A long awaited and highly anticipated commemorative plaque in recognition of a landmark manufacturing site in the Village of Swansea was unveiled by Heritage Toronto Wednesday, Nov. 7.
For more than a century, Windermere Avenue, just south of The Queensway, was home to a factory that manufactured bolts, fasteners, rivets and nuts. For its first 13 years, Swansea Works, established by John Livingston’s Dominion Bolt and Nut Company, was plagued by financial woes and ownership upheaval.
That is, until the merger of Swansea Works with four other Canadian steelworks in 1910, which formed the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) that operated Swansea Works until the plant’s closure in 1990. The property sat empty for more than a decade until a developer took on the environmental cleanup of the five-hectare brownfield site in preparation for the Windermere-by-the-Lake condominium and townhouse complex, which occupies the land now.
Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette lauded Swansea Stelco Works for its “transformation of the area.”
Unable to attend the unveiling Wednesday evening, Doucette sent a letter of congratulations to both Heritage Toronto and the Swansea Historical Society, who can take credit for bringing the heritage plaque to fruition. In her letter, Doucette called Swansea Stelco Works “a great economic asset” for the area.
Swansea Stelco Works built cottages for its employers and their families and donated a portion of its land to the York Township School Board to establish what is now Swansea Public School, Doucette pointed out. By 1929, when the Village of Swansea had grown to 3,600 people, the Stelco plant boasted 500 employees. It not only employed a majority of Swansea’s population, but it sponsored local sports teams, education initiatives and was home to the village’s early post office.
Wallace Boustead’s father was one of Stelco’s employees. He retired after 40 years with the company.
“My dad was living in Oakville when he first started there,” said Boustead, a member of the Swansea Historical Society. He bought a house on Ellis Avenue. We moved there July 1, 1940. My dad would walk to work before there was Coehill Drive and Ellis Gardens. He could do it in three minutes.”
Boustead recalled the Swansea Stelco Works Recreation Club that would close down Windermere Avenue for street parties.
“Swansea Stelco Works’ product was No. 1 in the automotive industry,” he said.
The commemorative plaque, in Boustead’s opinion, is “long overdue.”
It will be erected in late November or early December on city-owned land on The Queensway, near the South Kingsway.
Scotiabank and the Swansea Historical Society were lauded for making the plaque a reality.
“We in the society are delighted to see this plaque come to fruition and that we could contribute to the project,” said president Bob Roden.