Exploring Toronto’s Distillery Historic District

Outside a brick warehouse building, an arrow shaped neon sign will Mill St Brewery logo.

Free brewery tours are offered daily at the Mill St. Brewery. Photo © Maria Casacalenda, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Toronto was once home to the world’s largest distillery, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, founded in 1832. Though the stills have long since been stilled, the 13-acre site east of downtown has been redeveloped into The Distillery Historic District (55 Mill St., 416/364-1177), where the Victorian-era brick industrial buildings now house art galleries, shops, cafés, and theaters, as well as high-end condominiums. The Distillery Historic District is bounded by Parliament, Mill, and Cherry Streets. The easiest way to get here from downtown is to hop on the #504 King streetcar. Get off at Parliament St., then walk two blocks south. You can also follow a walking path between the St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District. It’s along the Esplanade bordering David Crombie Park, between Lower Jarvis and Parliament Streets.

Galleries and Artist Studios

The Artscape Building (55 Mill St., Bldg. 74) houses more than 30 artist studios, many of which are open for browsing, and you may be able to watch the artists at work. The best time to visit is on weekends between mid-April and mid-October, when many of the artisans open their studios during the Distillery Art Market (11 a.m.–6 p.m. Fri.– Sun.). Other artists and food vendors set up an outdoor market, as well. You can also take a free tour of Artscape Distillery Studios (noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Fri.–Sun. mid-Apr.–mid- Oct.); tours depart from the information booth in Case Goods Lane.

The Corkin Gallery (55 Mill St, Bldg. 61, 416.979.1980, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat., noon–5 Sun.) has one of the coolest art spaces in the Distillery District, displaying contemporary works amid the brick columns, steel girders, and soaring ceilings of the building’s original structure.

The Monte Clark Gallery (55 Mill St., Bldg. 2, 416/703-1700, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat., noon–5:30 p.m. Sun.) shows artworks by well-regarded Canadian and international contemporary artists.

While you may think about multicultural Toronto only in terms of its various ethnic populations, you can learn about a different sort of community at the Deaf Culture Centre (55 Mill St., Bldg. 5, Suite 101, 416/203-0343, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., free). The center has a small museum about the deaf community and about technological innovations and communications tools for the deaf. It also offers resources for deaf individuals and their families and friends.


Toronto’s first sake brewery has set up shop in the Distillery District. The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company (55 Mill St., Bldg. 4, 416/365-7253, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–6 p.m. Sun.) has a retail store and tasting bar.

The Mill Street Brewery (55 Mill St., Bldg. 63, 416/681-0338, store 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun.; brewpub 11 a.m.–midnight Mon.–Tues., 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Wed.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Fri., 9:30 a.m.–2 a.m. Sat., 9:30 a.m.–midnight Sun.) produces a dozen varieties of beer in their Distillery District microbrewery. Free brewery tours are offered daily (4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 3 and 5 p.m. Sat.–Sun.); check in at their store 15 minutes before the tour time.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Ontario.

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