White sign hangs on a barbed wire fence. Sign says "What is happening with this property? Find out, visit guelph.ca/brownfields. City of Guelph." Land behind fence is covered in overgrown brush on an overcast day.
200 Beverley Street, Guelph on March 17, 2023 (Photo by Amy Moffat)
A black and white aerial view of the International Malleable Iron Company factory in 1948. The large factory has 3 smoke stacks. A train is parked in the background. Beyond the manufacturing site is a few homes and farmland.
Photo by: Tomlen Industrial Photographers and Lithographers.
Source: Guelph Civic Museum, Catalogue Number: 1991X.51.1

Walking past the 13 acres of overgrown brush at 200 Beverley Street today, a pedestrian could be forgiven for not realizing that vacant land was once home to the largest employer in Guelph.

The International Malleable Iron Company (IMICO) operated a foundry on this location from 1912 to 1989. By the 1920s they employed 440 Guelphites, with a peak payroll of 525 workers during the Second World War. Located in St. Patrick’s Ward, the factory was emblematic of the industrial boom taking place within cities across Canada and was one of many factories shaping the landscape of this immigrant neighbourhood.

When changing economic conditions shuttered the majority of Canadian factories in the 1980s the site was abandoned and sold to John H. Long to store waste materials. In the 1990s the property changed hands a few times, most notoriously to the Assembly of the Church of the Universe. After non-payment of taxes, the City of Guelph took control of the property and discovered a deeply contaminated site. They have since spent millions of dollars on clean-up and almost as much on various consultations on how to use the land. As recently as 2020, a deal to build affordable housing in partnership with Habitat for Humanity fell through. Currently, neighbouring business owners have raised concerns with the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) that detail a dispute with the city over contaminated groundwater reaching their lands.

On one hand, the manufacturing legacy of Guelph’s largest twentieth century employer is that the company provided employment to hundreds of immigrant families starting over in a new country. On the other hand, it has cost future generations financially and environmentally. While the buildings no longer stand, the land still bears the toxic assault of industrial expansion.

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