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Time Travelling in Toronto: Legendary Entrepreneurs of the Past

Neil Martin

We all know that Toronto is a global hotbed for entrepreneurship.

But long before there was such a thing as a "tech startup" or even the Internet (imagine that), legendary thinkers and innovators were laying the groundwork, some literally, for the incredible entrepreneurial spirit we all know and love today.

From retail magnates and pioneering scientists to high-flying architects and culinary wizards, these remarkable individuals have left an indelible mark on our city that can still be felt to this day.

So, this week we thought we'd hop in our Delorian, fire that baby up to 88mph, and travel through history to share the stories of some past visionaries who were changing the game in Toronto long before our time. Let's go...

Timothy Eaton: Retail Royalty

In the late 19th century, Toronto's retail scene was forever changed by the visionary entrepreneur, Timothy Eaton. In 1869, Timothy opened "T. Eaton Co.," a modest dry goods store on Yonge Street. By focusing on fair pricing, quality goods, and exceptional customer service, Eaton's business thrived.

Timothy Eaton's innovative approach to retailing, including the introduction of money-back guarantees and no-haggle pricing, set new industry standards. His flagship department store became a symbol of Canadian retail success, and the Eaton brand remains iconic to this day.

Joseph Bloor: Paving the Way

The bustling Bloor Street that we know and love today owes its existence to the entrepreneurial efforts of Joseph Bloor. In the 19th century, Bloore acquired a significant tract of land and envisioned a grand boulevard connecting Toronto's west end to the city center.

Thanks to Joseph's determination and vision, Bloor Street evolved into a vital hub for commerce, culture, and entertainment. His legacy continues to thrive as Bloor Street stands as one of Toronto's most prominent and dynamic streets.

Harriet Brooks: Pioneering in Science and Academia

In the early 20th century, Toronto was home to an exceptional trailblazer in the field of physics and academia - Harriet Brooks. Born in 1876, Harriet was a passionate and gifted physicist who broke scientific barriers.

In 1901, Harriet Brooks became the first woman in Canada to earn a Master's degree in physics from McGill University.

She conducted pioneering research under the guidance of renowned physicist Ernest Rutherford. She made significant contributions to the study of radioactivity and identified a new radioactive element called radon. Her work with Rutherford's team earned her international recognition and respect within the scientific community.

Her achievements and dedication to science remain an inspiration to aspiring scientists around the world.

George Weston: Baking a Legacy

George Weston, a British immigrant, made a lasting impact on Toronto's culinary landscape. In 1882, he established his first bakery in Toronto, which eventually evolved into the Weston Foods empire.

Weston's focus on quality, innovation, and dedication to customer needs propelled his brand to become a household name across Canada. Today, Weston Foods continues to be a prominent player in the food industry.

John & Charles Gooderham: Distillery Dynasty

In the 19th century, the Distillery District became the heart of Toronto's distillery industry, thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of John and Charles Gooderham. They established the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, which became the largest distillery in the British Empire.

The Gooderham brothers' innovative approach to distilling and their success in producing whiskey cemented their place as Toronto's distillery pioneers.

Today, the Distillery District stands as a cultural hotspot and a reminder of their entrepreneurial achievements.

Fun fact: Some of the communal tables at our original King West location were made out of reclaimed wood beams that once formed the barrel racking system at the distillery.

Andrews & Allen: A Towering Feat of Engineering Brilliance

In the late 1960s, Toronto's skyline was on the cusp of a transformation. A team of brilliant engineers, led by Canadian architect John Andrews and structural engineer Michael Allen, envisioned a structure that would be the pinnacle of human achievement. The CN Tower was envisioned to serve not only as a broadcast and communication tower but also as a symbol of Toronto's greatness on the global stage.

The construction began in 1973 and involved a host of engineering challenges. The first and most significant hurdle was designing a foundation that could bear the weight of the towering structure. Engineers devised a unique solution called the "slip forming" technique, where concrete was poured continuously, allowing the tower's core to rise gradually.

As the tower grew higher and higher, engineers faced another critical obstacle—how to stabilize such a slender structure against the strong winds that swept through the city. The answer was a groundbreaking concept called "buttressed core," featuring a hollow, hexagonal core with three enormous, sloping support legs that acted like sails, reducing wind-induced forces.

Construction continued tirelessly, and by April 2, 1975, the CN Tower surpassed the height of the Ostankino Tower in Moscow, claiming the title of the world's tallest freestanding structure.

Finally, on June 26, 1976, the CN Tower was officially opened to the public, soaring a breathtaking 553.33 meters (1,815.39 feet) into the Toronto sky. It became an instant icon, admired by millions and a symbol of Toronto's ambitious spirit.

Today, the CN Tower continues to be a beacon of ingenuity and an unforgettable landmark. It has welcomed millions of visitors from around the world, offering panoramic views of Toronto's bustling cityscape and the sparkling waters of Lake Ontario.

And We're Back...

There you have it, folks. The true stories of historical Toronto visionaries who shaped the city's landscape and set the stage for our vibrant entrepreneurial community. Let's draw inspiration from their innovative spirits and forge our own paths in the ever-evolving city we call home.

Thanks for joining on this wonderful journey. Now that we've returned from our time travels, if you'd like to join a community making waves in present-day Toronto, you know where to look.

Thank you 🙌
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