On this site was located one of the pioneering paper mills of Canada. It was one of three mills owned and operated by The Taylor Brothers. They built this their Middle Mill 1858. Earlier in 1846, they had built their first paper mill on the West Don just above the Forks, their Upper Mill. They purchased the Lower Mill in 1855, thus named as its location was two miles south along the river. The latter mill, which had been called York Paper Mill, is of historical interest as it was the second paper mill established in Canada. It is now known as Todmorden Mills. The three Taylor brothers were a good combination. John managed the mills; Thomas looked after the business office that they opened at 30 Market Square, and George was in charge of their farming and lumbering operations.
In the 1850s, The Taylor Brothers were riding a wave of expansion in the paper industry. Toronto’s population was then over thirty thousand and had become more literate and this larger reading public demanded more books and newspapers. At the same time, the expanding railway network gave a much wider distribution to newspapers. The Province had 172 newspapers and the publishing business had clearly become more complex. The Taylor mills kept pace with these developments and by the 1870s they were operating around the clock with an enormous capacity. In Toronto, Past and Present we read that they supplied “a very large proportion of the printing paper now used for the daily and weekly papers of this city and throughout the Dominion” from Newfoundland to the Red River. In addition, they also manufactured other varieties of paper, including “coloured paper for poster bills, also all kinds of books, manilas, roll, expressing, tea and common papers and paper bags”.
John, the oldest of the three brothers, was the manager of the mills, was a talented mechanic with a gift for invention. In 1854, a reward of £1,000 was offered in London, England, to anyone who could find a substitute for rags as a raw source for paper. John Taylor tried making paper out of wood pulp and it is believed that some paper was actually made here using basswood. He tried several methods of making wood pulp. These innovations earned him a place as a pioneer in the technical development of Canada’s paper industry.
John Taylor died unexpectedly on May 13,1871 at the age of sixty-two. In his obituary The Globe claimed that it was largely through his efforts that “the great extension of the family firm was due”. The family land holdings then consisted of 3,811 acres, 10 building lots, 35 houses, 3 warehouses and 27 barns and stables. A dramatic increase in less than forty years from their father’s original purchase of 82 acres in the Don Valley.
In June 1901, Taylor Brothers went bankrupt. William Taylor, a son of George, and a new partner, Charles Thomson, leased the Middle Mill from Robert Davies who had a security claim on it. William soon sold out his interest to Thomson and in 1907 Robert Davies bought the mill and made plans to renovate its operations. The 84-inch Harper Fourdrinier machine was installed. In July, 1909 the mill was restarted as the Don Valley Paper Company Limited which was described in the Pulp and Paper Magazine of Canada as a model mill of its day: “refurbished on a lavish but business-like scale with up to date machinery and equipment of a class to turn out the very best product in an economical manner”. To facilitate shipments of paper and to bring in supplies of pulp and coal, a railway siding ran right into the buildings.
The Howard Smith Paper Mills Company purchased the property in 1932 and in 1961 the mill was sold to Domtar. The property was bisected in the early 1960’s by the Don Valley Parkway. In the late 1980’s with no room to expand and modernize the operation, Domtar closed the mill and sold the property in 1989 to the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and it was demolished.
Information from “Don Valley Legacy” and from Domtar courtesy Lyla Radmanovich, Web Redactor.