Psychadelic Iron: The Colourful History of the International Malleable Iron Company
The Rise and Fall of IMICO
The colourful history of the International Malleable Iron Company, or IMICO, had begun with James Walter Lyon's 1906 purchase of 400 acres of land in what is now the Ward. One of the original factories secured by Lyon through the offer of free land was the International Malleable Iron Company which also experienced relative longevity, lasting until 1990. Lyon attracted industrial development such as that of the International Malleable Iron Company not only by offering free land to prospective companies but also through the anticipation of cheap hydro electricity from Niagra which was completed in 1910. In fact, in 1945, Guelph had electricity rates equal to the lowest prevailing rates in the province. After cheap electricity had been secured, IMICO began production in 1913. The building itself was designed by utilitarian architect, William A. Mahoney in both its original construction in 1912 north-east of the intersection between Stevenson Street South and Beverly Street and its modification in 1917. IMICO produced grey iron pipe fittings and other metal components. By 1918, IMICO was the largest employer in Guelph and by the mid 1920s had a payroll of 450. Though IMICO suffered particularly badly during the Great Depression as a large firm, the financial condition of the company improved following the Second World War and provided work to 525 workers. In 1975, IMICO's decline had begun and continued until its closing in 1990. In this period, many of the large firms characterizing the industrial landscape of St. Patrick's Ward experienced a volatile situation with the pressures of inflation and globalization and disappeared outright from the Ward, not only in employment terms, but physical demolition as well.
The Church of the Universe
Physical demolition, however, was not to be the fate of IMICO. The factory experienced new life, not in a residential or industrial form, but in a form perhaps closer to that of a hippie commune. As one of the most heavily poluted of 175 contaminated properties in Guelph, the former grounds of IMICO were considered a liability and the property lost almost all of its value and was purchased by its next owner, John Long, for $1. The lot was so polluted, in fact, that the cost of clean-up would be somewhere around $6 million. This is due to the fact that zinc and lead were washed off of the machinery and came to pollute the soil. The property was then donated to Walter Tucker and Michael Baldasaro of the Hamilton based Church of the Universe. The Church of the Universe is a religion established by Tucker that preaches nudity and the sacramental use of marijuana. Walter, previous to the creation of the Church, had held political office as the MP for Rosthern, Saskatchewan, and became the leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party in the position of official opposition. Additionally, Tucker ran as an independent in the 1988 Federal Election and ran for the Libertarian Party for Wellington County. From the acquisition of IMICO to its expropriation in 1998 for the alleged non-payment of $2.1 million of back taxes, IMICO came to house squatters and experienced 6 arson attempts. Tucker claimed that the facility was to be used for the growth of hemp and the manufacture of hemp products, hence his name for the IMICO building: Hempire Village. The City of Guelph's attempt at evicting the Church of the Universe did not go unchallenged as Tucker sued the City of Guelph for Breach of Fiduciary Duty as Tucker, a self-trained and skilled lawyer, claimed that it was the previous owners who owed the City, thus the Church of the Universe was not liable for its payment. This was, in fact, not the first time that Tucker had taken legal action against the government: In 1988, Tucker pressed charges against Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for not protecting his religious liberty. His claim was that his persecution for the usage of marijuana meant that he could not practice a sacrament. Tucker passed away in April of 2012.