Home to hundreds of species and plants, this is a place that inspires discovery, joy and connection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A tropical sea compressed clay into shale.
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.
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.
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.
The Mississaugas moved into the region.
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.
Todmorden Mills was one of three paper mills operated by John Taylor & Brothers along the Don River.
Young William Taylor tested clay from fence-post holes he happened to be digging: the results showed it was perfect for making bricks.
William Taylor and his two brothers opened the Don Valley Brick Works.
Evergreen began to lead tree-planting activities in the Lower Don Watershed.
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.
Evergreen was among a handful of groups helping to plant the wildflower meadows in what is now Weston Family Quarry Garden.
Evergreen began to explore the ideas that are now our environmental centre.
A consultant report states that a Farmers Market at Evergreen Brick Works wouldn’t work. It was said that no one would come.
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.
On a cold, clear December morning, ground-breaking was celebrated, and construction on the Brick Works began.
Saturday summer programming engaged visitors of all ages in local food, gardening and eco-art.
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.
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.
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.
“The programs at Evergreen Brickworks, 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.”
Want to learn more about Evergreen Brick Works? Check out our latest stories.
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.
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.