The Rise and Fall of the Gilson Manufacturing Company
Gilson Manufacturing: The Early Days
The choice to locate a branch of the Gilson Manufacturing Company in St. Patrick's Ward was at one point uncertain. In fact, it took local incentives to convince Gilson Manufacturing to choose Guelph over Berlin, later renamed Kitchener. Gilson Manufacturing Company in Guelph was actually the Canadian division of the Gilson Manufacturing Company based in Port Washington, Wisconsin. The Gilson family, however, sold the firm in 1914 coinciding closely with the sale of their Canadian firm to Edward Barelman. The original plant was located on York Road in 1907 producing predominantly engines and farm machinery, though another plant was located on Victoria Road. The York Road plant contained 120,000 square feet of floor space when it was constructed. As a product of 1907, this plant was a part of the James Walter Lyon phase of development in the Ward. Though not a major source of employment like IMICO, Gilson Manufacturing still boasted a workforce of 100 workers in the early years of its operation. In the 1920s, Gilson Manufacturing encountered good times increasing their workforce to around 200 people though this could rise to 250 depending on fluctuating demand.
From World War Two to an Uncertain Future
Gilson Manufacturing shifted their focus to furnaces and refrigeration equipment following the Second World War and accomodating increasing demand for household appliances. In 1972 Gilson Manufacturing was sold for the final time to McGraw-Edison of Canada Ltd. By 1977, a company which once employed up to 250 workers closed with only 50 workers remaining. With the fall of Gilson Manufacturing, some companies helped accomodate the loss of such an important source of employment. Amongst the companies which absorbed some of Gilson Manufacturing's workforce include W.C. Wood, Better Beef, Co-operators Insurance Company, and Blount Canada. Today, the empty lot featured above where Gilson Manufacturing once stood will accomodate a 64 unit townhouse development according to a sign now posted on the lot.