Reader Lisan Jutras asks:In Marie Curtis Park, near the west side, just off the main path, you can find three or four tall wooden structures with no apparent purpose. My friends and I have long wondered what these are. Any idea?
Torontoist answers:Wonder no more about your mysterious wooden monoliths.
The area west of Marie Curtis Park was, for many years, home of the Long Branch Rifle Range, and the wooden structures you see are sound baffles that formed part of that range. Sound baffles are used to block or reduce the noise from airborne sound—in this case, for example, the loud crack of the rifles tested there during the First World War, and the booming of guns and other, much heavier, ordnance tested during the Second World War. The baffles have been sitting where you see them for a very long time, having been constructed along with the rest of the range in the 1890s.
In 1940, a Crown company called Small Arms, Ltd. built a factory on the grounds of the range, in which they produced munitions for the Allied effort during the Second World War and, later, the Korean War. The arsenal produced its last armaments in 1974, with one of the buildings subsequently used as a mail-sorting facility beginning in 1981, when Canada Post also became a Crown corporation. Nearly all the buildings on the location have now been torn down, save the former Small Arms Inspection Building and a water tower, built in 1910, that you have likely also seen as you go by.
Since 1992, when a group including the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority purchased the grounds, various plans to revitalize the area (along with Marie Curtis Park) have been floated. The scenario that seems to have progressed furthest was put forward by the Lakeview Ratepayer’s Association, and would see the City of Mississauga and the City of Toronto partnering to turn the range into a historical park. The park—plans for which have currently stalled, with Toronto thinking of going ahead and renovating only Marie Curtis Park—would include a heritage tour designed to educate students and other citizens about the site’s history, including the contributions of more than 40,000 women who produced munitions at the factory during the war.
Banner illustration by Sasha Plotnikova/Torontoist. Photographs by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.