The Evergreen Brick Works, a reclaimed quarry in the lush Don Valley, is a showcase for sustainable and green living, as well as for urban design. A community has been established in this once-derelict industrial site and former landfill. Toronto’s largest farmers’ market sets up shop on Saturdays, and spotlights food from all over the province. On Sunday, the market shifts its attention to crafts. A full schedule of activities and diversions make this a perfect weekend escape: There's a children's garden (with weekly programming), bike trails and rentals, and a hike that leads to a rewarding view of the city's skyline.
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Evergreen Brickworks: A Weekend in Toronto
The Evergreen Brickworks is the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon. You can tour around the remains of this old brick factory looking at the interesting graffiti, displays, and artwork in the old kilns. Likewise, many events, like the Toronto Underground Market for food vendors, happen here on a semi-regular basis. On Saturday mornings, many vendors sell everything from jam and vegetables to lemonade at the farmers market. Walk off the goods in the back area where there are ponds and hiking trails to view many species of birds. Though located by the Bayview Extension, this is a great experience in Toronto.
After the Don Valley brick factory in Toronto closed in the '80s, the enormous toxic quarry and crumbling industrial buildings were home to various illicit tenants: underground performance art groups, pop-up marijuana farms and ravers with a well-documented tradition of stuffed animal burnings. Today, the LEED Platinum Evergreen Brick Works is North America’s most advanced community environmental center and one of the world's top 10 geotourism sites. It's like Mad Max meets Portlandia. "We want to change the next generation’s attitude about how a city works," says CEO Geoff Cape. "In the future, I want there to be so many of these old buildings reborn through an environmental lens that we’re no longer this unique idea. In fact, if that’s not the case, we’ve failed on some level.” I'm inside the Kiln Room with Arlene Stein (above), director of community programs, during her daily tour. Surrounded by towering rusted beams, massive industrial equipment and graffiti-covered walls, the space is now an art gallery. For example, "MOVE: The Transportation Expo" discusses the intricacies of global shipping and logistics. “From the start, Brick Works was designed to provide thought leadership toward urban sustainability on a global scale,” says Stein. "The gallery brings that down to a human level." As we leave, sunlight streams through the sheet metal roof above, illuminating the decrepit kilns, hulking vats and duct work. The place feels like a grave site for the 20th century.
The Junction Flea is a collaboration between Smash and the owners of the former Russet and Empire. The result is a collection of antiques, independent craft designers, and coffee and food purveyors, along with some of the best people-watching in Toronto. Once held on the fringe of the Junction every second Saturday of the month, "The Flea," as it's affectionately called, has moved to the Evergreen Brickworks. I've found old tin boxes with prints of the Royal Family, a Hudson's Bay Coat, $5 pints of Indie Ale House, and some really cool boots. Bring cash.
I take my 9 month old son here, have an easy breakfast at the farmer's market and take a hike with our stroller. We get lost in a forest of gleaming autumn leaves long enough to forget that we drove here!