From Shells to Shells

1916

Leaside Munitions Factory

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During the First World War, everyone was expected to perform their patriotic duty to defeat the enemy.

1918 Illustration of Leaside Munitions Works from J. Harry Pryce, The Red Reel The Story of Canada Wire

In Leaside, the first manufacturer to settle in the recently incorporated town converted its production line to aid the war effort. In June 1916, Canada Wire and Cable incorporated a new subsidiary, the Leaside Munitions Company, to provide 54,000 shells for the British military. The company’s facilities along Laird Drive were expanded to handle orders assembled by over 4,000 workers who commuted there via special train runs originating in Toronto’s west end. At its peak, the plant was reputed to be the largest producer of ammunition in North America, and was gearing up to provide shells to the Americans when the armistice was signed in 1918.

With peace came the question of what to do with the surplus manufacturing space. The munitions plant was sold to the Durant Motor Company, whose vehicles rolled off the assembly line until the Great Depression. Frigidaire built appliances here through the 1950s, when the property returned to Canada Wire and Cable. The plant was demolished in 1998 to make way for the current big-box plaza. Anyone looking for shells today will only find the clam or egg varieties.

By Jamie Bradburn

1918 Illustration of Leaside Munitions Works from J. Harry Pryce, The Red Reel The Story of Canada Wire View the image gallery