Friday, April 06, 2007

I'm still unsure of how to react to the proposal, seemingly realistic, to convert the Canada Malting Company plant at the foot of Bathurst Street to a museum of Toronto's history. In a way, there is no better place to tell the untold stories of this city than the malt plant. Just about everyone in the city, I'm willing to wager, has been past this building and yet very few are aware of it.

Closed for roughly 20 years, the malt plant sits as a foreboding monument to the inhuman, hyper-industrial past of our lakeshore. Jeff Chapman wrote that it is "like the wreck of the Titanic" and he has the horrifying tales to back it up. Its entrails are doors that lead a dozen storeys below, storeys-high holes in the floor where ducts used to be and rusting, haunting machinery that equally invites death.

I can never go by the malt plant without a shudder, just like the towering Hearn generating station, its sister in the eastern port lands. Their stories are ones I'm compelled to tell over and over and over. I would love to see something, anything less spine-chilling replace the malt plant, but the time warp of its rusting wreckage begs for forgiveness. Someday, I suppose, I'll be able to point to a shiny glass building and tell people that a creaky, hulking behemoth once tottered in that space. At least we'll always have the mercury-infested eastern port lands.

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