The Taylor-Forbes and W.C. Wood Site: Condos on the Horizon
From "Allan's Mill" to the Turn of the Century
The banks of the Speed were a natural developing location for new businesses, especially in the mid-nineteenth century which relied on water power. As described in Guelph, Canada: The City that Owns a Railroad: "New industries kept springing up by the river, and the water power kept the wheels turning." The Speed became a vital resource for the development of early Guelph industries, particularly flour, lumber, iron, and wagons feulled by the demands of local development. Typically, this process functioned through relying primarily on agriculture from South Wellington for commercial success while using agricultural capital to feul northern Wellington industries which, in addition to furthering the industrial development of the city of Guelph, provided farmers and prospective industries with products. In 1830, the Canada Company constructed a mill on the Speed River, selling it to William Allan in 1832 from whom the name "Allan's Mill" originated. This was one of two mills in the Ward area, the second being established by Frederick George and commonly referred to as "the People's Mill." In 1835, a distillery was constructed across the river in what was to become the Ward, to which corn was transported across to the east bank of the river via a conveyor system. In 1859, William Allan died and his son David took over the company. Throughout the 1860s, Allan's Mill prospered, largely thanks to the American Civil War. In 1878, however, the factory was liquidated and the property fell into the hands of a variety of different owners beginning with an owner known as Mr. Spence under which the buildings burned in a fire. The Guelph Gas Company was the next owner, purchasing the burned out buildings from which they provided Guelph with electricity. The Murlock Brothers were next in the period of unstable ownership of the property. The Murlock Brothers used some of the buildings in the complex to produce furniture. Next was the Dalyte Lamp Company followed by the Daughty and McFarlane Feed Company who owned the property until a 1966 fire that did tremendous damage to the buildings. From this point, the McCrae and Co. Woolen and Knitting Mills moved from Surrey and Huskisson Streets to the larger site, but the company as a whole was finished by 1898.
A Half Century of Stability
Follwing this period of unstable ownership, a period in which ownership changed only infrequently was ushered in by the turn of the century. In 1892, John and Adam Taylor teamed up with George D. Forbes and purchased the property and in 1902 had the Taylor-Forbes Company incorporated. The business partnership financed the expansion of the existing buildings in 1898 and 1902 and by 1914 had constructed a substantial structure running along the Speed River. In fact, the Taylor-Forbes Company claimed to be the largest hardwear factory in the country. In 1924, the company peaked as an employer with 500 workers. The Taylor-Forbes Company made steam boilers, radiators, hot water heaters, hinges, fittings, and other metal components in its early stages. In 1953, the company became bankrupt.
W.C. Wood Co.
In 1956, W.C. Wood Co. had outgrown its previous Woolwich Street location and moved to the Taylor-Forbes site, manufacturing pulleys, hinges, locks, door rollers, and other metal items. Following the Second World War, like other Guelph businesses, W.C. Wood began producing freezers, refrigerators, and other household appliances. In 2007, the company was sold and the number of employees reduced by 250 despite revenues of over $200 million. The company's expansion into Mexico was mostly responsible for this reduction. In 2011, the plant which had, at this point, closed was demolished.
The Future of the Site
The former W.C. Wood site is currently owned by the Kilmer Brownfield Equity Fund which is guiding its development. The property was purchased for the development of "high density residential development" according to the article "Developers Eyes New Plant Life" in the Guelph Tribune in 2010. The Kilmer Brownfield Equity Fund's development manager Pamela Kraft did not say what kind of property the site would become, though local anti-gentrification activists have their suspicions. The lot is now owned by Fusion Homes who, similarly, do not give details on future plans for the site aside from asserting that it will not be rental units and that it will likely be a condo development. This being said, the Ward Residents' Association claims to be heavily involved in the development planning for the W.C. Wood site, and is, according to their blog, working to maintain the early 20th century spirit of the Ward in terms of small scale local shopping and manufacturing. The Residents' Association does say, however, that this spirit is threatened by reckless planning and zoning. The Kilmer Brownfield Equity Fund claims that redeveloping such sites is environmentally, economically, and socially beneficial, though activists serious question the latter assertion.