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Distillery District: Mill Street from Parliament to Cherry Street

FLAVOUR Think SoHo or Covent Garden. The new Distillery Historic District showcases both established and emerging galleries, restaurants and shops, a brewery, jewellery stores, a doggy boutique and a très cool café. All tenants are hand-picked by the property owners and absolutely no franchise or chain operations are allowed. It’s not highbrow or lowbrow, but accessible for families, singles, artists and business types alike.

GETTING THERE From King subway station take 504 King Street car east to Parliament, either walk south or take the 65 Parliament bus to The Distillery. A cab ride from Union Station will cost between $4.50 and $6.50. For a detailed map check www.thedistillerydistrict.com.

THE CLOCK For the early birds, Balzac’s Coffee House opens at 7 a.m., the rest of the complex wakes up at a more civilized 11 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. from Sunday through Wednesday and 9 p.m. on the weekends, but the restaurants will be buzzing well into the night. Claim to Fame In the mid-1800s it was the largest distillery in the British Empire and has been used as the set of many big budget films including Chicago, The Recruit and X-Men.

WHAT TO DO Site tours are available at the Distillery Visitor Centre, an interpretation gallery that offers guided tours, as well as audio guide units, to further explore the history and architecture of the site. The Centre also houses innovative design objects including David Small’s Illuminated Manuscript, a large format book with touch-manipulated video text projected on the pages.

WHAT TO BUY Original art is for sale at a number of galleries, including Blue Dot Gallery, Sandra Ainsley and Artcore, unique jewellery pieces from Corktown Designs, home accessories from Found Objects, custom sound theatre from Sound Designs, stuff for your favourite pooch at Mona’s for Pets, and beer, such as its organic lager, from The Mill Street Brewery.

WHERE TO EAT Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill, Balzac’s Coffee House, The Boiler House, 1832, and Brick Street Bakery. The Perigree Restaurant and Grand Piano Pastries are also scheduled to open this month.

PHOTO OPS Capture the vista from the west side of The Stone Distillery looking east across the complex and Tank House Lane; the weather vane and cupola atop The Cooperage; vintage trucks in the square at the base of Trinity Street, the grain rollers on Trinity Street.

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
The Gooderham & Worts Distillery was founded in 1832, by James Worts and William Gooderham. By 1837, the company had evolved from grinding wheat flour to distilling alcohol and as the business boomed the building site grew from the original mill to include 44 structures. After a large fire in 1869 the operations were revamped and by 1871 the distillery was producing more than two-million gallons of whiskey every year. The business went into decline during the Prohibition era and in the ensuing decades ownership changed several times. The distillery ceased producing alcohol in 1990. Apart from acting as the set for several hundred movie productions, the site sat idle until 2001 when it was purchased by Cityscape Development Corporation for an estimated $15 million.

In May, 2003, The Distillery Historic District, a pedestrian-only village dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment was unveiled. It is the largest restoration project in Canada, and the best preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America. “The architectural past mixes with the future of Toronto to be experienced in the present,” says developer Mathew Rosenblatt.

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