Built in the early twentieth century, the former Canada Malting plant had a dozen gigantic silos of 37 meters high. The oldest was built in 1905. Canada Malting plant has had a number of different silos and grain elevators over the last century or so, but all that remains are two silos. They have been out of use since the 1980s. The silos are historical and were designated as a heritage property in 1973.
The last standing 19th-century wooden elevator was destroyed by fire in 1908, which put the grain trade in Toronto on hold. In 1928, the opening of the Canada Malting Company (CMC) marked the arrival of the first grain shipments to the harbour in nearly 20 years. The CMC is considered an important example of the Modernist maxim “form follows function”; this design actually influenced the thinking of European Modernist architects. It was also considered a milestone in the history of Canadian civil engineering technology. The site was expanded in 1944 due to the increased need for war-purpose alcohol and food supplies.
The Canada Malting Plant silos are made up of two separate but adjacent modules: the silo unit, and the germination-kiln unit. There are four components that make up the silos: the original 1928 silos and head house, the 1944 silo extension and the marine leg. The original silo component contains 15 grain storage bins and stands 120 feet high, while the 1944 silo extension contains 14 bins and stands 150 feet high.
The factory’s capacity doubled in 1963 with the addition of 18 concrete silos, which were used to store barley. At its peak, the plant produced an enormous 250,000 pounds (110,000 kilograms) of malt per year. Built to take advantage of the Lachine Canal, the factory’s fortunes have been closely tied to shifts in transportation. When the canal closed to shipping in 1970, Canada Malting was forced to transport its product by rail. Soon afterwards the company moved to a new factory elsewhere in Montreal, and the silos were repurposed to store soya and corn. They were abandoned again in 1989, when the Canadian National Railway ceased servicing the area.
As of 2022 multiphase project will help establish these silos as a public space that could be used for anything from events, galleries and museum space, film sets, and various other creative uses of the space. While many components will be replaced and repaired, the construction team is hoping to keep much of the signage and metal attachments in place as a way of preserving the history of the two iconic Canada Malting plant buildings.