Filmmaker Catherine Annau is determined to let Torontonians know about the Evergreen Brick Works, one brick at a time.
Annau, the writer, director and executive producer behind Brick by Brick, The Story of The Evergreen Brick Works, recently received the award of excellence from Heritage Toronto in the media category.
The award recognizes projects educating the public about aspects of Toronto’s archeological, built, cultural and natural heritage and history.
“It was a wonderful award to get,” Annau said. “I was really honoured to get it.”
The Evergreen Brick Works is a former industrial site nestled in the Don Valley, founded in 1889 as a brickyard. Today it is composed of a roughly 17,000 square metre industrial pad and a large park. Evergreen began restoring the site in 1998 and received city approval to redevelop the grounds in 2004, with the idea of fostering interest in green spaces by developing the abandoned buildings into a cultural centre.
Currently, the site is used to host events like a farmer’s market and children’s adventure camps.
When it was functional, the brickyard manufactured bricks for some of Toronto’s most historic buildings, including Old City Hall, the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park and Casa Loma. Annau decided to produce the documentary to bring some more attention to what she sees as one of Toronto’s hidden gems.
“The Toronto Brick Works was one of the most significant brick factories in Toronto,” she said. “It’s a very significant place in the city’s history and I think it’s wonderful that we’ve kept it, that it wasn’t just torn down.”
Annau was originally contacted by Evergreen and asked if she would be interested in the project. For her it was an easy decision.
“It was a project that really appealed to me,” she said. “I grew up in Toronto and was very curious about what the site was.”
The documentary aims to shed some light on what exactly the Evergreen Brick Works is as well as its history. The narrative follows Geoff Cape, executive director of Evergreen, in his quest to transform the site from 16 dilapidated, abandoned buildings into a multimillion-dollar ecological centre.
The cast includes former employees, who describe working at the brickyard as hell on earth, urban explorers, illegal partiers and others who utilized the site while it was abandoned.
“It was a very enigmatic space for people,” Annau said. “I spent a lot of time digging up stories, because we weren’t only telling the story of Evergreen’s construction of the site, but also the history of the site.”
For Annau the most fascinating part of the Evergreen Brick Works is the fact that it’s so detached from the rest of the city.
“Because of the walls of the old quarry, and the park is in a bit of a ditch, you don’t hear the traffic at all,” she said. “You feel like you’re in the middle of the country.”
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