Hamilton Bridge Works (Bridge and Tank Company of Canada)

Location: 1872-1962, Caroline and Stuart Streets; 1910-1962, Depew and Gertrude Streets; 1962-1984, Gage Avenue North and Gertrude Street, Hamilton, Ontario

The Caroline Street plant of the Hamilton Bridge Company (click for a closer look)

The exact origins of the Hamilton Bridge Works (H.B.W.) are not clear. Some references state that the Hamilton Tool Works (H.T.W.; a precursor to H.B.W.) or a similar company was founded in 1863 by William Hendrie (Sr.). Other references claim that H.T.W. was founded in 1872 and that Hendrie was only associated with the company as a president, not as a founder. According to Hamilton, Ontario city directories, no "Hamilton Tool Works" or bridge-making company existed from 1863-1871, and the lot where the company later stood was vacant. William Hendrie was listed as the proprietor of Hendrie & Company, a cartage and railway agent. The 1874 directory, however, shows H.T.W. as being located on Caroline and Stuart Streets.

As far as can be discerned, the Hamilton Tool Works was organized as a machine tool manufacturing company in 1872. Soon the company began manufacturing simple railway bridges, and was renamed the Hamilton Bridge and Tool Works. Its first contract was completed in 1876: a railway swing bridge over the Burlington canal. Four years later, the company was reorganized, with William Hendrie (Sr.) as president. In 1894, the company's name was changed yet again, to Hamilton Bridge Works Company Limited (H.B.W.). Due to an inability to pay creditors, the company's factory on Caroline and Stuart Streets was closed down, and sold by auction to J.H. Tilden for $49,900. Tilden reopened the factory under the same name in 1895.

A 1903 ad for the Hamilton Bridge Works Company (click for a closer look)

The company flourished over the next decade and a half, playing a role in the establishment of many new industries that were making Hamilton their home, by providing the steel for the fabrication of many of their buildings. By August of 1903, the H.B.W. plant covered the entire block bounded by Caroline, Stuart, Barton, and Tiffany Streets. In 1910, H.B.W was awarded a contract to construct Toronto's Bloor Viaduct, "one of the largest steel contracts ever let in Canada." The same year, the company acquired 27 acres of property on Depew and Gertrude Streets in Hamilton in order to expand. It also purchased property on Bay and Barton Streets for its new corporate offices. An aerial view of the Depew Street plant, circa 1936 (click for a closer look)Cementing its place in Canadian history, H.B.W. was chosen to build one of the country's very first skyscrapers - the Canadian Pacific Railway building in Toronto, Ontario - in 1913.

When World War I began, H.B.W. expanded its facilities again, and fabricated components for the shipbuilding program. When the war ended, the expansion served the company well in peacetime, and there were plenty of orders for structural steel for the shipbuilding industry.

A building in progress, circa 1937 (click for a closer look)

In 1928, the company's name was altered slightly to Hamilton Bridge Company Limited (H.B.C., as it remained for 26 years). The following year, H.B.C. won a $1 million contract to provide 8,000 tons of steel for the new Bank of Commerce building in Toronto. During World War II, the company produced armoured vehicle hulls and nesting barges. After the war, H.B.C. acquired the assets of Sawyer-Massey Limited, which then became a subsidiary. Between 1949 and 1950, H.B.C. formed a second subsidiary, Canadian Conveyors Limited (C.C.L.), in association with George W. King Limited of England. C.C.L. manufactured and marketed King's conveyors and cranes on H.B.C.'s property, and distributed them across Canada. A third subsidiary was Rheem Canada, which manufactured storage tanks.

In February of 1954, a company called Bridge and Tank Company of Canada Limited (B.T.C.) was formed to take over the assets of H.B.C. and its subsidiaries, as well as the capital stock of Vulcan Iron and Engineering Limited of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The amalgamation made B.T.C. the largest steel fabrication company in the country at the time, behind Stelco and Dofasco. The former Hamilton Bridge Company became the Hamilton Bridge Division (H.B.D.) of B.T.C., and the former Vulcan Limited became the Western Division (W.D.). Sawyer-Massey and Rheem Canada remained subsidiaries (C.C.L. was sold at some point during the early 1950s).

In 1962, B.T.C. moved its operations from Caroline and Stuart Streets to Gage Avenue North. Over the next few years, it acquired a number of other subsidiaries. By 1968, B.T.C. owned the following companies:

From 1969 to 1980, B.T.C. bought and sold various subsidiaries, and itself came under the parentage of the York Steel Construction company of Toronto in 1981.

On July 20 of that year, 94 workers (represented by the United Steelworkers of America, Local 2537) went on strike. They returned six weeks later, on September 11, with a pay raise of $1.74 per hour over the three years of the contract.

A worker stands before the newly-closed Gage Avenue factory in 1984 (click for a closer look)

The next few years were difficult for B.T.C. A world-wide economic recession during 1983 contributed to losses and low profits for the 112-year-old company. In December of 1983, the announcement was made that the Bridge and Tank Company of Canada would cease operations on February 17, 1984, putting 93 people out of work. The closing was delayed for a couple of months as inventory was burnt off; however, the Gage Avenue factory shut down for good on April 27, 1984.

These days (August, 2000), the property where the first Hamilton Tool Works stood in 1872 is vacant. The Depew Street lot that held the east plant now holds houses, as does the Bay and Barton Street lot where the corporate offices stood. The Gage Avenue lot that was the company's home until 1984 now contains various businesses.


Home List E-mail