NOW & THEN – The Historic transformation of Christie & Dupont By Gerry Condotta
The Impeccably maintained Faema building at 672 Dupont St., where they sell and distribute coffee and espresso machines, was built over a hundred years ago. The style and structure of the building even now seems to blend nicely with its surrounding and gentrified area. Surprisingly, this building was once a Ford assembly plant at the centre of an industrial corridor that ran along Dupont and the CP railway.
On March 14, 1914 the Ford Motor Company announced that a new assembly and service plant would be built in Toronto at the corner of Christie and Dupont. Eleven months later Ford places an ad in the Toronto Daily Star inviting the general public to attend the formal opening of their new plant and to view the most up-to-date motor service in the world. The grand opening on February 22, 1915 was scheduled to coincide with the first day of a week-long automobile show in Toronto. Exhibits for the auto show that year were distributed over 26 showrooms across the city and not under one large building, as was the custom in former years.
By 1913, Ford’s Highland Park factory in Michigan was producing enough material to ship parts to newly erected factories for final assembly. In 1915 the new Ford manufacturing plant employees would unpack the crates and assemble the automobile parts into one of their four models: A Full Sedan ($1,150), Coup ($850), Touring car ($590), and Runabout ($540).
The new Ford building in 1915 cost $325,000. It had a large automobile showroom on the first floor combined with a 12,000 square foot garage. It also had two freight elevators leading to four more floors dedicated to auto parts, repair, assembly, and painting. One of the freight elevators was rated for 10,000 lbs. to transport cars to the test track on the roof.
On April 16, 1915, employees of the Ford Motor Company of Canada become the highest paid autoworkers in the British Empire. They earn 50 cents an hour and worked only eight hours a day for a maximum of 48 hours a week. Their yearly salary in 1915 was roughly the equivalent of what it cost to purchase the Ford Full Sedan.
Comparatively, if you were living in the neighborhood and working at the Ford assembly plant here is a glimpse at a few of your expenses in 1915 as advertised in the Toronto Daily Star. A brand new solid brick house on Ossington Ave. with eight rooms, gas, and electric light cost $4,100 with $500 down. A similar style house on College St. rented for $18.00 a month. A woman’s evening dress cost $9.95 and a man’s suit $15.00. You could telephone for groceries—peameal beacon 25 cents per pound, toasted cornflakes were 25 cents for three packages, canned corn, peas or tomatoes cost 22 cents for three tins and California Sunkist oranges 29 cents a dozen.
By the early 1920’s the auto market and grown extensively and in January 1924 the Ford Motor Company of Canada had outgrown the factory and put the building up for sale.
GERRY CONDOTTA is a free-lance writer who prefer’s his puns intended. He has co-created his son Kaden and looks forward to some day capturing that moment in his writing.