Welcome to Distillery District:
One of Toronto’s trendiest yet most historic neighbourhoods as well as a delightful travel destination, the Distillery District is truly one of a kind. The compact area is the result of an exquisite restoration of a 180-year-old whisky distillery, which created a captivating new urban space for upmarket local businesses and artists, as well as neomodern glass and steel condominiums. You’ll find an intoxicating mix of the old and new, where locals walk down cobblestone streets on their way to stylish contemporary homes, with easy access to an abundance of locally owned stores, galleries and performances. The Distillery District has it all.
The Distillery District reaches north to Mill Street, south to the Gardiner Expressway, and from Parliament Street in the west to Cherry Street on the east. Everyone here lives in condominiums: there are six contemporary steel and glass towers with stylish, up-to-the-minute finishings and all of the amenities modern buyers want and need. Three of the condos – Pure Spirit, Clear Spirit and Gooderham – were designed by award-winning Canadian architect Peter Clewes. Most residents here are working-age singles and couples, and few have children. The average condo price in the Distillery District is $605,000, with premium units like penthouses selling for substantially more.
The pedestrian-only streetscape makes the Distillery District feel like an intimate 19th century village, and locals love to explore the one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and studios. While they have easy access to the business and entertainment districts downtown, the Distillery has so much to offer it’s not uncommon for residents to spend their weekends right at home in their own neighbourhood.
The quirky mix of businesses includes the well-regarded Mill Street Brewery, bespoke hatmaker Kelly Dunlap of the Saucy Milliner, local chocolatier SOMA and the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, eastern North America’s first sake brewery. Once a month, the Leslieville Flea opens up to offer a curated collection of vintage, salvaged and upcycled goods, along with handmade items, collectibles, furniture and antiques. And each November to December, the increasingly popular Toronto Christmas Market brings its magic to the Distillery District—Fodor’s Travel has ranked the event one of the Top 10 holiday markets in the world.
The Distillery is also notable for its impressive arts and culture. The Arta Gallery displays contemporary work by Canadian and international artists, while the Corkin Gallery represents artists exploring identity, consumerism and environmental issues in their work. The Young Centre for the Performing Arts is anchored by Soulpepper Theatre Company and the George Brown College theatre school. Programming there ranges from Shakespeare to local original plays about Toronto, written by Torontonians.
There is no shortage of things to do in the Distillery District, but if you’re exploring beyond, the new Canary District (previously the 2015 Pan American Games Athletes’ Village) is practically next door, with more cool restaurants, cafés and shops to explore. Also within walking distance: the top-notch St. Lawrence Market, as well as the downtown Entertainment District with its big-name acts and major league sports teams.
A little bit of history:
In the early 1830s, brothers-in-law James Worts and William Gooderham immigrated from England to Canada to build a wind-powered flour mill on the shores of Lake Ontario. They got the mill up and running by 1932, but tragedy struck two years later, when Worts’ wife died in childbirth. Grief-stricken, Worts died by suicide a few weeks later.
Gooderham continued operating the mill, and the distillery was an afterthought, built just to use up surplus grain. Making whisky turned out to be lucrative, however, and it quickly became the company’s focus. In 1945, Gooderham partnered with James Wort’s son, James Gooderham Worts, and they renamed the company Gooderham and Worts. Business continued to boom, and in 1859 the company expanded with construction of the 47 buildings that remain today. It eventually became the largest producer of whisky in the world.
Shortly after World War I broke out, the government banned the sale of booze with the passage of the Ontario Temperance Act. The distillery’s business suffered, and it was sold to Harry Hatch in 1923. The distillery continued to operate until 1990. After it shut down, the buildings became a premiere filming location, used in the Oscar-winning movie Chicago and more than 1,000 others. Developers purchased the area in 2001, restored it, opened the business district in 2003 and started adding condos in 2008.
Cycle or drive to Union Station in about 10 minutes, or take a walk along the lakeshore and get there in about half an hour. Transit is great, with the newly opened 514 Cherry streetcar route whisking residents from the Distillery Loop on Cherry Street into the core. Getting to Yonge and Bloor will take a bit longer: About 15 minutes by car, 20 minutes by bike, 30 minutes on the TTC and just shy of an hour on foot. Drivers who want to get in and out of town have easy access to Lakeshore Boulevard, the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.
Given the neighbourhood’s compact size, there are no schools in the Distillery District. But the closest elementary schools are not far: St. Paul’s Catholic School in neighbouring Corktown, and Market Lane Junior and Senior Public in St. Lawrence, near the market. The closest secondary school is Inglenook Community High School, also in Corktown.
What you'll fall in love with:
The Distillery District has many charms, but chief among them is the neighbourhood’s stunning architecture. Built in 1832, the 47 buildings that made up the Gooderham & Worts Distillery are some of the best-preserved Victorian buildings in North America, and they were painstakingly restored by hundreds of craftsmen skilled in working with stone, brick and timber from that period. A neighbourhood like other, this is a beautiful place to live.
Distillery District on a map
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