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Whisky, Movies And Santa: Toronto's Distillery District Had It All

It was the site of one of the largest distilleries in the world.

While Toronto's Distillery District may be well known for its Christmas Market and unique shops, its history was more boozy than boutiquey.

In this episode of Then&Now, Toronto Historian Morgan Cameron Ross looks back at the beloved spot long before Santa Claus made an appearance.

Located west of the Don River at Parliament Street and Mill Street, the area is the former site of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, which began producing whisky in the 1830s and went on to become "at one point, the largest producer in the world" says Ross.

They would go on to merge with Hiram Walker & Sons in the 20th century, with primary production moving to Windsor and the Toronto facilities eventually ceasing operations, leaving the place as Ross describes, "theatrically barren and decrepit."

The numerous Victorian-era industrial buildings that made up the distillery would go on to serve another purpose as they formed the backdrop for numerous films and tv shows throughout the 1990s.

But a revitalization effort at the beginning of the turn of the century would lead to the opening of the Distillery Historic District in 2003, providing a pedestrian-only area filled with art galleries, restaurants and boutiques.