Over the last few years, the remaining factories of Brantford’s great industrial past are being demolished one by one and with them go physical ties to the memories of thousands of the city’s workers of yesteryear. Just prior to the turn of the millennium, the “brownfields” between Greenwich and Mohawk Streets still contained the factories of the once mighty Cockshutt Plow Company, the huge rambling foundries of the Massey Ferguson owned Verity Company, and the triangular shaped complex of buildings that was once the home of the Brantford Coach and Body Company (formerly Adams Wagon Company).
The first to disappear was the Adams Wagon factory which went under the hammer of Kieswetter demolition in 1998. The razing of the Cockshutt factory followed in stages a few years later as the various buildings comprising the west side of the complex were emptied of miscellaneous tenants who had occupied them since the closing of the Cockshutt Company (White Equipment Company at that time). The final section to be demolished was the multi storey office building after several years of decay and attempts to keep it as an industrial museum.
A final delay to keep the front section of the office building was thwarted when a questionable fire resulted in mandatory demolition of the remainder for safety reasons. Valuable historic voices did score a small victory when the front door portico of the head office building and the architectural gem of the Time Office were retained for possible future use for industrial heritage purposes. Still remaining at the east end of the former factory complex is the building that once housed World War two bomber fuselage production and subsequently, the Cockshutt combine harvester assembly line, along with a couple of machine and press shops still used for warehousing.
The final section of the brownfields across the railroad tracks to the north housed the huge foundry complex of the Verity Company. From these factories, first built in 1899, came hundreds of thousands of plows and millions of castings and parts for the Massey Ferguson factories. With the bankruptcy of Massey Combines came the closing of the Verity works in 1988. Unused since then except for some storage purposes, decay and vandalism wreaked havoc with the buildings so that many were in a severely sad and hazardous condition prior to the current 2014 demolition.
Only the future can tell what will rise on these huge now open properties to generate memories for the next generation of Brantford citizens.
Read more about these companies in my book A City’s Industrial Heritage