guess – a condo.


With new windows recently installed and construction workers continuing to bring the Tower Automotive Building back to life, all Torontonians can do now is wait for the building and MOCA to reopen.

Posted in: Drake Commissary

Tags: drake commissary  moca  sterling road