What's the Future Ever Done for Me?

West Lodge/Then and Now

s0372_ss0058_it0567Looking north up West Lodge in the summer of 1946 towards the Gutta Percha Rubber Factory.

The largest industry in Parkdale was the Gutta Percha & Rubber Manufacturing Company, established in 1883 on West Lodge Avenue next to, and served by the CPR. It made hose, belting, rubber boots and many other products and once was the largest all-Canadian rubber company. It was closed in 1960.

Screen shot 2011-11-20 at 9.54.34 AM2010 and the factory/warehouses are long gone.

gutta_perchaAnother view of the Gutta Percha factory.

1966325_830798296990156_1803760713334574668_o 10990919_830798250323494_3287943404680863250_o 1501133_830798246990161_2741033443974836318_oInside the factory and the front entrance.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.16.40 AM Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.16.56 AMAn online version of their catalogue from 1905 can be viewed here.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.23.02 AM47 Yonge in 2010.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.17.21 AMCompanies back then would exaggerate the size of their factories.

x861a x861percha-rubber-600x368“It would not be until January 1883 when the annual election would produce a majority in Parkdale’s town council for the village’s pro-development proponents. This allowed Parkdale to adjust its trade bylaws, allowing them to directly compete for industries with Toronto. As a result, the Gutta Percha Rubber Company was granted a ten-year tax exemption, a special water rate, and free gas. In return, the factory provided over one hundred jobs, mostly to people living in the municipality. This was an important time for industry in Parkdale, and the residents certainly benefited from the increase in near-by jobs. Of course, once the village was annexed, Parkdale lost the ability to adjust its own laws and thus its ability to compete with other areas of Toronto for industrial development.”

My grandfather worked here as an accountant in the early 1930’s.


And now the fine print…..

Guttapercha ( Palaquium gutta) is a fruit-bearing tree belonging to the Sapotaceae family that shares its genus with more than 100 other members. Found scattered throughout Southeast Asia, this tropical botanical received its name from the Malaysian word for getah perca, which loosely means “rubber.” This was a reasonable nomination since the sap of the tree yields a naturally occurring latex that had been put to use by native residents for hundreds of years before being “discovered” by the British in the mid-1800s. Since that time, however, guttapercha has been part of an equally long and fascinating history.

Initially, guttapercha was an attractive alternative to the latex obtained from the rubber tree of the same region, otherwise known as unvulcanized rubber. This was due to the fact that the latter was prone to becoming brittle since it was susceptible to ozone cracking because of its double bonded molecular structure. In contrast, guttapercha exhibited thermoplastic properties, which meant that it was much more stable and could be reshaped when heated. This property led to the development and improvement of numerous 19th century products, and even a few famous firsts.

For example, guttapercha resin replaced the rubber used to insulate telegraph cables, including those that draped the floor of the Atlantic Ocean to enable the infamous transatlantic telegraph communication between Queen Victoria and U.S. President James Buchanan. The same material was used to produce daguerreotype and tintype cases and to make jewelry, such as decorative hairpieces and combs. Of particular note was the use of guttapercha to embed the hair of a lost loved one into pearl, enamel, and other materials to create “mourning” jewelry to honor their memory. Some of these pieces have survived and are of considerable value today.

Even the furniture industry of the 19th century took notice of the exceptional properties of this material. In fact, The GuttaPercha Company quickly seized the opportunity to make chess sets, figurines, and tea trays from the substance of the same name. However, they also began producing molded mirror frames, sideboards, chairs, and sofas that rivaled the elaborate detail found in pieces hand carved from wood. This was a far leap from the traditional furniture-making standards of the time.

Many of these trinkets and furnishings of the past live on in museums or in private collections. However, examples of guttapercha handiwork can also be found by looking in the mirror and saying “aah”—that is, for those who have endured a root canal. That’s because the stuff is mixed with other resins and zinc oxide and used to fill up the void left in the tooth after it’s been drilled out. This practice, which also began shortly after Britain introduced guttapercha to the world, continues today. In fact, Brazilian guttapercha farmers harvest the resin for this purpose, which earns approximately $30,000,000 US dollars from the U.S. each year.

Scan10001A typical factory from the early 1900’s with belt driven machinery.


12 responses

  1. Great Post Greg. Found this on line very interesting read. https://archive.org/details/mechanicalrubber00guttuoft They sure did make a lot of stuff I can just imagine the amount of tooling they’d need and consequently great number of buildings for all these items! Matthew

    Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 15:34:03 +0000 To: matthew.mckenzie7@live.ca

    February 20, 2015 at 10:44 am

    • It was the age of rubber! Think of all of those machines driven by belts.

      February 20, 2015 at 10:59 am

  2. Great Post Greg. Found this on line very interesting read.


    They sure did make a lot of stuff I can just imagine the amount of tooling they’d need and consequently great number of buildings for all these items!

    February 20, 2015 at 10:46 am

  3. Lillian Dawe Gardner

    Many of our family worked at Gutta Percha and my father rented our house (130 West Lodge, where I was born) from the company. I live at 128 WL (where my grandparents used to live) and have seen a lot of changes. When I look at the apartment building that was built on the Gutta Pecrha I wish that the factory was still there. We are a 3-generation family who went to Parkdale Public and Parkdale Collegiate.

    February 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    • Good story. As I said, my Grandfather worked at the factory and both of my parents went to Parkdale Collegiate. That apartment is quite grim….
      There was a major grow-op there a few years ago and for a while it had no ownership….

      February 21, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    • Carol Clifford

      Lillian I’m one of the Hefford girls from over on Callender St. Was just checking this article and found it very interesting but when I saw your comment I just wanted to say “Hi” I remember Rose Dawe with much fondness from Parkdale Baptist and of course remember the Gardner family as neighbours on the street way back when.

      February 21, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    • Linda

      Just going through looking for info for a book I’m making for my Sister. I know you. I am Linda Simons and we lived at 89 West Lodge until 1975. My Dad worked at Gutta Percha for a few years – and you’re right. it was much more attractive then the”Parkdale Towers”

      November 7, 2016 at 6:42 pm

  4. Wow, interesting to hear from folks from around my childhood neighbourhood. I grew up on Queen St – 1406 to be exact. And my parent’s owned and ran a fruit and flower shop named “Wong’s Fruit Market” just beside O’hara and opposite of Dunn Avenue. Did anyone ever shop there? 🙂

    February 22, 2015 at 1:57 am

    • If you type “Parkdale’ in the search box quite a few posts will come up.

      February 22, 2015 at 9:10 am

    • SK

      Yes, we used to buy cat food and plants there. Wong’s is legendary. I lived on West Lodge.

      April 23, 2018 at 10:46 am

  5. Many in my father’s family worked at Gutta Percha over the years. I was fortunate to be able to wander through the complex of buildings in the summer of 1962, as demolition was beginning. Spent quite a bit of time there, exploring.

    February 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm

  6. My grandfather, Alonzo Dawe worked there and my grandmother, Irene would make his lunch and put it in a basket. Then he would hoist it up from his window on an upper floor in the factory. Those were the “Good Olde Days”!

    November 30, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s