Maple Leaf Mills Silos

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Maple Leaf Mills Silos was one of two silo or grain elevator complexes that were built in the area between Spadina Quay and Maple Leaf Quay, on Toronto Harbour, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was also one of three silos that was found along the city's waterfront.

Built in 1928, the silos marked an age when goods were being shipped into Toronto. Towards the end, the silos also marked the port's decline and the desire to remove the industrial eyesore along Toronto's waterfront. They were removed in 1983.


Before construction of the fourth Welland Canal, prairie grain was shipped to lakeports such as Collingwood or Midland, transferred to rail car, and delivered to Toronto, a laborious process. Gordon C. Leitch realized when the canal opened, he would be able to ship grain directly to the Toronto waterfront at considerable efficiency. He founded Toronto Elevators[1][2] and in 1928 constructed a 2 million bushel capacity concrete grain elevator complex. The first silo structure was built by Carter Construction Company[citation needed], and was referred to as Playfair Elevators[citation needed]. C.D. Howe was involved in the design.[3] The capacity was later doubled.[4] Six tracks next to the elevators were connected to the CN Spadina Yard.[4] Offices and laboratories also occupied the site.[5][6]

Originally mainly a storage elevator, Toronto Elevators got into processing with the Masterfeeds animal feed manufacturing business, managed by Fred Presant.[7][8][9] Entering the oilseed business, by 1953, two Toronto plants, Toronto Elevators and Victory Soya had approximately 90% of Canadian Soya processing capability. The combined storage capacity was more than Canada’s other four processors combined.[10]

To supply grain to his elevator, Leitch invested in shipping, partnering with James E. Norris. They eventually created one of the largest shipping companies on the Great Lakes, Upper Lakes Shipping Company. The Norris family also had an interest in Maple Leaf Milling.

Toronto Elevator Company merged with Maple Leaf Milling in 1961, and the company and silos were renamed Maple Leaf Mills.[11][12]

After labour disputes involving "waterfront warlord" Hal C. Banks[13] at ULS in the 1960s, culminating in the bombing of the Howard L. Shaw (today one of the breakwater ships at Ontario Place),[14] the Norris family grew disenchanted with the partnership. After a fight for control, involving Neonex and Jim Pattison,[15] the partnership split, with the Leitch family gaining control of the shipping business, and Norris, Maple Leaf Mills.

When Maple Leaf Mills facility at Port Colborne was destroyed by fire in 1960, milling operations came to Toronto. The Port Colborne facilities were rebuilt at a smaller scale, but it eventually took over milling operations after 1983.

After numerous sales, mergers and divestures, MLM became Maple Leaf Foods. The Masterfeeds business was divested and is today owned by Alltech.

Decline of Toronto Harbour and demise of the silos[edit]

With the decline in use of Toronto harbour as a shipping centre in the 1980s and redevelopment of the waterfront, the future of the silos was set.

The Federal government expropriated the Maple Leaf complex in 1972 as part of the Harbourfront scheme. Unlike the fate of the Victory Soya Mills Silos and Canada Malting Silos, the Maple Leaf Silos were demolished in the 1983 in the haste to remove the industrial eyesore and blight along the waterfront. Demolition took a full year, cost $1 million, and bankrupted the Thunder Bay wrecking company.[16]

With the closure of the Toronto site, MLM moved production to other locations, among them Cavan, Ontario.[17]


In 1989 Harbour Terrace condominiums was completed on half of the old silo site, but the remaining half of the site sat vacant. In 2000, Toronto Fire Services Station 334 and Toronto EMS Station 36 was opened at the southwest end of the site[18]

Ironically, the new buildings that replaced the silos at 350 and 390 Queens Quay were "maligned as among the worst examples of a concrete curtain dividing Toronto from Lake Ontario" and described as "drab, puke-coloured edifices"[19] The residences at the Maple Leaf Quay were renovated in 2015, a project led by architect Les Klein.

After two decades the city facilitated the creation of HTO Park West in 2007 and thus completed the revitalization of the entire site.


  1. ^ "Leitch, Gordon C. (1890 - 1954)". Heritage Resources. Chatham Kent. November 20, 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "Introduction to Fonds of the corporate records of Upper Lakes Group Incorporated" (PDF). Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "Howe, Clarence Decatur". Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Ashbridges Bay, East Wharf and Queen's Wharf
  5. ^ Filey, Mike (1998). Discover & Explore Toronto's Waterfront: A Walker's Jogger's Cyclist's Boater's Guide to Toronto's Lakeside Sites and History. Dundurn Press. p. 50. ISBN 1550023047. 
  6. ^ "William Hoffman Obituary". Toronto Star. Feb 23 – Mar 24, 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  7. ^ Leeson, Steven (1986). The Ontario Poultry Industry, An Illustrated History. Ontario Poultry Council. pp. 71–72. ISBN 0-9692659-0-5. 
  8. ^ "Masterfeeds About Us". Masterfeeds. pp. page for year 1929. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  9. ^ "Fred Presant". University of Guelph. September 18, 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Patricia M. Bowley (November 2013). "A Century of Soybeans: Scientific Research and Mixed Farming in Agricultural Southern Ontario". A Thesis presented to The University of Guelph. p. 210. 
  11. ^ "Maple Leaf Milling Merger Is Approved". Montreal Gazette. Mar 8, 1961. p. 15. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "Our History Maple Leaf Foods". Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "Upper Lakes Shipping". Toronto Marine Historical Society's Scanner. vol2 numm February 1975. Retrieved 17 September 2016.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ "Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping Online Remembering the past Historical Perspective Featured Lake Boat:". Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  15. ^ SUTHERLAND. JIM (Mar 26, 2004). "JImmy has the last laugh". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  16. ^ "What's in store for Toronto lakefront elevator" (PDF). Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter. Society for Industrial Archeology. Spring 1988. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  17. ^ "Maple Leaf Mills New $3.5 Million Feed Facility" (PDF). Canadian Statesmen. March 5, 1975. Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Infantry, Ashante (Feb 26, 2016). "Harbourfront's drab towers go contemporary — but there are still the Three Ugly Sisters". Toronto Star. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 

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Coordinates: 43°38′40″N 79°21′54″W / 43.6445°N 79.3649°W / 43.6445; -79.3649