Evergreen Brick Works

Home to hundreds of species and plants, this is a place that inspires discovery, joy and connection.

Want to know what’s on at the Brick Works? Curious about the best ways to get to the site? Or perhaps you’re interested in exciting events that we have coming up?

Back in 2010, Evergreen transformed a collection of deteriorating heritage buildings into a global showcase for green design. Today, these buildings make up Evergreen Brick Works, Canada’s first large-scale community environmental centre in the heart of Toronto.

 

A green oasis, Evergreen Brick Works is open year-round. The site and surrounding trails and ravines welcome more than 500,000 annual visitors to experience its public markets, participate in conferences and events, enjoy outdoor learning and nature play, and explore public art. This magical place surprises people. It’s a place that shows what’s possible when public places are designed thoughtfully with community and nature at their heart. It’s where we showcase how incorporating regenerative practices into the design of public places helps them heal and grow, much like the human body after an injury. And it’s our testing ground for new ideas for better public places that we can then scale to projects and initiatives across the country.

A public place with a national impact

Inspire better public places by example

Evergreen Brick Works is an example to people all over the world that public places have the power to connect people to each other, their communities, nature, and our planet. The activities you participate in here shape how Evergreen can build low-carbon cities in the future. The public markets act as incubators for small businesses, pilot programs in the Children’s Garden are a testing ground for loose parts and risk in play, and the redevelopment of the historic kiln building supports our target of becoming a carbon-neutral campus. Successful ideas are then scaled and implemented across Canada through Evergreen’s projects.

Share knowledge and ideas with the community

Evergreen Brick Works is a hub for community members, business, academia, and government to gather and learn about how to create regenerative places in our cities where nature has the time and space to heal while bringing people together.

Fund more public places in cities

Evergreen Brick Works is a social enterprise, with all money made on site being channelled into our vital work within communities. The goal over the coming years is to increase our fundraising efforts so we can ensure that our site is a shining beacon for public places.

The history of Evergreen Brick Works

Operating on the traditional homelands of the Wendat (Wen-dat) , Haudenosaunee (Ho-den-O-Show-nee), and Anishnaabek  (A-Nish-Naw-bek) Confederacies, Evergreen Brick Works is a vibrant public place where people can connect with each other and the nature all around them.

 

It is located on the historic site of the former Don Valley Brick Works and quarry—the site that made the bricks that built Toronto. When the Don Valley Brick Works factory was abandoned in 1989, the vacant buildings were a blank canvas for ravers and graffiti artists. During its restoration, almost 30 years later, Evergreen took great care in capturing this artistic period of history.

Millennia ago
1300-1900
The 1990s
The 2000s
The 2010s
Today

Millennia ago

400M yrs ago
15,000+ yrs ago
12,000 yrs ago
400M yrs ago

A tropical sea compressed clay into shale.

15,000+ yrs ago

An ice age left a glacial river at the site. The Don Valley Brick Works sits on a floodplain at the confluence of Mud Creek and the Don River. Thousands of years ago this was the mouth of a glacial river, which explains the presence of so much clay.

12,000 yrs ago

A river is formed – this river was teeming with salmon, and the surrounding marshlands were home to deer, muskrat and duck. It becomes an important waterway that connects to the Cobechenonk (Humber River) and the Rouge river. As such, it is a seasonal settlement for many Indigenous peoples, primarily the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe nations. One name for this area along the river interpreted to (‘Burning bright point’ in Anishinaabemowin). This river was an Ancestor for many nations and through ceremony, language and care-taking they lived in good relations with the river.

1300-1900

1300
1700
1787
1790
1882
1889
1300

The Wendat nation’s longhouse villages were developed along the river, and women would make pottery from the clay deposits. The rich, loamy soil lent also itself well to agriculture and many settlements planted the ‘Three Sisters’ (corn/maize, beans and squash) along the riverbanks.

1700

The Mississaugas moved into the region.

1787

This year marked the problematic “Toronto Purchase.” Believing the purchase to be a rental and sharing of the area, and not the release of their rights to the land, the Mississaugas , unknowingly surrendered most of the land that would become York, and then Toronto, to the British. This also marked the beginning of the industrialization of the Don River and surrounding area.

1790

Todmorden Mills was one of three paper mills operated by John Taylor & Brothers along the Don River.

1882

Young William Taylor tested clay from fence-post holes he happened to be digging: the results showed it was perfect for making bricks.

1889

William Taylor and his two brothers opened the Don Valley Brick Works.

The 1990s

1991
1992
1998
1991

Evergreen began to lead tree-planting activities in the Lower Don Watershed.

1992

The first phase of park development was undertaken with the support of the city, TRCA, as well as a significant private donation by the Weston Foundation.

1998

Evergreen was among a handful of groups helping to plant the wildflower meadows in what is now Weston Family Quarry Garden.

The 2000s

2002
2005
2006
2008
2009
2002

Evergreen began to explore the ideas that are now our environmental centre.

2005

A consultant report states that a Farmers Market at Evergreen Brick Works wouldn’t work. It was said that no one would come.

2006

Hosted the first Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market and public summer programming and saw thousands of visitors. It worked and has been a beloved part of the community since.

2008

On a cold, clear December morning, ground-breaking was celebrated, and construction on the Brick Works began.

2009

Saturday summer programming engaged visitors of all ages in local food, gardening and eco-art.

The 2010s

2010
2017
2010

Evergreen Brick Works opened as a year-round living demonstration of how past and present can work together to create greener models for urban living.

2017

Evergreen embarked on a bold new build, the redevelopment of the historic kiln building at Evergreen Brick Works, with the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality. The revived kiln building is a venue to showcase and celebrate urban innovation from Canada and around the world.

Today

Evergreen Brick Works is today a green respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. And that’s where the magic lies. Because when the quarrying was done and industry moved out, nature, with a little help and ingenuity, began to seep back in. With time, patience, and the help of the surrounding community, life came back to the site. This once empty, abandoned space is now a vibrant public place that supports the health of Toronto’s people and of our planet.

2024
2024

Evergreen Brick Works welcomes over 500,000 visitors a year to the site. Find out what all the excitement is about.

What’s On

Local impact in numbers

  • 500,000+ visitors enjoy this green public place every year and connect with nature and their community.
  • 120,000+ people enjoy healthy, local food and vibrant cultural celebrations at the Brick Works through our Markets and Day of the Dead.
  • 8,400 children and families engaged in active, inclusive and hands-on activities in the Children’s Garden during Weekend Nature Play.
  • 6,500+ students enjoy the Visiting Schools Program for curriculum-linked outdoor education every year, with over 3,500 of those students served by our bursary program.
  • Over 1,200 people go out on the ice during our public skating season each winter, some learning to skate for the first time.

“The programs at Evergreen Brick Works, whether virtual or in person, are amazing! They help connect students to the animals and plants right outside their door. The focus on local flora and fauna makes these programs unique and essential in helping children build a genuine reciprocal connection to the land. The educators are filled with enthusiasm and meet each class at their level.”

Teacher

Stories

Want to learn more about Evergreen Brick Works? Check out our latest stories.

We're just getting started

Over the next five years, we want Evergreen Brick Works to be a place that everyone in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond can enjoy. That means bringing more voices into the design of the site, expanding the programs we offer so more people benefit, and ensuring that every single person who visits walks away not only feeling a deep sense of belonging but also an experience of how public places are vital to our social fabric and are truly boundless in their power to connect us to what matters most.

Invest in public places

The future will be defined by the actions we take today. So whether you’re looking to volunteer, donate, or partner with us, we’d love you to be part of bringing this work to life.

Other projects