Hidden Histories: Labour to Lofts. Just launched!

Hidden Histories is an ongoing digital mapping project undertaken by U of T students in CDN355 Digital Media, Makers, Canadian Studies. For Hidden Histories: Labour to Lofts 2018, students delved into the history of specific industrial buildings, all key to the development of Toronto’s economy, labour movements, neighbourhood expansion, and community development. 

The five factories and two community hubs profiled here are strung out across the west and east ends, with many converted into high-end lofts. While the industries may have varied, the common thread across all these Hidden Histories is the importance each had as an industrial, economic, and social hub for those whose livelihoods and neighbourhoods were shaped by Toronto’s manufacturing boom.

Also notable for its history of social services, archival digging into buildings on Bellevue Avenue, just west of Kensington Market, revealed a remarkable cluster of community organizations, for women, children, and the homeless. St. Stephen’s Community House now occupies 91 Bellevue Ave, once home to the Nathaniel Institute, founded to convert Kensington Market’s Jewish population to Christianity.

The contrasts between then and now in cost of living, access to affordable housing, and steady long-term employment in safe workplaces, foreground the challenges many people face in Toronto today, young, old, immigrant, and families. The stories told here through archival maps, photos, City of Toronto Directory records are traces of lives lived, unmarked in official records. Very little is known of the men and women who worked, and sometimes wooed, in these buildings. They, too, were also city builders, contributing to the bones of the rapidly changing streetscape we see around us. 

See also: Hidden Histories: Labour to Lofts First Talk at the Mixturealities Conference

The Hidden Histories 2017 Project was Kensington Market: Hidden Histories, an geolocative history built with ArcGIS and an iOS augmented reality app, available in the Apple App store.

The project was relaunched in 2024 here.

Canadata was a text analytic project examining the recurrence of terms related to immigration, migrants and refugees in Federal Government documents, including Speeches from the Throne, Minister Mandate Letters, and key Minister speeches.