The Stone Distillery is the oldest and largest building in the Distillery Historic District in the city of Toronto. Designed by David Roberts, Sr. between 1858 and 1861, the building was constructed using limestone shipped from nearby Kingston and double timber beams for a total of $150 000, a huge sum for the time (Gibson, “Building Histories). The building was constructed to house a grist mill, power house, mashing and distilling functions in the five storey main building, and fermenting in the one-storey western extension (Gibson, “David Roberts, Sr.”). In 1869, and explosion in the fermenting cellar caused a massive fire to engulf the building, destroying the wooden interior, but leaving the stone and machinery largely undamaged. The building was reconstructed and reopened in May 1870 (Gibson, “Great Fire”). During both world wars, the distillery was utilized to produce explosive agents for the war effort, but returned to distilling in 1945 and remained productive until 1990 (Gibson, “Gooderham & Worts”). For the next ten years the distillery no longer produced alcohol, but instead served as the backdrop for hundreds of movies such as Chicago and X-Men, earning the Distillery District the name of Hollywood North (Gibson, “Hollywood North”). In 2001 a major revitalization project began in the Distillery District, and in 2003 it was opened as a pedestrian only arts and cultural center (McLelland).
The Stone Distillery has a dominating presence in the Distillery District, owing largely to its massive size and materials. The 300 by 80 foot building is a beautiful representation of Victorian industrial architecture, while also echoing ancient Florentine architecture. Each storey in the main building is separated by a course of stone, and the larger first floor and square windows seat it firmly to the ground. The simple façade is punctuated by a rhythmic pattern of windows separated by circular iron tie plates. The entire building is also tied together by a simple colour scheme of the warm grey of the limestone with dark green accents on the windows, doors, and other ornamentation. While it may have once been easy to determine the industrial use of the building, it is now impossible to tell what goes on behind the stone wall without consulting a map, sign or looking inside. While the building was once utilized purely for distilling, today it is home to restaurants, galleries, offices and other services. However, the romantic and historic nature of the building continues, serving as a landmark for the Distillery District and inspiration for all that see it.
Gibson, Sally. “Architecture: David Roberts, Sr.” Distillery District Heritage Website, 16 Sept. 2007 Web. 16 Oct. 2010.
—. “Building Histories: Building 5 (Stone Distillery).” Distillery District Heritage Website, 15 June 2008. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.
—. “Gooderham & Worts: ‘Doings Its Bit’.” Distillery District Heritage Website, 11 Nov. 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.
—. “Great Fire of ‘69.” Distillery District Heritage Website, 21 Oct. 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.
—. “Hollywood North at the Distillery District.” Distillery District Heritage Website, 24 Feb. 2008. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.
McClelland, Michael. “Learning from the Distillery District.” Canadian Architect, Feb. 2005. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.